Holocaust Centre North, in conjunction with Sinai Synagogue hosted Huddersfield’s first Shabbat service in over 60 years as part of a full weekend of activities.
Progressive Jewish Communities at Sinai Synagogue Leeds, The Bradford Synagogue, York Liberal Jewish Community, and Holocaust Centre North were honoured to present “Beit Yorkshire”, a weekend dedicated to recognising and celebrating the Jewish community in Yorkshire, which took place between 20th to 22nd October.
With the rise of antisemitism in the UK since the events of October 7th, 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 on October 20th 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 highlighted that there is rawness, distress, and sense of vulnerability in her community, while Rabbi Baginsky 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.
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, before the weekend ended with a Saturday evening Klezmer concert – Klezmer by Freylach – on Saturday evening at Bradford Synagogue.
Laurence Saffer, representing the organising entities, remarked: “This was a wonderful and unique opportunity for many of the regions communities to come together and enabled those who have chosen to live outside the Jewish communities to reconnect and meet likeminded 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.”
Alessandro Bucci, Director of Holocaust Centre North, remarked: “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, approximately 12,000 individuals proudly identify as Jewish.
The recent census highlights the presence of Jewish people not only in areas with established synagogues but also in Kirklees, Calderdale, and Wakefield, where no synagogues currently exist. “Beit Yorkshire” took place to knit the community closer.