History / Overview
The way of life into which we were born, a way of life we can justly call our heritage, is synonymous with the traditions and culture fostered with such deep devotion by what has become that great symbol of Orthodox Jewry in Leeds, The Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue.
Originally nurtured in the bosom of the Jewish quarter in Leeds, amid the teeming immigrants from Eastern Europe, the BHH, in keeping with the material circumstances of our forefathers, was founded in a bare whitewashed room, as plain and simple as it was unpretentious. This was Templar Street and the year was 1874.
After a few years a room was rented in St. Alban’s Street where the synagogue remained until 1886. From here it moved to the first floor of a primitive, old fashioned building in Upper Hope Street. Indistinguishable from the conglomeration of surrounding houses and workshops, the new synagogue was established over a butcher’s shop and a bakery.
During early morning prayers, the smell of fresh baking black bread mingled with the sharp, uniform responses of the worshippers, replying to the Reader’s callings of the Morning Blessings.
The first appointed Rabbi to this flock was Rabbi Israel Zwi Levinson.
Towards the end of 1937 the construction of a new synagogue in Newton Road, Chapeltown, was completed.
This synagogue, with a seating capacity for 600 males & 350 females, was not only the most modern & distinguished synagogue in Leeds but also had the largest seating capacity.
The present magnificent synagogue in Street Lane was consecrated on the 9th of March 1969 (Adar 5729) by the then Chief Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Jakobovitz.
Note: Much of the above history is taken from a publication entitled, “The Beth Hamidrash Hagadol 1874-1994”, compiled by Isadore Pear, available from the Shul Book and Gift Shop.
Today the Congregation comprises of some 900 family units.
Within the campus, is the Synagogue with seating capacity for 700 men & 500 women (in the gallery) with additional seating behind a Mechitzah on the ground floor for infirm ladies plus some space for wheelchairs.
There are three reception halls, which are regularly used by the Congregation for its own weekly events & which also can be hired out for meetings & Simchas. The two main halls have fully equipped kitchens.
The third hall (on the top floor) is sometimes used by the Leeds Lodge of the Bnai Brith.
The lower level houses the small Synagogue, used mainly for weekday Services, the Juniors’ Service on Shabbat & Yom Tov plus the illuminated yarhzeit plaques.
The campus is situated in large well maintained gardens with considerable parking facilities, accessed via a security entrance barrier control system.
The Congregation has its own Cemetery located on the South side of the city some 25 minutes drive away and which has a resident Sexton/Manager.