Joyce Hoffbrand remembers the Bradford Jewish community she knew when she arrived in the city in the early 1950′s. Here she writes about her own family and the people she recalls from her first few years in Bradford. She married Eric Hoffbrand, whose family were in the tailoring trade. Included are her memories of the change from Spring Gardens, Manningham to Springhurst Road, Shipley, and the predicitons of synagogue member Quentin Nisse which finally came true in November 2012, when the Orthodox synagogue closed its doors…
Eric Hoffbrand was born in Bradford in 1926, one of four members of the congregation born that year – Jack Morris, Eric, Daphne Beckwith (Couplan) and Irene Morris (Silver) – the same year as the Queen!
Eric was the son of Sam Hoffbrand whose sister and brothers were all in the tailoring trade. They were Edith Silverton, Abraham and Philip Hoffbrand. Both Sam and Eric served as secretary of the Bradford Hebrew Congregation (B.H.C.).
I came to Bradford in 1952 when I married Eric and at that time, the Synagogue was in Spring Gardens, just out of the centre of Bradford. I was a regular attendee with my sons and eventually became vice-Chairman of The Ladies Guild to Mrs Levin (who must have had a first name but we never used it!) One very funny memory I have is as follows: Mr Levin rung me one day and said (verbatim) “You’ll come for Mrs Levin and you’ll take her to the shul and you’ll get the silver from the sefarim and you’ll then have to clean it”. I did as I was told and the following Shabbat when Dr Cainer took the Sefer out of the Ark, he asked who had cleaned the silver. When told it was me, he looked with confusion at me and at the Sefer several times. When I got home I rang my father to ask what I had done and he said “You silly girl, if you were either pregnant or menstruating, you had made the Torah “posul” (unkosher). As I was neither, I was able to ring Dr Cainer and reassure the Sefer Torah was still perfectly Kosher!
A sub committee was formed consisting of Eric Hoffbrand, Sidney Morris, Maxwell Abrahams and Jack Reuben. The architect, Basil Gillinson was employed and meetings held round dining room tables in our house. The building went ahead and, because Eric was nearest during the day, any problems would be sorted by him. He said that many a time he had to leave a patient in his dental chair to rush up the road to sort something out. One thing he was adamant about – he HATED the material used for the interior of the of the building. It is called Lignocite and it is pretty grey, rough and ugly but it does not require maintenance which is why it was chosen. He called a meeting of the sub-committee but he was 9 course, overridden but when he retired he was presented with a table lighter made from a block of – LIGNOCITE!
My son Paul became the chairman of the children’s committee and I have a lovely photograph of him laying one of the foundation bricks. He has always been interested in the secular side of shul management having been very active in Masorti Judaism and the foundation of a new home for St Albans Masorti Synagogue of which he is currently co-chair.
The mention of Masorti reminds me that Brian Levi had a thought about combining the two Synagogues in Bradford and he invited Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs to come to discuss it. Louis Jacobs was my father’s first cousin so when he came to Bradford, he came to me for lunch. But he said the idea wasn’t feasible due mainly to the question of conversion. And talking of conversion reminds me very firmly of Jill Drazen who converted in the Orthodox movement and joined me in shul during that time every Shabbat. She followed me as chairman of the Ladies Guild and at one of our functions she met Lady Jakobovits, the wife of the then Chief Rabbi. Lady J was so impressed with Jill that she invited her and Maurice to her next child’s wedding. Jill is an amazing person, sadly now suffering from dementia.
When it came to designing the kitchen in the new shul, Enid Abrahams was very influential in making the perfect Kosher kitchen and we all learned a lot from her. If you look in it, you will see our work surface is lower than the others – that was my contribution since I am much shorter than all the other ladies and I wanted somewhere where I could work in comfort!
A large part of my family life was connected with the shul – including the design of the notepaper I did when my husband bought the printing business which did the shul’s work. (Edward Hough & Co. Ltd) – and I’m sure if we all got together it would stir many more memories.
P.S. I came to London in 1982 when Eric died and my sons were already here – part of Quentin Nisse’s prediction!