Redesigned: 30 October 2011
Latest revision or update: 29 January 2013
Notes on the Wigan Jewish Community
First evidence of Jewish presence:
There was a solitary Jew recorded at the 1871 Census: Hyman Ettinger, a lodger, aged 29, born Poland.
In the 1881 Census three possible families (heads of household born in Poland - occupations, glazier, clothier, picture framer, all characteristic Jewish occupations).
Also one Polish-born boarder, a journeyman tailor.
The first Jewish child born in Wigan was Jacob Hoffman in 1881. There were other Jewish children there in 1884 and 1886.
The first reference to Wigan in the Jewish Chronicle is 18 March 1887 which reported that the President of the Manchester Hebrew Congregation, Mr L. Cobe, had presented to the Wigan congregation a mantle for the Sepher Torah. A meeting was held at the synagogue chambers to record a vote of thanks to Mr Cobe. [Thus there was a synagogue in Wigan at that time.]
There was also a shochet/minister. The Jewish Chronicle of 30 March 1888 reported the tragic death of the shochet. An appeal for funds was made in the issue of 20 April 1888 referring to him as Rev. M. Berkowitz, minister of the Jewish congregation of Wigan.
There were ten families there at the 1891 Census and a couple of lodgers with non-Jewish families.
A report of 11 September 1896 referred to the Rev. Moses Eker, formerly of Wigan (had been elected reader and shochet of Chester congregation).
9 December 1898. Reference to death of Charles Abelson. Said to have founded the Wigan congregation and had worked hard for coreligionists for 12 years. [This might mean he founded it 12 years earlier.] He was aged 35 when he died, in an accident.
29 June 1900. Meeting in the rooms of the new Jerusalem Schools (the first reference to them) under the auspices of the Wigan Dorshei Zion Society (also not referred to before). Meeting pledged to join the English Zionist Federation.
7 September 1900 Well-attended meeting held in the Zionist Rooms, 6 Crompton St, under auspices of the Wigan Dorshei Zion Society (to receive report of their delegate to the 4th Zionist Congress).
2 November 1900. General meeting of the TWO Wigan congregations, held at the Old Synagogue Chambers for the purpose of uniting them into one body.
22.11.1901. Reference to AGM at Bold St. [This would appear to be the location of the synagogue].
There is a reference to the two congregations in an article on the Jewish community of Bolton in the Jewish Chronicle of 28 June 1935. It says that the Wigan synagogue finally closed 27 years before, i.e.1908. A community had existed for 15 years before then [obviously wrong] with about 10 families and with two places of worship, the result of a quarrel. ‘The development of the differences apparently led to the final disruption of the community whose numbers gradually left. Now, they tell us, there is only one Jew living in Wigan’.
[Note: According to the Jewish Chronicle, quoted above, the quarrel had been resolved in 1900, so could not have been responsible for the ending of the community later on.]
At the 1901 Census there were at least 12 families.
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