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Sir Otto Jaffe

Lord Mayor of Belfast and Philanthropist 1846 - 1929
Sir Otto Jaffe

In 1846, Otto Jaffe was born in Hamburg.  He came to Belfast at the age of 6 and at 16 he entered the family business, Jaffe Brothers Linen Merchants, also known as Strand Spinning, which provided work for about 350 local people, rising to 650 in 1914 when the company expanded to make munitions. Otto was educated in Belfast, Hamburg, and Switzerland. After carrying on business in New York from 1865 to 1877, he became chief director of the Belfast firm.


He was elected a City Councillor for St Anne's Ward in 1894 and became the city's first Lord Mayor in 1899, being knighted in March of the following year. He served as High Sheriff and was re-elected Lord Mayor in 1904.


Sir Otto was well known throughout his public life in Belfast for his generosity of both time and money. During his first term as Lord Mayor he and the Lady Mayoress raised £10,000 for the dependants of soldiers and sailors serving in the Boer War. He contributed £1,000 to the original building fund for the Royal Victoria Hospital where he was Governor,


In 1905 Sir Otto gave £4,000 to the fund for better equipment for Queen's College (now university). He was an active member of the committee that got the Public Libraries Act extended to Belfast, leading to the first free library being established.


As President of the Belfast congregation he made a huge contribution to the consolidation of the province's Jewish population, providing most of the funds for the new synagogue in Annesley Street, Carlisle Circus, in 1904. He had a deep interest in education and funded the Jaffe Public Elementary School at the corner of Cliftonville and Antrim Road in 1907, which, by his stipulation, was not exclusively Jewish, either in its management, staffing or pupils. He was a justice of the peace, a member of the Harbour Board and the German Consul.


In 1915, after 25 years service in Belfast and despite his naturalisation as a British citizen in 1888, and the service of his son Daniel in the British army, Sir Otto was forced to move to England as a result of the intimidation of the family during the war due to their German roots. Sir Otto died and was cremated in London in April 1929.