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  • on June 5, 2015

Observations of Jewish life in Darlington after the 2nd World War

The following was received from Herbert Wolfe’s son, Richard;

It was a surprise to meet Rabbi Borts and find out that DHC was still flourishing. I had assumed that like so many other communities it had died out and was delighted to see it still continues.

It was fascinating reading your web site and its history and it invoked so many memories.

My first recollections are of the community based in Victoria Road.

I was bar mitzvah there is 1959, at about the same time as two others, Mike Hymans and Valentine Herman. I have just been in touch with Mike, via David Biermann, for the first time in many years. The Hyams name appears in many places in your history. His father, Nat, and my father were good friends.

In the year after in 1960 there were 6 bar mitzvahs (no bat mitzvahs in those days), but thereafter the congregation dwindled though deaths and no-one of my friends at that time stayed in Darlington. Besides Monica Stoppleman I have lost touch with them and often wonder what happened.

The last more or less contemporary, Martin Finn, has left, as Rabbi Borts mentioned to me, to go to Weybridge.

But the other names, Rachkind, Kletz, Abrahams etc. are all fresh in mind.

Darlington community was an interesting community, post 2nd world war. There were the old members, mainly with their roots in Russia and Poland, my parents’ generation, who were all refugees from Nazi Germany and so Yekkes. There was a clear split, the newer members were looked on with suspicion by the original members, something which took some time to heal. The new members in the main came from the Government incentive to re-establish business and factories in the North East, particularly in Newton Aycliffe.

As a result many lived in Thornbury Rise, a smallish road by Carmel Road, which was Darlington’s version of a mini-ghetto with 6 or 7 Jewish families.

In Thornbury Road lived the Bildens, the Biltons, the Finns and the Benns, who were all related, ourselves and my uncle and aunt with their family, who were not members. By one of those coincidences Laurence Benn, who entered the RAF, was the best man at the wedding of one of my fellow congregants here in London and we are friendly with a family here in London called the Wootcliffs, whose grandparents were members of DHC. Many years ago I met Phyllis Baum, who with her husband Jack were also close friends of my parents. Her granddaughter had just married a marquis.

The community was a wonderful one in which to grow up, about 40 families at maximum and lived and behaved like a family. As the community was so small we also could not be too inward looking and all took an active part in Darlington life.

We must have been one of the most liberal United congregations and could afford to be nothing else as the community was so small.

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