• on October 21, 2012

Darlington Jewish Community by Linda Mickler from the NE Jewish Recorder 14-9-12

All of the North east smaller Jewish communities have now gone except Darlington which now has a Reform shul. I spent 3 years there as a trainee teacher at the Darlington College of Education in 1965 to 1968. Then the community was orthodox with a full time Minister, the late Reverend Abraham Freedman.

Reverend and Mrs Freedman had a daughter at the college also called Linda and we became good friends. I was welcomed into their home as a second Linda! She is now Mrs Linda Wosner, lives in London and we are still in touch.

The shul was in Victoria Road and services were held every Friday night, Shabbos morning and on Yomim Tovim. Reverend Freedman was the chazan and on Yom Kippur he had help from David Saville from Sunderland. It was not always easy to get a minyan but it was not unknown for someone to hurry to the nearby market and round up some of the Jewish market traders from Leeds on a Shabbos morning!

Tony and I once went to see a show at the Darlington Civic Theatre when the late Bernard Breslaw was performing. Afterwards we went to the stage door and chatted to him and asked if he would visit the shul that Shabbos, which to everyone’s surprise he did.

Reverend Freedman was in Darlington from 1958 to 1971. In his first year there were 5 or 6 barmitzvahs and Reverend Freedman had to teach the boys to read Hebrew to be able to do the blessings. He was a shochet for the area and kosher meat was availble from a local butcher shop. He arranged for kosher food and bread to be brought from Leeds and sold on a Polish market stall.

There were about 80 or so people in those days and some of the names I remember are, Abrahams, Barnett, Baum, Bilden, Kletz, Finn, Hymes, Rachind, Stoppleman and Wilkes. The community built a new shul while I was there and moved into Bloomfield Road.

When the Freedmans left to go to Manchester a Michael Copeland became the chazan, for how long I do not know. The people I remember have moved away and some are no longer with us but I have many happy memories of my time spent in Darlington.

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