Wednesday, 23 September 2015

An Exhibition Celebrating Hull's Jewish Community

This fascinating exhibition was launched at the History Centre on Friday 18th September 2015 by the Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Hull and Admiral of the Humber, Councillor Anita Harrison. 
Attended by members of the Jewish community and those of us that contributed to the project, the launch was a huge success. Hull training provided excellent catering and, where possible, used kosher ingredients and traditional Jewish recipes.

In April 2014 we 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 Hull University collections.  
I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of two Archivists to work one a day a week on the project until the end of March 2015. We were assisted by Dr Nicholas Evans from the Wilberforce Institute of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) who conducted interviews with members of the Hull Jewish community. 

We have succeeded in capturing and preserving individual stories, some of which have completed gaps in our collections. The interviews were transcribed by a team of 5 dedicated volunteers.

The Jewish community in Hull dates back to 1780 with the first recorded synagogue in Posterngate. The Jewish population in Hull reached its hiatus during the period 1900-1965 and then slowly dwindled.  In the Hull of 1901, for example, out of a total population of 240,000 the Jewish population was approximately 2,000. By 2011 that figure had dropt to under 500. 

The exhibition explores the migration of Jews from Europe through Hull to North America. Only a small percentage remained in the United Kingdom with very few choosing to stay in Hull. A whole community then developed around the Osborne Street area of the City. Many went into business, formed societies and charitable organisations, built places of worship and secured burial grounds for their deceased. They also took pride in educating themselves and their children and became valued members of Hull’s community. 
I have researched individuals who have left a lasting impact on the City, for example, Alderman John Symons and Sir Leo Schultz. Together we have also studied the challenges and prejudices that the Jewish community faced as well as analysing some of the reasons for the decline of the Jewish community in Hull.

The exhibition promotes and makes more accessible our records relating to Hull’s Jewry. We have produced a glossy source guide that accompanies the exhibition and will hopefully aid future research.

Due to its portable nature the exhibition will eventually be offered to synagogues, local libraries and schools around Hull for display as we are keen to celebrate and raise greater awareness of the impact of this community on the City for future generations.

For those of you interested to find out what records we hold that relate specifically to the Jewish Community in Hull, please take a look at our 'Records of the Hull Jewish Community' catalogue or pop into the History Centre to pick up a free source guide and look at the exhibition for yourselves. The exhibition will run until 20th November 2015.

Elspeth Bower

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