Judy Simonds was looking through her mother’s wardobe after her mum passed away shortly before her 100th birthday when she discovered the fascinating information which left her wanting to know more about her Jewish ancestry.
Sheffield born Judy says: “When I found that hoard of family papers, my own life suddenly paled into insignificance against the traumas of the past generation. ‘You’ve just got to write this down’, said my children. My seemingly ordinary upbringing concealed an extraordinary history.”
The resulting research took her into immigrant ships from the Pale of Settlement, Manchester sweatshops, Victorian lunatic asylums, and the horrors of the concentration camps. This was the unseen backdrop to Judy’s suburban childhood.
Her book, entitled The Northern Line: The History of a Provincial Jewish Family, throws fresh light on a forgotten part of Sheffield history, the early days of its Jewish community and its role as a sanctuary for refugees fleeing from the pogroms in the 1880s and from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. It evokes the gas-lamps of Paradise Square and the Hebrew classes where lads lay in wait each evening to throw stones at “the Jewboys”.
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The 272-page paperback book is due to be released by Troubadour Publishing on January 28 and will be available from Amazon, Troubador Bookshop, Waterstones and most online retailers, priced £9.99. The independent publisher offers a self-publishing service through Matador.