The Hull Jewish community is one of the three oldest in England.
The Hull ports made travel easier for traders and peddlers, allowing Jewish businesses to flourish and encouraging them to put down roots. Hull’s first recorded Jewish inhabitant in 1766 was Michael Levy, a watchmaker. In 1788 a local jeweler, Aaron Jacobs, created an ‘elegant crown’ to adorn the ‘King Billy’ Statute in Hull’s High Street. (The King William the Third’s (King Billy) equestrian statue, marked the centenary celebration of his victory over King James the Second.)
The port of Hull was a prominent destination for migrants heading from Eastern Europe to a new life in the US. Historians estimate that more than 500,000 Jews passed through Hull in the 19th Century. As Hull already had a thriving Jewish Community many stayed.
Over the 300 years since the Jewish community first put down roots at a former Catholic chapel in Posterngate, its presence in Hull has brought vitality to the city. Sports clubs, drama societies, and welfare organisations established by Jewish residents have contributed much to the cultural life of the city. The city was once home to numerous synagogues and active social and sporting clubs, such as the Hull Judeans cricket team. The family responsible for the Max Factor cosmetics giant sprang from humble beginnings in Hull’s Osborne Street before emigrating to the USA. Marks and Spencer opened one of their first shops at Whitefriargate in Hull.
The economic vitality of the city continues to be supported by numerous Jewish businesses, such as the architects firm started by B.S. Jacobs, the jewelers Segal’s, the solicitors Graham and Rosen, and the accountants Sadofsky’s. Individual members of the Jewish community, such as Leo Schultz, Victor Dumoulin, Edward Gosschalk, Benno Pearlman, and various members of the Rosen family have contributed much to the civic life of the city through their work as mayors, sheriffs, and societal leaders.
About 50,000 Jews served in the British Armed Service during World War 1, and around 10,000 died on the battlefield. Britain’s first all-Jewish regiment, the ‘Jewish Legion’ comprised 5 Battalions and fought in Palestine. Five British Jewish soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross during the war. An important consequence of the First World War was the British conquest of the Palestine, and the Balfour Declaration promising a home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
Many men from Hull’s Jewish community volunteered for active service at the outbreak of the First World War. See the ‘Our Losses’ section on this website for some of these Hull casualties.