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Talmud Torah and Home for Aged Jews

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Talmud Torah and Home for Aged Jews

An admonishment to keep to Orthodox ways, or a young Jew poking fun at this; whichever way this film is viewed, it gives a fascinating insight into Leeds Jewish community c.1936.

School programme and Educational film 1936 23 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive

Overview

This is a most intriguing film made in the mid-1930s by a young member of Leeds Jewish community, Alec Baron, who went on to make a successful career in theatre and TV. The film appears as a response to liberal reform currents within the Jewish community from an Orthodox perspective, although it could equally be seen, with its montage affect a la Sergei Eisenstein, and possibly cheeky title, as a send up of such a response. It provides a rare view into a besieged Jewish community.

Alec Baron was born in Leeds in 1913 (d. 1991), the son of Russian Jews who came to Leeds to escape the pogroms. He made a number of films about the Jewish community in Leeds around this time before driving a tank in the war, taking over the family tailor business, and later becoming a playwright and the first Administrator of Leeds Playhouse. In the mid-1930s Leeds had 22,000 Jews, mostly working in tailoring. In the film we see the Ashkenazi Orthodox New Synagogue, which opened in 1932 on Chapeltown Road and later became part of the United Hebrew Congregation c.1949. The boys in the class (Cheder), having reached 13, are learning to put on the tefillin, worn for daily morning prayers.