In 1826 a new synagogue was built in Robinson Row.
This event followed the amalgamation of the two
congregations which since 1780 and 1812 had had their
own synagogues in Posterngate and
respectively By 1837 there were about 35 resident
Jewish families in Hull. It was, next to London,
the main port of entry from the Continent. The
steamboat facilitated and encouraged immigration.
Most arrivals at Hull were on their way to other cities
in England or, via Liverpool, to America.
The rate of entry increased in and around 1848,
and the burden on congregational funds of relief for
impoverished Jews, including local settlers as well as
transmigrants, was considerable. The synagogue was
greatly enlarged in 1852. There were now seats for
200 men and 80 women, more than double the accommodation of 1826. The synagogue now had 82 members, about
one quarter of whom were 'privileged members'. By
1870, when the Synagogue had 112 members, about 550
Jewish souls lived in Hull.
The two outstanding lay leaders in the generation
before 1870 were George Alexander, silversmith, and
Bethel Jacobs, jeweller. They represented the
established anglicised old order, and controlled with
a firm hand the fractious local community In 1854
Alexander's granddaughter married Solomon Cohen of
Sheffield, a clothier, who later combined a prominent
position in the Hull Synagogue with service on the Town
Bethel Jacobs was the most notable lay figure in
the local Jewish community in the nineteenth century.
He is a classic example of the educated middle-class
English Jew of mid-Victorian England. He was Town
Councillor, President of the Literary and Philosophical
Society and of the Mechanics' Institute, a frequent
local lecturer to Christian audiences on Jewish themes,
philanthropist, and devout Jew. In the latter part
of the century notable personalities included John
Symons and Henry Feldman. Symons was the son of a
Portsmouth silversmith who died in 1823, and whose
widow continued the business which John developed.
He held numerous municipal offices, and was an
acknowledged spokesman for the local Jewish community
and at the same time a prolific lecturer on the history
of Hull. Feldman was a woollen merchant, who, in
1907, became the first Jewish Mayor of the City.
The multi-purpose minister until 1850 was Samuel
Simon, who had been attached to the Parade Row synagogue.
During the second half of the century the successive
ministers were Philipp Bender, Ephraim Cohen, Henry
David Marks, Elkan Epstein, Abraham Jacobs, Abraham
Elzas, David Fay, and Israel Levy. The most noteworthy
of these were Bender who, after eleven years, left for
Dublin in 1862; Elzas, who died in his prime in 1880;
Fay, who later achieved fame as minister of the Central
Synagogue in London; and Levy, son of the well-known
Dayan, Aaron Levy.
By 1852, 40 boys and girls were being taught in
the Jewish school attached to the synagogue. By the
end of the century there were treble that number of boys
alone; a separate girls' school was founded in 1863,
and by the end of the century had 200 pupils.
In the 126 Jewish marriages in Hull between 1838
and 1870, fifty of the bridegrooms were jewellers and
twenty-one tailors; between 1880 and 1900 the
proportions between these two trades were in reverse,
with the ratio of tailors much greater than that of
jewellers had ever been. This reflected the immigration in these decades. The proportion of small shop-keepers in traditional Jewish trades steadily grew from
the middle of the century.
In 1848 there was created under the auspices of the synagogue a
'Philanthropic Society' for the distribution of relief. In 1849 the
Meshivas Nepesh Society - essentially a Friendly Society - was founded,
and in 1861 were founded a Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society and a fund
(initiated by Simeon Moseley) for the relief of needy dependents of
deceased members of the synagogue. Two years later a Jewish Soup Kitchen
was opened. The Hull Jewish Board of Guardians was instituted in 1880
largely through the enterprise of J. L. Jacobs, the solicitor son of
Bethal Jacobs. The Board took over some of the functions of the above
In 1874 a small synagogue was opened in School Street. It was founded by and for foreign Jews. The influx of
Easten European Jews after 1880 imposed ever greater burdens on the
institutions of Robinson Row. There were strains between old and new.
There had been a regular pattern of intermittent discord for decades.
Personal differences were accentuated by diverging attitudes of Jewish
tradition. The development of the group of 1874 however did little to
relieve the pressures within the old synagogue. The need for a new
building was obvious.
By 1900 there were about 1500 Jews resident in Hull. A kind of
geographical division had also arisen. The older and more affluent had
in increasing numbers moved beyond the old areas. As Porter Street,
Anlaby Road, and Beverley Roadbecame fashionable, Jews followed the
pattern. Robinson Row was in the heart of the old city. The outward
movement had begun in 1870 and by 1900 the older Jewish quarters were
occupied mainly by the more recent arrivals. In the event, the old
congregation divided into tewo at the end ofthe century. In 1902 there
came into being the Hull Old Hebrew Congregation in Osbourne Street and
the Hull Western Synagogue in Linnaeus
Street, Each, with some justice, claimed to be the heir of the
congregation founded in 1826.
The Western Synagogue of which B.S. Jacobs, the archtect son of Bethel
Jacobs, and Feldman were the principal members, was nearer to the
anglicised elements both in spirit and location. The School Street
Congregation, eventually merged into the Central Synagogue in Cogan
Street and, after destruction by bombing in the second World War, in