Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Hull History Centre’s Jewish project

Mizrach Sign   1 Feb 1859
{Ref C DJC/2/1/1/15/2)
The Written Record and the Spoken Word: The Collective Memory of Hull’s Jewish Community

The records of the Jewish community are a significant collection consisting of 76 boxes of material documenting over 300 years of history from the 18th century, when the Jewish community could be found worshipping at a former Catholic chapel in Posterngate, to the present day. 

The collection, which is on permanent loan to the Hull City Archives at The Hull History Centre was catalogued by Archivist Claire Weatherall and the catalogue made available to search at: http://catalogue.hullhistorycentre.org.uk/catalogue/C-DJC .

Records relate largely to the Ashkenazi Orthodox section of the Jewish community, although some references can be found to the Reform section of the community. Papers consist of minutes and registers relating to the activity of the synagogues including an original marriage register from the Hull Old Hebrew Congregation covering 1838-1879 and copies of later registers relating to this congregation as well as Hull Western, Central and Hebrew  Congregations. 

Officers and guests at the official opening of the Osborne Street 
Synagogue,  9 Sep 1928 (ref U DCJ/2/1/11/4)
Other records of note include research papers relating to Jewish burials within Hull which include approximately 2400 photographs of headstones in the cemeteries, a file on genealogy which contains the family trees of many of the Jewish Hull families and a Notice of a General Meeting of Hull [Old] Hebrew Congregation dated 1852 which lists 66 members of the Robinson Row Synagogue. A series of papers of particular interest are the subject based research files created by Mr Jack Lennard which include files on the Kindertransport children who came to Hull and the arrangements for their care.

In April  2014 Hull History Centre secured external funding of £18,000 in order to enhance, promote and make more accessible the records relating to Hull’s Jewry held within the city and university collections. 

The funding secured has allowed us to engage two of our part time archivists, Elspeth and Paul, to work one a day a week on the project until the end of March 2015. We will also be assisted by Dr Nicholas Evans from the Wilberforce Institute of Slavery and Emancipation who will be conducting interviews with members of the Hull Jewish community past and present. This will allow us to capture and preserve individual stories, complete gaps in our collections and examine why what was a vibrant community is now fast diminishing. The interviews will then be transcribed and the transcriptions made available in the searchroom at the History Centre. The digital interviews will then be preserved within the History Centre’s digital archives.

We will also create a high quality exhibition to be shown at the History Centre and which, due to its portable nature will be displayed at synagogues, local libraries and schools around Hull.  To accompany this we will produce a glossy source guide to promote all relevant material held at the History Centre which will aid research and allow us to highlight documents and collections within our holdings. In addition, working with the MyLearning website team we will create a learning resource for educational use which will be accessible to every school across the country.

Through this project we hope to encourage broader national and international engagement with the rich illustrative and archival collections within our care and raise awareness of the significance of Hull’s role as a conduit for the expansion of British and North American Jewry. 

Carol Tanner, 
Access & Collections Manager, Hull History Centre

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