It’s a Hull of a way to end 250th year

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

THE LARGEST ever gath­er­ing of Jews in the city of Hull brought the cur­tain down on a year of cel­e­bra­tions mark­ing the com­mu­nity’s 250th an­niver­sary.

Although the East York­shire city has main­tained a con­tin­u­ous Jewish pres­ence since Isaac Levy stepped ashore in 1766, Sun­day’s re­union lunch in a lo­cal ho­tel was an event un­sur­passed in size by any pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion with 325 peo­ple in at­ten­dance.

Ex­pats flocked back from France, Ger­many, Swe­den, Is­rael and across the UK. Some had not been back to the city for 50 years or more. The el­dest guest was 96, the youngest 10 weeks old. Wider in­ter­est was re­flected by the pres­ence of BBC cam­eras, lo­cal MPs and civic of­fi­cials.

Ill­ness forced Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to pull out as guest speaker but Mau­reen Lip­man stepped into the breach, ex­plain­ing the im­pact of a Hull up­bring­ing on her life.

“Look­ing out to­day is a very emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said. “It is quite an hon­our. I gained my cul­ture from this lov­ing, giv­ing com­mu­nity. The Mac­cabi taught me to swim, the BBYO taught me snog­ging.

“We have a spe­cial per­son­al­ity. This city wel­comes peo­ple. It opens its arms and says ‘come in, see what you can do’.”

Ms Lip­man also spoke about her fa­ther Maurice’s tai­lor’s shop and re­counted bump­ing into Jews with Hull con­nec­tions around the world — even in the Galá­pa­gos Is­lands.

“I was al­ways proud to be a Jew from Hull and I have never stopped re­mem­ber­ing that,” she con­cluded.

For a com­mu­nity now num­ber­ing around 100, with only a hand­ful of non-pen­sion­ers, mark­ing the 250th an­niver­sary in style had been a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing.

The lunch was the fi­nal event in 12 months of cel­e­bra­tions, in­ad­ver­tently coin­cid­ing with Hull’s ten­ure as the 2017 City of Cul­ture, a project which has brought not only a fresh vi­brancy to the banks of the Hum­ber but thou­sands of new vis­i­tors.

A fo­cal point of the af­ter­noon was a pop­u­lar mem­ory wall of black and white pho­to­graphs fea­tur­ing many larger-than-life char­ac­ters and for­mer min­is­ters. Guests stud­ied the im­ages look­ing to find them­selves or fam­ily mem­bers.

Hi­lary An­son left Hull for Glas­gow in 1969. Although she is a reg­u­lar re­turn vis­i­tor, the re­union was an op­por­tu­nity to re­con­nect with long-lost friends. “I met some­one I had been to pri­mary school with and hadn’t seen since.”

For grace af­ter meals, din­ers found them­selves singing from benchers which had been used at fam­ily sim­chas. Mem­bers of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee had col­lected the books from fam­i­lies still liv­ing in the city.

Jonathan Arkush, Board of Deputies pres­i­dent, con­grat­u­lated a com­mu­nity “which has punched above its weight”. Name-check­ing one of his pre­de­ces­sors, Hull-born Judge Is­rael Finestein, he said the Board worked “to pro­tect the Jews of Hull just as much as the Jews of Hen­don”.

For Howard Levy, co-pres­i­dent of Hull He­brew Con­gre­ga­tion, which planned the event, it was a day to re­mem­ber the many Jewish shops and busi­nesses once dot­ted around the city.

“It is with­out doubt that our Jewish com­mu­nity has con­trib­uted in so many ways over many gen­er­a­tions to the health, wealth and vi­brancy of this part of York­shire,” he said.

It was an emo­tional day for the city’s re­main­ing Jews. De­spite main­tain­ing two syn­a­gogues — one Ortho­dox, the other Re­form

— and nu­mer­ous

Rabbi Naftoli Lif­s­chitz char­ity com­mit­tees and an­nual events, it is one of many pro­vin­cial com­mu­ni­ties on a down­ward spi­ral.

There was an un­spo­ken un­der­stand­ing that there would prob­a­bly never be an­other mass gath­er­ing of Jews in Hull. Max Gold, Mr Levy’s co-pres­i­dent at the shul, of­fered a suit­ably sen­ti­men­tal view.

“I want to think that to­day, the souls of our an­ces­tors, those peo­ple who founded this com­mu­nity, are look­ing down on us and they are not dis­pleased with what we’ve done,” he said.

“In world Jewish his­tory, Hull was vi­tal. Some half a mil­lion Jews passed through Hull, flee­ing persecution and pogroms. We must thank our non-Jewish friends, many of whom are present here to­day, for the kind­ness, the hos­pi­tal­ity and the con­sid­er­a­tion they have shown us.”

He also praised the ef­forts of the Ortho­dox shul’s cur­rent rabbi, Naftoli Lif­s­chitz — the “best pas­toral min­is­ter we have had in Hull for a long time”, and a key fig­ure in en­sur­ing the com­mu­nity’s con­tin­u­a­tion. Thomas Martin, High Sher­iff of the East Rid­ing of York­shire, was so taken by the event that he rose to give an im­promptu ad­dress.

“I’ve ob­served the ex­cite­ment and shrieks of re­union and I’ve ob­served the next gen­er­a­tion tak­ing it for­ward. You have cre­ated so much and you have so many rea­sons to cel­e­brate — toda rabah,” he said.

But fit­tingly, it was Mrs An­son, one of the Hull ex­pats, who summed up the day. “It was like an El Al flight. Peo­ple were told to sit down and lis­ten to the speeches but they just wanted to stand and talk to each other.”

Mac­cabi taught me to swim, BBYO taught me snog­ging’

Mau­reen Lip­man with Hull ex­pat Ge­off Abra­hams and (right) scenes from the past on the mem­ory wall

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