Leeds synagogue that became a mecca for dance devotees

The plaque.
The plaque.
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A landmark place of worship in Leeds which later became home to one of the country’s best known dance schools has been singled out for special recognition.

Officials from Leeds Civic Trust, the Jewish community and the Chapeltown Heritage Advisory Group gathered at grade II-listed The New Synagogue in Chapeltown for the grand unveiling of a blue plaque yesterday.

Now the headquarters of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, the neo-Byzantine Chapeltown Road building’s large green dome roof and Egyptian-style Portland stone portico make it one of Leeds’s most recognisable landmarks.

Lynda Kitching, chair of Leeds Civic Trust, said: “The Jewish community has played a hugely important part in the cultural and economic life of Leeds for over 150 years.

“The trust is delighted to be able to help celebrate an iconic building which reminds us of this.

“Its use today by the Northern School of Contemporary Dance means that it is a heritage building which has a secure future.”

Before the synagogue opened in 1932, Leeds had two city centre synagogues – the New Briggate Synagogue and the Great Synagogue on Belgrave Street.

They had been built to serve the large Jewish community in the Leylands, between North Street and Regent Street, at the end of the nineteenth century.

After the First World War, the movement of large sections of the Jewish population into Chapeltown prompted the building of a synagogue there.

In 1931, the congregations of the New Briggate Synagogue and the Great Synagogue combined to form the United Hebrew Congregation.

The New Briggate Synagogue closed in 1927 and its congregation worshipped in Brandsby Lodge, at the corner of Louis Street and Chapeltown Road, until The New Synagogue opened.

The Great Synagogue remained in use until 1983.

The New Synagogue, which became the most popular in Leeds, was used until 1985, when the building was bought by Leeds City Council before being taken over by the dance school.

President of the United Hebrew Congregation, Judge Ian Dobkin, unveiled the blue plaque yesterday.