An event, supported by the Holocaust Centre North at the University of Huddersfield, was held last weekend to recognise and celebrate the Jewish community in West Yorkshire.
Progressive Jewish communities at Sinai Synagogue Leeds, The Bradford Synagogue, York Liberal Jewish Community and Holocaust Centre North presented the ‘Beit Yorkshire’ weekend.
With the rise of anti-semitism in the UK since the events of October 7, this planned weekend of activities was a hugely welcomed and timely celebration of Jewish communities in West Yorkshire, and of the importance of interfaith work at the heart of community building.
Around 180 attendees of all ages from across the Jewish communities in West Yorkshire and representatives from all faiths attended the weekend activities, which took place in three different venues.
The weekend started with a Friday night service and Shavura at Sinai Synagogue in the presence of Rabbi Dr Elishava Salamo, the newly-appointed spiritual leader of York’s Jewish community, Cantor Rachel Weston and representatives from Leeds Jewish Representative Council. Leading Northern dignitaries including the Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin were also present.
The highlight of the weekend was a Shabbat Service and Kiddush (blessings and reception) on Saturday morning, led by chief executive officer of Liberal Judaism Rabbi Charley Baginsky. It was the first Shabbat service in Huddersfield for over 60 years.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky highlighted that there is rawness, distress and sense of vulnerability in her community.
Rabbi Baginsky also stressed that while this moment is about being able to hold the suffering and fear of those who look to you, it is important to name and recognise the suffering and tragedy of others, as doing so doesn’t diminish our own.
Rabbi Elisheva Salamo (left) and Laurence Saffer
This service was followed by a tour of Holocaust North Centre. Holocaust Centre North’s director Dr Alessandro Bucci and head of learning Hannah Randall spoke about the centre’s work across collections and archive, learning and public engagement, art commissioning and community support.
The weekend ended with a Saturday evening Klezmer concert – Klezmer by Freylach – on Saturday evening at Bradford Synagogue.
Laurence Saffer, representing the organisers, said: “This was a wonderful and unique opportunity for many of the region’s communities to come together and enabled those who have chosen to live outside the Jewish communities to reconnect and meet like-minded people.
“At a time when the Jewish community is feeling particularly vulnerable, it was even more special and poignant to all come together for prayer, music, education, great food and company.”
Dr Bucci added: “For nearly five years, the Holocaust Centre North in Huddersfield has been a pillar of remembrance and education.
“Through our dedicated efforts in archives, education, artistic research and survivor support, we highlight the severe consequences of all extremist regimes by preserving and sharing the stories of Holocaust survivors who identify as both Jewish and Northern.
“’Beit Yorkshire’ offered an unparalleled opportunity for the wider community to engage with us at a time when coming together to support one and other feels more vital than ever before.
“This collaboration between the region’s Jewish communities and Holocaust Centre North was a testament to our shared commitment to the Jewish community in Yorkshire and a truly wonderful event of which there will be more.”
In Yorkshire, around 12,000 individuals identify as Jewish. The recent census highlighted the presence of Jewish people not only in areas with established synagogues but also in Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield, where no synagogues currently exist.