Few Jews lived in Leicester in the Middle Ages. It was only in the 19th century that their presence became more important. This was reinforced by the arrival of Jews from Russia at the turn of the 20th century.
One of the most important figures in Leicester was Israel Hart, who was mayor from 1884 to 1886 and from 1893 to 1894. He encouraged urban development with a fountain that became famous and especially a free library. Many places in the city pay homage to his work for the development of the city. Jews also participated in the development of the textile industry in the city and the region.
Historical synagogues of different streams
Another synagogue was built in 1898. The Leicester Hebrew Congregation reflects this expansion. It was built by the architect Arthur Wakerley. It is Orthodox and is still in operation. There is also a progressive synagogue in Leicester, whose community was founded in the late 1940s. It has been located since 1995 in a beautiful building dating from 1885.
A Jewish cemetery, dating from 1902, is the only one serving the needs of the community in Leicester and the surrounding villages. A great deal of effort has gone into cataloguing its 900 graves and putting the information online. It is divided into two parts, one of which is an old prayer house, the Tahara house, built in 1928.
The city’s Jewish population gradually declined in the second half of the 20th century. Thus, if they were more than 1000 in 1970, they were a little more than 400 at the beginning of the 21st century. Among the members, there was a large presence of university students.