Who We Are
OUTLINE OF LEEDS JEWISH COMMUNITY
- Population: nearing 10,000 (the exact number is not known. According to the National Survey, as well as Shul memberships, the number is around 6,500. Ostensibly, there are many unaffiliated Jews who do not identify themselves as Jews). Around two-thirds of the community are of the older generation, and one-third of the younger generation.
There is a definite awakening to Judaism in the younger generation (the under 40’s). They are not yet necessarily on the road to becoming observant, but they are expressing a strong sense of Jewish identity, and interest in reviving the community.
- Jewish Organisations. There are some 53 Jewish organisations, under the umbrella of the Leeds Jewish Representative Council. These include a nursing home, the Welfare Board, the Housing Association, schools, and of course Shuls, Chevra Kaddisha and Mikve.The local Chabad is very active in the community. Leeds also has a Beis Din with its own Shechita, headed by Dayan Refson (who was appointed Av Beis Din by Dayan Ehrentreu).
- There are three main Shuls, each having some 700 families members. Each of these run daily Minyonim. In addition, there are three smaller Shuls, two of which hold services only on Shabbos.
- There are two Jewish primary schools. Brodetsky has some 300 students. The homes of these students are on varied levels of observance. The Menorah School is run by Dayan Refson, with all the families on a high level of observance. There is one Jewish High school with 53 students. This school opened last year. Until then, close to 100 pupils travelled daily to Manchester’s King David. At this point, the older years still attend King David, while the younger years are mostly being schooled in this new local high school.
- Shul Attendance. On an average Shabbos, approximately 500 attend all the Shuls combined. (Most of these unfortunately are not yet Shomer Shabbos) . During the week, the Shuls hold daily Minyonim.
- Level of Observance. There are varying levels of observance in the community, ranging from those who are on a very high level to those who are not observant at all. As an example, many in the community hold a minimal level of Kashrus. However, one community member commented “ I have a Kosher kitchen. But, I really would not want you to eat in my kitchen”.
In 2011, Rabbi Ahron Kramer met with the Leeds community Rabbis and several community lay leaders. He encountered strong enthusiasm to the idea of establishing a Community Kollel in Leeds, the third largest Jewish Community in the U.K., which lies 30 miles east of Manchester.
Over a period of three years, with thorough research and planning, painstaking persistence, against many odds and extreme challenges, the impossible happened! On May 11 2014 the Kollel celebrated its grand opening in the presence of Chief Rabbi Mirvis, local Rabbonim, community lay leaders, and committee members from Manchester.
The Kollel is fortunate to have as its Nasi (President) Dayan Abraham, who with his broad mind guides the Kollel in every step. His involvement began one and a half years before the opening of the Kollel, and proves to be invaluable. Several weeks after the opening of the Kollel, he came up to visit the Kollel. Since then, he has visited quite a few times.
The Kollel started with seven members, five of which resided in Leeds from the start, with Rabbi Kramer commuting daily (due to his children’s schooling), and bringing his family over almost every Shabbos. Rabbi Krausz, the Rosh Chabura, continues to commute daily from Manchester.
Two new members, who also reside in Leeds, joined in 2015 and 2017.
The internal standard of the Kollel is very high, with the Avreichim constantly growing in their learning. Initially they learnt Meseches Sukka, followed by Beitza, continuing on to Meseches Nida, presently learning Hilchos Nida. They will shortly be receiving Semicha on
this from Dayan Westheim of Manchester. After this, they will commence Meseches
Many Rabbonim have come to speak in the Kollel. Amongst the notable figures who have come are Rabbi Gavriel Knopfler, Rosh Yeshiva of Sha’rei Torah in Manchester, and Rabbi Mordchai Yosef Karnowsky, Mashgiach of Yeshiva Gedola in Gateshead.
At the conclusion of Meseches Sukka, the Kollel published a kuntrus with chidushei Torah which were said over in the Kollel by the Rosh Chabura, Rosh Kollel, and Avreichim.
Rabbi Ahron Kramer. Grew up in Philadelphia, attended the Yeshiva there, followed by Yeshivas Kol Torah, and a short time in Yeshivas Mir. Kollel years were in Kollel Hamerkazi in Kiryat Sefer, followed by Heichal Hatorah in Manchester where he received a Semicha on Yo’re De’ya.
Rabbi Noson Krausz. Grew up in Manchester, attended Yeshivos in Gateshead followed by Yeshivas Ponevezh. Kollel years were in Kollel Mo’ed in Kiryat Sefer, followed by Heichal Hatorah in Manchester where he received a Semicha on Yo’re Deiya.
Rabbi Yisroel Cohen. Grew up in London, attended Yeshivas Beis Yisrael, followed by Kollel years by R’ Zvi Kushelevsky, and at the Kollel of R’ Mordechai Eliyahu.
Rabbi Yossi Dansky. Grew up in Gateshead, attended Yeshivos there, followed by Yeshivas Mir.
Rabbi Shimon Buckman. Grew up in London, attended Yeshivas Ohr Sameach, followed by Yeshivas Mir.
Rabbi Aaron Stroh. Grew up in London, attended Yeshivos in Gateshead followed by R’ Zvi Kushelevsky.
Rabbi Doniel Stern. Grew up in Manchester, attended Yeshiva in Gateshead, followed by R’ Shlomo Reich. Attended Kollel in Rechasim.
Rabbi Aaron Schauder. Grew up in Manchester, attended yeshiva in Gateshead, followed by yeshivas Mir along with Reb Shragi kallus Halacha kollel. Completed Ner LeElef’s community training and Jewish leadership course
THE KOLLEL PLAN
The plan for the Kollel is to have a minimum of 13 members. This will comprise 10 full time Avreichim, and a Rosh Chabura devoted to upholding the high standard in the Beis Hamedrash. In addition, we are seeking to fill the position of Director of Communal
programmes. He will be at the forefront with the community, creating connections and
programmes which will integrate the Kollel even more with the community.
This setup allows the Avreichim to continue in their growth as budding Talmidei Chachamim, and at the same time be involved in outreach in the community. Overseeing the entire project in all aspects, with a hands-on involvement is Rabbi Kramer.
As of today we unfortunately lack the funding to reach this number, thus severely restricting our capabilities.
THE KOLLEL AND THE COMMUNITY
The establishment of the Kollel was done through the “front door” of the community. As a vital component in the planning of the Kollel, connections were built up with the lay leaders in the community, both Rabbonim and askonim. This paved the way for the Kollel to be warmly accepted by the community from the time of its inception.
The Kollel families are all wonderful examples of true Bnei Torah, with modest and super fine character traits. By just being there, they are exposing the community to the pleasant lifestyle of religious Jews, and are a cause of great Kiddush Hashem!
Community members greatly enjoy being guests for Shabbos meals, and joining our events.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that many in the community truly cherish the Kollel. In addition, there is absolutely no animosity at all towards the Kollel.
Over the past two and a half years, we have held many well attended events:
- Six months after the Kollel opened, an open Siyum was held for the community, as a “meet the Kollel” affair. An unbelievable 170 people turned up, and were mesmerised by the atmosphere, and by Dayan Abraham’s talk.
- On Tu-B’shvat, the Kollel wives hosted an evening for women, with 50 attendees.
- On Lag-Ba’omer, the Kollel families made a BBQ for the LJOY group (Leeds Jewish Orthodox Youth). This was attended by around 20 teenagers.
- On Shavous night, the Kollel members gave the Shiurim in the communal Tikkun Lel Shavous to around 50 adults and 30-40 teenagers.
- The Kollel held two Shabbatons for the town’s teenage boys, and hosted a Yeshiva from Gateshead (Nezer Hatorah) to connect the Leeds boys with Yeshiva Bochurim. This was a tremendous success.
- “Shabbat Leeds” was a project conceived and spearheaded by the Kollel, in conjunction with all three Shuls. It included communal meals, a guest speaker, some ten families from the Travelling Chasidim, and a Havdala Concert with the Sameach Choir of Manchester. Hundreds of people were involved in this.
- In addition, the Kollel has hosted several Seudos Shlishis and Melave Malkas for our many friends in the community.
- The Kollel have been very involved in Shabbat UK. The main two projects worked on were
the Challa Bake by the Kollel wives, and a learning programme to reach about Shabbos, dubbed SatNav (Saturday Navigation).
- Members of the Kollel lead a Sunday morning programme for teenagers called
DBLA- Davening, Breakfast, Learning, Action.
- Members of the Kollel wives initiated reunion sessions with the over Bas Mitzva
- A group of teenagers were taken on a trip to Poland & Belarus
- Every evening we have a slot where townspeople can learn with Kollel members on a one-on –one basis.
- There is a Thursday evening Mishmar programme attended by around 15 community members, learning for a hour, followed by a shiur and cholent.
- Every Sunday morning there is an interactive popular shiur attended by 15 people.
- There is a Wednesday night session attended by around 10 people.
- Two small Gemara shiurim two nights a week.
- Two women Chavrusos are also running.
- Rabbi Glickman speaks on the weekly Parsha on a radio programme- Radio Jcom, the only Jewish community radio in the U.K. His half hour talk is aired five days a week. (it can be heard locally at 1386 am, or online at www.Radiojcom.com).
In total, there are around 40 weekly chavruso sessions taking place with community members.
THE LONG TERM ASPIRATIONS (10-15 years)
- The nucleus around us growing in snowball fashion. We should be recognised by the community as a whole, in a most positive way, as a generator of the warmth of Yiddishkeit, and of Torah knowledge and practice.
- As this happens, the Kollel will need to grow, and in addition outsiders will see Leeds as an attractive Frum community.
- This will automatically bring about the opening of appropriate schools and Shuls.
- This will have a spiral effect on continuing to build up the community.