Our History

The organisation was formed at a meeting held on the 28 February 1878 in Leeds. Known as the Board of Guardians the object of the organisation was to provide a broad system of relief to those who needed it and in so doing stop the need for door to door begging and to encourage people to embark on earning an honest livelihood. The address for the organisation was Belgrave Street close to the central shopping district of Leeds.

For many years the main function of The Board of Guardians was to hand out funds to the needy to prevent them from having to enter the workhouse. This help included railway tickets and food vouchers and the steady stream of needy soon became a flood in the mass immigration years that followed due to pogroms in Russia.

The Board of Guardians occupied its offices next to the synagogue on Belgrave street for 50 years before moving to Brunswick Place in 1930. It remained there until moving to Stonegate Road on the site of the current premises, the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Community Centre which was opened in 2005.

For those who know Leeds Jewish Welfare Board as it exists today with over 100 professional staff, and many hundreds of volunteers across dozens of management committees it is a far cry from the initial days when The Board of Guardians had no professional staff and relied only on volunteers and potential clients putting themselves in front of the ‘panel’ to stake their claim for welfare and support.

Some example cases of the time were:

  • £5 granted to a family wanting passage to America. Later increased to £8.16 as £8.80 was the cost of one ticket
  • Refused help with a fare of one railway ticket to London – case not deserving
  • £2 granted to a dental case
  • Childrens holiday fund complained about two children being too dirty to send
  • Appeal cards decided upon to be placed in synagogues and to be printed in both English and Yiddish
  • Jewish soldier discharged with wife and five children awarded 50p per week to go to a convalescent home
  • In the case of a girl leaving prison her £5 quarterly fee for staying in a London rescue home was granted

As an indication of size the case load for 1921 comprised of 183 cases of residential relief made up of 627 individuals who had received 3599 benefits. In addition 108 non residents had also received help.

In the 1920’s Mrs Clive Behrens, (nee Rothschild of the famous banking family) placed her home in Malton at the disposal of the community to be used as a convalescent home.

The next period in the Board of Guardians history included the turbulent years of the Second World War. This obviously brought much strain and hardship including a large immigrant community coming into Leeds. In the 1940’s a fresh intake of talent from Leeds Jewish families arrived to undertake voluntary work and a new constitution was formed towards the end of 1942 which forms the basis of the constitution of the company today.

After the war social care reform across the country was mirrored by a new set up of volunteer and professional staff at the Board of Guardians. New services were offered including communal sedarim at Passover and prisoner rights. Hospital visits were also organised and this volunteer activity continues today. Outings and holidays during the summer were introduced.

A general welfare committee was set up in 1949 to run existing services but look more proactively at introducing new services such as meals, visits to the lonely and sick, weekly socials and the distribution of clothing. This was followed by the appointment of a full time welfare officer. Friday meal provision and an annual Chanukah party were also introduced.

The fifties saw the appointment of another member of staff in the post of secretary. The main committees were the executive, the welfare committee, the Victor Lightman loan fund, the ladies committee and the concert committee. 1953 saw the formation of The Leeds Jewish Housing Association, a sister organisation designed to meet the housing needs in the community. Also in the 1950’s the board started a home help scheme and it invited representatives of all Leeds Jewish social care provision organisations to be represented on it’s executive. This included The Leeds Jewish Blind Society, Home for Aged, Ladies Aid Society, Leeds Jewish Institute, United Hebrew Congregation, Bnai Brith Social Welfare Committee and Jewish Convalescent Home.

1962 saw the commencement of construction of The Queenshill Community Centre. Following a compulsory purchase order the organisation was forced to find new premises in 1968. It relocated to Stonegate road on the site of the present offices after LJHA acquired the land on the Queenshill Estate and the Stonegate road frontage as a site office.

A junior committee called The League of Guardians was set up in 1969 and the name of the organisation changed in 1971 to The Leeds Jewish Welfare Board. Also in 1971 Westhill House opened in Chapel Allerton. The accommodation was eight bed sit style flats and the first residents were people with learning difficulties. This was a pre-runner to the Rainbow Project.

In March 1973 the Leeds Jewish Day Centre otherwise known as The Queenshill Day Centre which is now housed in the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Community Centre was opened. 300 people poured through the doors and up to five hundred did so in many weeks following. Membership rose to 500 plus and the centre acted primarily as a place for socialising with skill tuition and leisure activities covering a wide variety of themes. The day centre concept was designed to make life for the elderly less lonely and the opening of the new facility did much to uphold that with people seeing members of the community they have not seen for literally decades. These values and clients are a foundation of the current Hub at The Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Community Centre.


Paul Hirsch 1878 – 1908

Victor Lightman 1908 – 1928

Hyman Morris 1928 – 1947

Charles Sumrie 1947 – 1964

Albert Morris 1964 – 1968

Arnold Ziff 1968 – 1986

Arnold Reuben 1986 – 1996

Robert Manning 1996 – 2006

Edward Ziff 2006 – 2015

Russell Manning 2015 –

Executive officers:

Heinz Skyte 1951 – 1985

Barry Addleman 1985 – 1987

Sheila Saunders 1987 – 2005

Rebecca Weinberg 2005 – 2014

Liz Bradbury 2014 –