A Microcosm of the Jewish Communal Experience
Few people are aware of the intellectually diverse and remarkably innovative Jewish community of Letchworth which existed from the 1930s until the 1970s. Yanky Fachler has reclaimed the history of this talented group of people in Letchworth who inspired so many to enter the world of Jewish learning. This is a superb and important book – it reveals a rich but unknown chapter in the history of the Jews of England for today's generation.
Colin Shindler, Emeritus Professor, SOAS, University of London
Here, Letchworth-born Yanky Fachler explores a short-lived (1939–1971) provincial Jewish congregation that boasted a communal infrastructure typical of much larger communities. Based during the war years around an estate built by Abba Bornstein, most of the community returned to London after the Second World War. The centre of gravity shifted to what former Talmud Torah headmaster Harry Leitner describes as the ‘two pyramid houses on Sollershott East – the Sassoon/Feuchtwanger and Fachler homes.’
Letchworth was home to the world-famous private Judaica library assembled by David Sassoon. His son, Rabbi Solomon Sassoon, made sure that Jewish children from across the religious spectrum attended the Talmud Torah educational programme after regular school hours. Several rabbinical luminaries were associated with Letchworth, including the communal rabbi, Asher Feuchtwanger, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, and Rabbi Eliyahu Lapian.
Fachler describes a unique community where the orthodox coexisted harmoniously with the non-orthodox, Ashkenazi Jews lived side-by-side with Baghdadi Jews, and wealthy families rubbed shoulders with working class families. The book weaves a vibrant mosaic of the memories and anecdotes of dozens of former Letchworth residents and visitors.
244 pages, 39 black and white illustrations