Bradford has a proud history. It was the wool capital of the world (a trade which originated in Yorkshire in the 14th century, based on the Cistercians and their superior woolly sheep), and part of the cradle of the Industrial revolution – a city full of ‘Yorkshire grit’. These are some of the titles that apply to Bradford. However, at first glance the Jewish connection to Bradford seems a strange one.
While the Leeds and Manchester Jewish community grew as part of the migration of Russian Jews escaping from tsarist Russian persecution in the 1880s and 90s, Bradford was part of an earlier settlement from the 1820s onwards, part of a commercial venture of Germans, both Jewish and Gentile.
German Jews who came to Bradford from the 1820s onwards, came not to seek freedom from persecution, but to build businesses and fortunes. They did much to shape Bradford and to create its wealth and fame. They were passionately concerned in the building of Bradford and helped change a small town into a major commercial city. They made an indelible mark on its industrial as well as cultural and charitable life. Many who later left Bradford enhanced the general quality of life in Britain, among them were proud Jews concerned for their own community and the welfare of Anglo Jewry. Some were directly involved in the laying of the foundations of the Jewish State Israel in what at the turn of the century was a forgotten province of the Turkish Empire.
So, while the casual visitor to Bradford will not see much of Bradford’s Jewish heritage without being guided to it, there are probably more historic monuments to Jewish endeavour in Bradford than in Leeds and this guide will help you find it.