by Jason Lever
Posted on Sun, 13 Jul 2014 17:39:50 GMT
Arriving in the East End as a small boy.
(Note: not unusually at the time, there are inconsistencies of spelling of the pre-Lever surname, Levitsky, Levetsky and Lavatsky.)
The first, main population shift of Jews from the original East End in a north-easterly direction was the case with Uncle Solly, who lived at 49 Victoria Park, Hackney, London E9.
Solomon’s family originated in the village of Narifka (or Narewka) near the town of Byelstok (Bialystok), which had various names owing to changing borders over the centuries. It had been in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, then the Kingdom of Prussia, part of the Russian Empire, within the Soviet Union and now it is in Poland. At the end of the nineteenth century, 42,000 of its 66,000 population was Jewish.
In the wake of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, a series of laws expelled many Jewish communities in Russia. An ever-growing list of economic prohibitions also bore down heavily on Jews. Brutal pogroms took place at the turn of the century, with the result that some 100,000 Russian and Polish Jews emigrated to Britain between 1881-1905 (Ref: Brook) – and, among them, was Solomon following the piecemeal emigration of his family. The Białystok pogrom occurred between 14–16 June 1906, with between 81 and 88 people killed and about 80 people wounded (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bia%C5%82ystok_pogrom)
His uncle, Henry, was the first member of his family to arrive in England. He later took the pioneer Zionist route to Palestine in the 1920s. Solomon’s father, Nachman (Nathan) came to England in about 1899. One of Nathan’s sisters, Elena (Esther) followed the course of two of her older brothers in emigrating to London in 1901 aged 16. She later emigrated to Australia. There were twelve siblings in all.
Solomon’s grandparents, Yossel (Joseph) and Sara (Sarah) Levitsky emigrated to England in 1908 with the help of Esther, bringing their youngest child, Jenny. Jenny Clive went on to become a pioneering businesswoman in launderettes.
The grandparents made “aliyah” in 1913, leaving London for Palestine. Joseph died on 20 January 1916 during the siege of Jerusalem and Sarah on 12 June 1919. Genealogical research takes back the ancestry of Sara Levitsky (née Varon) four generations via her father, Abraham Tzvi Varon (ref: Jacobs).
English Census records chronicle a Nathan Levetsky as a boarder in Bethnal Green South aged 28 in 1901, adding to the 95,425 Russian and Poles recorded in that census, which meant Russian and Polish Jews (ref: Fishman, 1979).
Nathan’s sons – Solomon (b. 1895), Harris (Harry) (b. 1897) and Morris (Moishe) (b. 1901) – joined their father either side of his re-marriage after the death of his first wife, Leah. There is a marriage record for Nathan Lavetsky and Rachel Rosenbloom in 1905 in the St George in the East district of the East End.
In the 1911 Census, Nathan’s sons Solomon, Harris and Morris are recorded as naturalised Russians and Nathan, Solomon and Harris give their occupations as cabinet makers of bedroom suites. Solomon’s step-sister, Fanny (b. 1907) and step-brothers, Hyman (Hymie) (b. 1909) and Emanuel (Manny) (b. 1910) – the author’s grandfather – are also recorded. Joseph (Joe) (b. 1919), the youngest step-brother who was not on this Census list, soon came along to make up the whole family.
On Manny’s birth certificate, less than a year earlier, the family is recorded as living at 28 North Place, Mile End; by the Census date, they are living a stone’s throw away from the famous Columbia Road flower market in Bethnal Green (at 107 Virginia Road).
A Deed of Poll, dated 20 August 1923, which is in the family shows the official changing of the family surname from ‘Lavatsky’ to ‘Lever’. Nathan and his ‘heirs and issues’, were living then at 70 Morning Lane, Mare Street, and he was now a ‘grocer and provision dealer’.
Harry became a very anglicised, women’s clothing representative across England, while “Mad Moishe” disappeared from the family fold and was last seen heading towards – and never returning from – Dagenham. Harry’s claim to fame was that his wife ran off with an Indian maharajah, an event that made the newspapers.
But Solomon’s high profile in the Jewish and wider community evolved through ‘Bread, Brotherhood and the Ballot Box’.
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