Members Meeting- 13th March 2024

AG introduced the guest speaker for the night, Nigel Grizzard.

Nigel’s talk was entitled “The Local Jewish Entrepreneurs and the Kagans”.

Nigel, himself, is Jewish, was born in Whitechapel, London but came north to work in Bradford and eventually settled in the Jewish district of Alwoodley in Leeds. He researches Jewish heritage and leads Heritage Walks around West Yorkshire.

His talk was intended to be a “two way street”, where he encouraged audience participation to enhance the overall experience of the evening.

He highlighted a number of areas in our locality with Biblical referenced names, for example, Machpelah Terrace and Machpelah Works in Hebden Bridge and Mount Tabor, before moving on to talk about Jewish celebrities who lived and worked locally, and although there were many Jewish families living in the area, there has never been a Jewish community in Calderdale.

Joseph Kagan, the son of Benjamin, was born in Lithuania. They came to live in Elland in the 1930’s and founded Kagan Textiles in 1938. Their first property was Thornton Mills and later built the famous Gannex Mill on Dewsbury Road. Joe Kagan, was later made a Life Peer, Baron Joe Kagan, by his very good friend, Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who, along with the Duke of Edinburgh, was one of the most famous people to be seen regularly wearing one of Kagans waterproof Gannex raincoats. Joe was one of the more well known people to occupy Barkisland Hall. Benjamin’s wife, Miriam, another survivor of the Holocaust, came to live with him in Britain after the war had ended. At the time he died in 1988 at the age of 109, Benjamin Kagan was Britain’s second oldest man.

Other, lesser known local celebrities were mentioned and discussed

  • He recently visited Heptonstall, where he visited the grave of Sylvia Plath, the wife of former Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes.
  • Albert Waxman, a Kindertransport Kid, who served in the RAF and eventually became an industrialist and the founder of Waxman International
  • Albert Max Hurwitz, who was the son of a Rabbi and became a leading Barrister and in 1957 was appointed Recorder of Halifax
  • Dr Bertram Mann, who was a consultant chest physician at both Halifax General Hospital and Royal Halifax Infirmary; he pioneered much of the work on asbestosis in the 1970’s;
  • Dr Barry Benster, who was a consultant gynaecologist and local councillor.
  • Jonathan Silver, who, along with Ernest Hall, was responsible for the regeneration of Dean Clough Mills
  • Waldemar (Val) Ginsburg, who’s cousin Margaret, was married to Joe Kagan, having survived the Holocaust, came to live in Brighouse with his wife, Ibi; in the 1980’s they visited many schools to educate children about the Nazi persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust and to try to inspire tolerance among young people. In 2005 they were presented to the Queen on the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.