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Who Were the First Jews in Bradford?
Jewish settlers arrived in Bradford in the 1820s and 30s. They were not itinerant peddlers looking for a good operating base as were Jewish settlers in other towns. They were not fiercely religious and Orthodox, as were the peddlers from Poland or Russia. On the contrary, many were already successful middle-class and educated German Jews who were products of the German Jewish Enlightenment and who saw themselves as both Germans and Jewish.
In the Journal of Dr John Simpson of Bradford 1825, who was Bradford's equivalent to Dr Samuel Johnson of London, there is the following entry for May 4th, 1825.
'Mr Jacobs, the jeweller called upon me today, but not being in want of anything I did not purchase. He is not one of the common travelling Jews, but is on first name terms with the first families in the county. The Earl of Harewood has been a good customer of his for several years. He comes to Bradford twice a year, but only calls on those to whom he is recommended. His articles are good and you give a good price for them in the first instance, but you may depend upon them being genuine and if they disappoint he will take them back. I bought off him about two years ago, the gold watch, chain and seal I now have. I gave thirty six guineas for the watch, eleven guineas for the chain, and two guineas and a half for the seal...'
It seems likely that Mr Jacobs came from London; if he had lived in Manchester, he would presumably have visited Bradford more than twice a year. Dr. Simpson mentions an earlier visit in 1823 (about two years earlier) and this is possibly the first reference to be found to Jews in Bradford.
Since Jacobs was not the first permanent Jewish resident of Bradford, the question of who was the first settler is a difficult one. In fact there are several contenders. The Jewish Chronicle Supplement (1 July 1955) suggests a Martin Hertz, who arrived in Bradford was the first resident. C.C. Aronsfeld, of 'Yorkshire Life, (June 1978), gives Leo Schuster, who opened premises in 1829 on the present site of the Norfolk Gardens Hotel. Yet Williams, the historian, claims in, 'The Making of Manchester Jewry 1740 -- 1875' (1976) that Schuster was already converted to Unitarianism. Finally, Heilbron, who wrote in, 'Provincial Jewry in Victorian England'; suggests that the first Jew who came to Bradford in modern times was Jacob Behrens (See later) in 1838.Next