What occupations and professions were there among the Bradford’s Jewish Community during the Victorian age?
Writer and genealogist Benjamin Dunn examines the working life of the communities Jewish past.
At the high end of the social scale there were the wealthy German merchants who arrived in the first wave of immigration from the 1830s until the 1860s. They would establish a base which later settlers would build upon. By the 1880s, the second wave of Jewish arrivals would steadily trickle in from Russia and Eastern Europe.
Some were tailors like the Bergsons, Brombergs, Hoffbrands and Finebergs. Others were peddlers of various goods like Lewis Freed who was drawn to the Worstedopolis in the late 19th century and lived at 7 Hillside Villas at the time of his death in 1882.
Others were shoe and boot makers. There is no evidence for Jewish involvement in the furniture trade in Bradford during this period. There were some teachers such as Joseph Beer who worked as a foreign language teacher, living in the early 1880s. He held residence at 116 Manningham Lane. He died at his Manningham home on the 18th April 1882, aged 67.
Others like Jonas Koppel, listed on the 1841 census as being “from foreign parts”, had his occupation given as a traveller. He was however not a traveller in the modern sense of the word, but an itinerant salesman. By 1861, he was residing at 13 Mornington Villas, in the suburb of Manningham, Bradford. His occupation being given now as Worsted Merchant. He was by then about 42, and married to Mathilde, 23 – nearly twenty years his junior. They were both from Germany by birth, but were both by now naturalized British subjects
There were also shop-keepers like Ignatz Rosenthal who ran a tobacconists in the centre of town at 19 Market Street and later at Albany Buildings, 13 Bank Street. The cigar merchant was running this profitable business in Bradford during the late 19th century. His partnership with Mr Charles F Card was dissolved on mid-summers day, 1890, according to the London Gazette.
There was a true cross section of trades and occupations, with jewellers such as Arensbergs, a butcher, and various other shops.
Then of course there was one other important job in the community, the Rabbi. Rabbi Dr Joseph Strauss was born in Berlichingen, Wuerbeinberg in Germany in the year 1845. Educated at Stuttgart Royal Gymnasium, a well known German grammar school, he took classes in philosophy, classics, Semitic languages, natural sciences and science and education. He qualified as a Rabbi in 1870 and whilst waiting for a suitable Rabbinical posting, he studied an MA in medieval history and modern philosophy. As a result of this additional study he became a Dr of Philosophy, having written about the ‘religious philosophy of Ion Erra’. It was then that he worked as an assistant to his former tutor, Rev Von Maiser for 3 years.
He was a passionate Zionist, and gave many a sermon about beliefs whilst travelling and in 1890, he appointed delegates to the second Zionist congress in Baste, Switzerland.
Having moved to the UK, and after gaining a reputation for being well mannered, very learned, amiable and broad-minded, it was in 1873 that he was employed by the Jewish community of Bradford to be their first Rabbi. In his first sermon as Rabbi, he spoke about Bradford’s reputation abroad for manufacturing success, and how he felt that he had be called upon by Abraham to his appointment there. He did many services around Bradford on Shabbat, and took the time to teach Jewish children about Judaism and Hebrew..
In 1876, he was appointed lecturer in Hebrew and Oriental languages at Airedale Independent College., and his works ‘Religion and Morals’ was published in 1876. It went on to sell several editions
After 5 years, the congregation presented him with a gold Chronometer watch and writing desk. His teachings gained him the respect of the Jewish and Christian congregations of the day who were sympathetic to his teachings, and Bowland Street Synagogue was erected in 1881, which he took great pride in being a part of.
Towards the end of his career, he raised £800.00 so that the Jews could have their own burial ground at Scholemoor Cemetery. Dr Strauss will always be remembered as a remarkable man who influenced the lives of the Jewish congregation in Bradford for many years from his own time.
The descendants of Rabbi Strauss still live in the West Yorkshire area, and over time have had a weighty influence on local business and commerce, as well as the creative industries such as art, and music. Strauss himself was a descendant on his mothers side of the famous German composer, Felix Mendelssohn.