Sophia Lambert introduces the Leeds Jewish Oral History Project and encourages you to get involved.
Many will be familiar with the book by Diane Saunders and Philippa Lester, From the Leylands to Leeds 17, which tells the story of immigration and growth of the Leeds Jewish community from the late 1800s to the present day. Cultural and heritage organisation Millim has launched the Leeds Jewish Oral History Project, which develops Saunders and Lester’s work by capturing life stories of the Leeds Jewish community within living memory. Volunteers are conducting oral history interviews with older Jewish people, covering a range of themes, including festivals, leisure, and the future of the community.
The team is developing an exciting events programme to get more community members involved in the project, including creative writing workshops and a temporary exhibition and will create an online archive of all the testimonies and artefacts collected. Ultimately, we’d love a space to work on our document archive in the Moortown area where visitors can uncover their family and community history.
A taste of what we’ve found so far
We’ve recorded stories from men who did National Service in the 1950s, memories of teenage meetups in cafes to play Rock n Roll records, a game of bridge with Omar Shariff, a meeting with the pioneer of IVF Patrick Steptoe, and happy camping with the Jewish Scouts and Guides movement.
We’ve also teamed up with the Makor Archives and the Leeds Jewish Housing Association to discuss how historic documents in their collections might feature in the project as it develops. During one of our sessions, volunteers found 1960s brochures for the Queenshill estate, family photographs from the early twentieth century and newspaper articles about famous individuals.
How you can get involved
There are several ways you can support us. We’d like to hear from anyone with a story to tell, connections to Leeds and a Jewish background. Please contact us if you’d like to be interviewed or know someone who would.
If you’re passionate about Leeds Jewish history, then why not join our volunteer team? There are a variety of roles available.
We’re looking for a temporary place in the local area to store our archive, so if you have a spare room or office space, then we’d love to hear from you. We also desperately need donations to buy equipment to preserve our archive, cover the cost of hiring venues for our events, and find a permanent space for our collections.
If you would like to get involved in the project, please email Louisa Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow Milim on Instagram @milimleeds