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Karen Garrad

Karen Garrad recalls a more recent Jewish connection with Bradford

How did you come to Bradford and why Bradford?

We moved to Bradford because my husband had a job in Leeds, and we saw some houses around here and we came to have a look, and when I saw the mezuzah on the door I just felt this was meant to be the house for us, it had had a Jewish family in it, it needed to have a Jewish family in it again.

Has the Jewish community changed a lot from when you were younger?

I find the Jewish community up here very, very different to the Jewish community when I was younger. When I was younger I was completely enveloped by Jewish community, until I went to primary school I didn't even meet someone else who wasn't Jewish and everything, the shops down the road were kosher, there were kosher butchers, the delicatessen, Sunday morning we would walk down the road to buy the beigels; up here it is very, very different. In fact if I see anything Jewish, if I see some Channukah candles or anything in Tesco's it is really exciting.

Tell me about your family background.

On both sides of my family they originate from Eastern Europe. My grandparents on my father's side came to England at the turn of the last century; my grandfather was part of the Russian section of the British army in the First World War My grandmother only ever spoke Yiddish and in fact I think that my father always struggled with language because he spoke Yiddish at home and then was sent to school and didn't really know English. He left school at 13 because his father had died and he had to go to work; after he fought in the war as a very young soldier he didn't want to get married for a long time because of what he'd seen in the War, consequently he didn't settle down until his 40's, and there was a big age difference between my mother and father. The reason I relate this is because some of his family came over from Australia about eighteen years later, and I remember my father suddenly speaking Yiddish to my great Aunt, and I didn't even know he could speak it and he just spoke fluent Yiddish and they just talked and talked; and when I hear things nowadays about language and I think that was my right that was denied, because I should have been able to learn that and I didn't have that opportunity. The funny thing was that all through my childhood we would get phone calls from family that we had lost during the Second World War, who would pop up somewhere, mainly on my father's side, and they would feel it was safe enough to say "this is us, this is where we are, we're here". I myself was brought up in London, and then my four children have actually moved around the country quite a bit, mainly for my husband's work, but it has been quite good, because at one time we lived in Gloucestershire and we went to synagogue in Cheltenham, we went to St. Albans and lived down south for a while, and there were quite a lot of Jewish links there, then here, since we came to Bradford most of our Jewish connection has been with Leeds, as opposed to Bradford itself, although we have been to the synagogue, the local one but it is only open once a month. And when the children went to Cheder in Leeds, I'd think that it had taken me half an hour to go there, and back, and then you would find that the odd family had come from Hull, every week!

What are the big differences between when you came to Bradford, and Bradford now?

I don't find that many differences but I haven't been here that long. There are big differences between Bradford and somewhere like London, where you keep being Jewish much more to yourself up here, than you would do in London. I like it when I take the children back to London because they see Jewish things. But there is a definite difference since 9/11, you are even more careful about saying who you are; more wary about it.

How do you find living in Bradford?
On a day to day basis Bradford is a lovely place; it is very near to the countryside and it is a lot freer, it is not the same pressurised feeling as when you are living in London, but it does lack the Jewish side of things. I'd never forget that I am Jewish but it is not like it was when I was a child and it disappoints me for the children that it is not how it was.

Is there anything you would like to add?

The thing that strikes me is that there are some very important things that have taken place in Bradford that were because of the Jews and that gets neglected. It is like if you stand in Waterstones and you look round and you see the mogen davids and most people don't even know they are there; and why is Little Germany Little Germany? And it is just a heritage that they put under the carpet, rather than highlight and that makes me really angry; because a lot of the initial wealth that Bradford had was because of the Jews and now it's kept Shtum.


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