by Helen Férrieux

Life began (for me) during the war.

We lived in an Ashkenazi community, not really frum (*1)  but we were all observant.  We went to shul (*2)  on Shabbas (*3)  and refrained from eating pork and shell-fish – forbidden foods under Jewish dietary laws and  known as trayf. (*4)    I imagine the serpent’s apple was the original trayf.

The neighbours in Northumberland Street were called Lang and Cohen, Weinstein and Rosenthal. They came from Russia, from Germany or Poland and spoke Yiddish.  Those who already knew some English spoke it with undeniablyt middle-European accents  and all the children were sent to elocution classes to lose these intonations (and to lose any Mancunian traits we might have picked up).

On Friday night every family adhered to the traditional custom of a joyful family meal

This was often the only time whole families gathered together, and we heartily enjoyed chicken soup with dumplings, (the panacea of all ills; actually it DOES help to cure a cold!), then roasted chicken and finally the delectable carb-fest, loxshen pudding, a concoction of sweet noodles, currants, almonds.

Northumberland Street

We settled down to a day of rest – no work was to be done on the Sabbath: no writing, no sewing or gardening, telephones were off-limits and electricity was not to be switched on or off, although the oven could be turned on beforehand & left alight to keep food warm. (We’re nothing if not pragmatic!)

The only activity permitted was to walk (no driving or travelling by bus) to the shul, dressed in our best clothes and hats. Remember at that time women would never go out, anywhere, without wearing a hat.

We could visit our friends but would knock at the door and not ring the door-bell.

You’d be offered tea poured from a thermos but not milk if you’d recently eaten meat. The Bible tells you why – so does Wikipedia – but in fact meat and milk are highly indigestible.

My paternal grandparents lived in the next street, Cheltenham Crescent, with their 11 children (Marie Stopes was unheard of). It was a large house which, at the death of my grand-parents, was bequeathed to the community to become a synagogue.

The family became known in the area because one of my uncles, Marcus Shloimovitz, spent years campaigning to have the word “Jew” erased from its definitiion in the Oxford English Dictionary. (see Wikipedia again). I believe he never obtained satisfaction.

Marcus had 4 dazzling daughters and 4 bland & homely boys. (see Marie Stopes again)……and this leads us on to the next episode:

Scandals & skeletons in the cupboard (coming soon)

*1 frum = religious devotion, very pious, or ‘holier-than-thou”
*2 shul. =. another word for synagogue, specially by Ashkenazi as opposed to Sephardim (who say ‘syna’)
*3 shabbas, shabbot = Friday sunset till Saturday, lasting 25 hours
*4 trayf = any foods which are forbidden in the Torah, not always kept nowadays except by frummers


  1. It’s lovely to hear all these memories.
    Manchester, Liverpool…we were neighbours without knowing it!

  2. Although born in Ireland I grew up in Salford, and I remember the Jewish community in and around Higher Broughton and Cheetham Hill very well. There was also a vibrant Catholic Polish community in the same area, all displaced by WWII. We were part of an Irish Catholic community based around Salford 5 (Ordsall) who moved there in the early 50s to respond to the post-war demand for workers.

  3. What a wonderfully evocative account of times gone by, Helen. I very much look forward to Part II.
    I was born 6 months before WW2 broke out in 1939, and lived just “over the water” from Liverpool on the Wirral. As Daphne writes, many Jewish people lived in Liverpool – the Jewish community around us was very small, and as a teenager I can remember taking the train into Liverpool on a Sunday, where I attended a special group for teen-aged Jewish children. It was called Habonim. Memories ……..

  4. I only exist because my dad was a Shabbat goy who lit fires for the Jewish community where he lived in Dalston Lane in Hackney, London. He saw my mum at about 14 when she was on a weekend at home also in Dalston Lane during the evacuation and, being 11 years older than her, thought he’d keep her on ice until she was 18 and old enough to marry 🤣🤣🤣

  5. That was a lovely read Helen. Although I was a post war baby and non Jewish but brought up in a very Jewish area in Liverpool. In the road we lived there was a Jewish butcher and nearby a Jewish baker where we used to buy our bagels for Sunday breakfast. I also attended the King David Jewish school in Childwall. An aunt of mine married a Mick Cohen. They had a little corner shop where he used to arrive everyday for work but returned to his family at night. Only when he died did his family know that he was married and to a Gentile! How times have changed……………

Leave a Comment