Unveiling of a Blue Plaque at the New Synagogue – Northern School of Contemporary Dance
Unveiling of a Blue Plaque to commemorate the New Synagogue
A new Leeds Civic Trust Blue Plaque was unveiled in glorious Autumn sunshine today, Sunday 14th October, at the former New Synagogue on Chapeltown Road - now the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.
His Honour Judge Ian Dobkin performed the ceremony in front of around a hundred people, many from the Leeds Jewish community.
The fine building, designed by the architect J Stanley Wright, was opened in 1932 and closed in 1985. It was the first Synagogue of the United Hebrew Congregation which was formed in 1932. It was designed in a Byzantine style with a large copper dome and minaret, a little like an Istanbul Mosque. It soon became the most popular Synagogue in Leeds and when it closed in 1985, the building was bought by Leeds City Council which set up the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. In 1998, the new Labour Government's Arts Minister, Mark Fisher, formally opened the refurbished building which had been upgraded using lottery money. Most of the elements of the old Synagogue were carefully preserved and are still present today. The building is listed Grade II.
Fabian was invited by former Leeds Jewish Representative Council President, Sue Dorsey and her husband Michael, to attend the ceremony. When he arrived, Dr Kevin Grady of the Leeds Civic Trust asked him to speak after Judge Dobkin and Paul Berwin before the Plaque was unveiled. The speeches, made inside the Synagogue itself were followed by two songs from the male choir of the current UHC Synagogue now based in Shadwell Lane.
Fabian spoke to many constituents present who had either had a Bar Mitzvah or a marriage ceremony in the former New Synagogue. Michael Freedman, whose late father Murray wrote a book about the building, told Fabian that his parents had been instrumental in the construction of the New Synagogue in 1932. Also at the ceremony was the current President of the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, Hilton Lorie and Chapel Allerton Councillor Mohammed Rafique. A number of people from some of Chapeltown's other communities also attended.
Commenting on the event, Fabian said that he was delighted to have been invited and to be able to say a few words. "This is a building I have known well since it ceased to be a Synagogue. In 1988, I attended, as a Councillor, one of the first performances of the new Northern School of Contemporary Dance together with Denis Healey who was then the MP for Leeds East. I later went on to become a Governor of the Northern School after my election as Leeds North East MP in 1997."
"The New Synagogue is such a fine building and I am delighted that it has been preserved and put to good use after it ceased to be a place of worship. It was a real pleasure to see so many friends and constituents from the Leeds Jewish community commemorating this important place in their history. The building is a link between the past and present and between the people who once lived in this area of Leeds and have now moved away, but have never forgotten their connection to Chapeltown."
Councillor Mohammed Rafique with Fabian standing just under
the Blue Plaque unveiled today (14th October 2012)
Fabian pictured with Linda Kitching of Leeds Civic Trust, Judge
Ian Dobkin and Paul Berwin