The early history of the Congregation, related by Cecil Roth
Rise of Provincial Jewry, can be traced back to the late
eighteenth century, and some of its institutions dated back to the
early nineteenth century. Its cemetery can now be stated as having
been consecrated in 1823 and not, as earlier thought, in 1828. A
civic parade to the ground, led by the Mayor, the lay head of the
Nottingham community, and the minister, can be dated to 23rd February 1823.
Continuous organisation, with a minister and regular services, began
with the appointment of Mordecai Marshall as minister and shochet;
it was he who had in the local poultry store a notice proclaiming
'Rev. M. Marshall, Killer of the Jews'. Services were held in
private homes and then, by 1847, in rooms rented annually. As
with other small communities ministers in Nottingham did not stay
long, many going on to bigger congregations or else retiring from
the ministry and continuing to live in the community as laymen.
But in March 1858 the minister in Nottingham, Lewis Goldberg, was
engaged in fixing a mezuzah on a door at the top of the stairs,
stepped backwards, and falling down stairs received fatal injuries.
An appeal had to be made in the national press for his widow and
five children, 'the Nottingham Congregation being few in number,
have not the power to do much in accomplishing this object'. That
there was little difficulty in replacing him is shown however in
a letter published by Jacob Jacobs of Derby describing the Yom
Kippur service in Nottingham in 1858, and included as an appendix.
The community attracted a certain degree of early immigration;
as with Derby, a number of German Jews arrived after 1848, and, by
1853 a list of Jews in Nottingham shows a watch-maker, tailors,
jewellers, pawn-brokers, and several lace-manufacturers. This
latter was of course one of the principal local industries. One
of the Nottingham lace-makers, Lewis Heymann, later moved to
Birmingham where he eventually became Mayor; the family retained
its local personal and industrial connections, for in 1881 another
of that name represented Nottingham on the Board of Deputies.
community was beginning to acquire some prominence, and in 1869
the Chief Rabbi made a pastoral visit to it. That year a new
burial ground had had to be bought, and an appeal was made in
The Jewish Chronicle, with the approval of Dr. Adler, for assistance
in building a wall round the new ground. According to the notice,
on 24th December 1869,
'The Nottingham Congregation is a small one,
numbering seven to eight families. It is at a considerable distance
from any other Jewish congregation having a burial ground, and
Lincoln, Derby, Leicester, and other near towns in which Jews
reside and have no burial ground send their dead to be buried
The total cost of ground and wall was £600,
of which £200 had been collected locally.
Some indication of
the development of the community is afforded also by the marriage
register; according to a report made on it in 1874 to the Board of Deputies the first entry had been made in October 1840 and the then
last one in August 1872. There had been various irregularities in
connection with it; in 1858 for instance the Minister had forgotten
to sign it.
By 1877 however there was an attempt made to provide
a permanent synagogue; an abortive attempt was made to purchase an
episcopal chapel for alteration, but only £1500 was available. In
1889 a plot of land was bought for £1000, and the foundation stone
was laid for a building the cost of which was estimated at £2000.
The congregation put 21400 towards the cost and an appeal was launched
for the rest. The building was opened by Dr. Hermann Adler in
Two other features of the congregation deserve mention. In
1884 the Hebrew Philanthropic Society was established, with the object of giving loans and relief to the poor, visiting the sick,
and providing watchers for the dead. By 1902 it was disbursing
some £500 a year. In its origins it was much more humble, and the
early rules laid down that 'five pounds shall be taken from the
funds of the society during the first twelve months, to be granted
as loans to deserving members. The President and Treasurer shall
offer to lend one pound each, and the committee ten shillings each
for the first twelve months.'
The other feature was the arrival
in Nottingham from Brighton of Captain Saul Isaac in 1870. In
1872 he was invited by the local conservative electors to stand
for the borough in the next election, and in 1874 he was elected
as the first Jewish Conservative member of parliament.
* * * * * *
Jacob Jacobs' description of a service in Nottingham, 1858.
There being no congregation where I reside, I repaired
previous to the day of Atonement just past to Nottingham, in order
to attend the synagogue there, and very much to my satisfaction I
found a well-ordered, though small congregation. The synagogue
was well-attended, and the services admirably performed in the good
old orthodox style by two very able readers, the one an auxiliary
engaged for the occasion, the other the local Rabbi, a very able
functionary and evidently a good grammatical Hebrew scholar;
besides this, the order was excellent, and all things seemed to
be well regulated by the courteous and energetic president
Mr. W. A. Jonas.
To all this however, there was a considerable drawback caused
by the inconvenience arising from the entire unfitness of the apartment used as a synagogue, the same being the upper chamber of an old
factory, long, narrow, low-pitched, ill-ventilated, in fact, hardly
any ventilation whatever. Think sir, what an atmosphere there must
have been with a great deal of gas burning, and the congregants
numbering between fifty to sixty. On Col-nidre night it was
scarcely bearable, the next day it was not quite so distressing
as there was no gas lighted.
We had however, made but small progress with the morning
service, when a loud rumbling noise was heard from below, and a
most unpleasant vibratory motion was communicated to the narrow
uncomfortable benches on which we sat (veritable stools of repentance
were they) large wheels were evidently revolving and other machinery
in motion. I enquired of the gentleman who sat next to me what it
all meant, "Oh" said he, "It is the factory underneath the synagogue
at work." "And pray," said I, "what do they manufacture?", when
'Oh horresco referens', what do you think his reply was? "Pork
sausages, sir." I was indeed amazed, and if I had not received
the positive and united assurances of several of the most respectable
members of the community to this curious and extraordinary fact,
I could not have given credence to it.
I believe you will agree with me that the Nottingham congregation may challenge Europe, nay, the world to produce another
synagogue having under the same roof with itself a pork sausage
and pie factory, and that too on a large, a most extensive scale,
as this is evidenced by the formidable machinery whose rumblings
disturbed our Yom Kippur devotions.
I have called your attention, Mr. Editor, and that of your
numerous readers to this singular, curious, and most injudicious
arrangement for various reasons, and having done so, I will just
add a few words more on the subject because truth to say, my mind
is not quite at ease. I noticed among the adjuncts of this
congregation several venerable Polish Rabbis. Pray, sir, over
the predicament, if one of these pious and portly personages were
prompted to pry and peep at the process, and so got absorbed into
the vortex of this infernal machine, he would at once be converted
into pork pies. There would be a howl of exultation from the
conversion society, (who I am not sure have not some shares in
the concern). This would be a conversion with a Vengeance;
Think, sir, of the articles on the subject in "Punch", and the
"Jewish Intelligence", how Dr. M'Caul too, would proclaim the
triumph of the new paths over the old.
Certainly the "Old Paths" never contemplated a synagogue in
juxtaposition with a pork sausage factory. Having now eased my
mind, sir, by calling your attention to these matters.
I am yours
Derby, September, 1858.