JCR-UK

the former

Hitchin Hebrew Congregation

and Jewish Community

North Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire

 

 

   


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Town of Hitchin

The historic market town of Hitchin, situated in northern Hertfordshire, immediately to the west of Letchworth, was an urban district from 1894 until its incorporation in 1974 into the local government district of North Hertfordshire, within the county of Hertfordshire. The population of Hitchin is approximately 36,000.

 Jewish Community

There was a medieval Jewish community in Hitchin. In modern times, during World War, an evacuee Jewish congregation was established in Hitchin. In view of Hitchin's close proximity to Letchworth, which then had a much more significant Jewish community, at times it was considered part of the greater Letchworth community. Furthemore, as the local hospital was situated in Hitchin, many of the children of members of the Letchworth Jewish community were born in Hitchin.  The Hitchin congregation did not long survive the end of the war.

Since the early 1990s, a yeshiva has existed in the close-by village of Great Offley, just to the west of Hitchin. See Yeshivot in Great Offley.

Congregation Data

Name:

Hitchin Hebrew Congregation(i)

Address:

From at least 1941, regular Shabbat and festival services were held at the Congregational Church Hall, Queen Street, Hitchin, by permission of the Church deacons.(iv)

Following the war, the address of the congregation was still listed as Queen Street, Hitchin.(v) 

Formation & Communal Activities:

In 1940, one of the largest Jewish friendly societies in Britain, Order Achei Brith, evacuated its head office, staff and records from the East End of London to Glentworth House, 20 Wymondley Road, Hitchin. The Hitchin community held communal meetings, and social and charitable functions at Glentworth House.(vi)

The following three 1941 reports from The Jewish Chronicle provide an informative perspective on the formation of community and its activities:

  • The Jewish Chronicle of 27 June 1941
    HITCHIN COMMUNITY BEING ORGANISED
    The growth of the Jewish Community in the district of Hitchin, Herts., has led to important changes in the arrangements for religious observance and social activities. At a meeting of Jewish residents held at the offices of the Order Achei Brith, Glentworth House, Hitchin, with Mr. C. Bluslon in the chair, Mr. H. S. Schildkraut presented a statement on negotiations with the Board of Deputies and the Central Committee for Evacuation. Arrangements have been made for religious education for the children attending day school, and for special classes to be taken by the Rev. S. Wolfe on Sundays. For the time being Synagogue services are held regularly at the Hitchin Congregational Church Hall, Queen Street, where the Social Circle also meets on Sunday evenings. A Board of Management has been appointed. Mr. S. Teacher, of 92, Tilehouse Street, Hitchin, is Treasurer of the Synagogue and Social Circle, and will supply particulars on application. The local authority is sympathetic and very helpful. The Social Circle has arranged a number of cricket matches with local teams, and is preparing an interesting syllabus of social and literary events. It is hoped also to provide a centre for the younger boys and girls, with all the usual club facilities.

  • The Jewish Chronicle of 18 July 1941
    HITCHIN
    At a concert arranged for the Hitchin Hebrew Social Circle last week by Mr. J. Jackson, a section of concert party provided a varied entertainment. Cricket matches have been played against the Kings Sports Club and the Hitchin Boys Club, and other matches are being arranged for Sunday afternoons. A Ladies' Committee has been formed at Hitchin. It is co-operating in the organisation of a talk on "War-Time Jewish Cookery" on Wednesday afternoon, July 30, by Mrs. L. J. Greenberg. The Joint Emergency Committee has completed arrangements for religious instruction to Jewish children attending local schools, and for special classes every Sunday morning.

  • The Jewish Chronicle of 19 August 1941
    HITCHIN
    The small Jewish community In Hitchin is rapidly developing a comprehensive scheme of religious and social services. The number of children attending religion classes is increasing, and the Sunday evening club circle is becoming a popular meeting place for Jewish residents and for men in the Forces. By permission of the Deacons, the Congregational Church Hall, Queen Street, will be available for services. A Ladies' Guild which has been formed, will have its inaugural "At Home" next Wednesday, September 3, at Glentworth House, with Mesdames H. S. Shields and A. Teacher as hostesses. Mrs. & Bechal has been appointed Chairman, Mrs. Epstein Treasurer, and Mrs. S. Elvy Secretary.

Date Closed:

Closed in about 1947.(viii)

Ritual:

Ashkenazi - Orthodox

Affiliation:

None known.

Religious Leaders:

Rev. Lewis Rosenberg - religious teacher in about 1939/40.(x)

Rev. Samuel Wolfe - minister from 1941 to 1945.(xi)

Lay Officers:

Charles Bluston - President from at least 1942 until about 1947(xiii)

S. Teacher - Treasurer appointed in 1941(xiv)

Charles Oliver - Treasurer and Secretary appointed in 1942 and Secretary from about 1946.(xv)

W. Harris - Treasurer from at least 1945(xviii)

S. Bernstein and Mr. Mogil - Wardens elected in 1942.(xix)

Notes & Sources ( returns to text above)

  • (i) This was the name that appeared in Jewish Year Books.

  • (ii) and (iii) Reserved.

  • (iv) Jewish Chronicle reports of 27 June 1941 and 19 September 1941.

  • (v) Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947.

  • (vi) Jewish Chronicle reports of, inter alia, 28 March 1941, 13 December 1940 and 28 April 1944.

  • (vii) Reserved.

  • (viii) The congregation was last listed in the Jewish Year Book 1947.

  • (ix) Reserved.

  • (x) The Jewish Chronicle of 15 December 1939 reported "HITCHIN - Classes have been opened at the Friends Home, Brand Street. Hitchin, by the Joint Emergency Committee. The classes meet on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 3.30, and the teacher is the Rev. L. Rosenberg. All Jewish children in the neighbourhood are invited to attend."

  • (xi) The Jewish Chronicle of 2 November 1945 reported "HITCHIN - The Rev. S. Wolfe recently delivered his farewell sermon before leaving for Westcliff-on-Sea. He appealed for a continuation of the services at Hitchin. Correspondence for the Congregation should now be addressed to the Hon. Secretary, Mr. Charles Oliver, Redgables House, The Avenue, Hitchin, Hert." He was also listed as minister and secretary of the congregation in the Jewish Year Book 1945/6.

  • (xii) Reserved.

  • (xiii) Election as president and chairman reported in The Jewish Chronicle of 25 December 1942. Mr. Bluston is listed as president in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947.

  • (xiv) Appointment as treasurer reported in The Jewish Chronicle of 27 June 1941. Elsewhere, there is reference to an A. Teacher.

  • (xv) Election as treasurer and secretary reported in The Jewish Chronicle of 25 December 1942. Mr. Oliver is listed as hon. secretary in Jewish Year Book 1947.

  • (xvi) and (xvii) Reserved.

  • (xviii) Mr. Harris is listed as treasurer in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947.

  • (xix) Election as wardens reported in The Jewish Chronicle of 25 December 1942.

 

Other Notable Jewish Connections with Hitchin

  • Peter Benenson, barrister and founder of Amnesty International, stood as the unsuccessful Labour parliamentary candidate for the Hitchin constituency in 1951, 1955 and 1959.

  • Cyril Dennis MBE (1945-2016) a self made property entrepreneur, was born in Hitchin, grew up in north London and lived most of his life in Essex. He was awarded the MBE in 2002 for his philanthropic services on behalf of the Essex Jewish community.

  • Micky Dulin (1935-2021), professional footballer who played for Tottenham Hotspur in the 1950s, lived in Baldock as a child and attended Hitchin Grammar School.

  • Mark Lesnick (1908-1992), flyweight boxing champion in the 1920s, was a market trader in Hitchin. His son Barry played football for Luton Town.

  • Yaakov Levy (born in Hitchin in 1946) was Israelís ambassador to the UN International Organizations in Geneva; deputy director-general for public diplomacy at the Israeli Foreign Ministry; and Israel's ambassador to the Czech Republic (2008-2013).

  • David Triesman, Baron Triesman of Tottenham (born in Hitchin in 1943) is a politician, merchant banker and former trade union leader. He was General Secretary of the Labour Party 2001-2003. He was created a Life Peer in 2004.

 

Community Records

  • Registration District (for BMD): Hertfordshire (since 1 April 2008).

    • Previous Registration Districts
         Hitchin (from 1 July 1837 to 1 March 1996);
         Hitchin & Stevenage (from 1 March 1996 to 1 April 2008).

    • Any registers would now be held by the current register office.

    • Link to Register Office website

 

Hitchin Jewish Cemeteries Information

There is no Jewish cemetery in Hitchin or Letchworth.

 
World War II Evacuee Communities

Jewish Congregations in Hertfordshire

Jewish Communities of England homepage

Page created: 2 May 2006
Data significantly expanded and notes added: 15 August 2023
Page most recently amended: 10 September 2023

Research by David Shulman and Steven Jaffe
Formatting by David Shulman


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