CONGREGATION OF JACOB SYNAGOGUE
351-353 Commercial Road, London E1 2PS
by David Brandes - Warden
The pale blue walls produce an ambience of inner peace compatible with prayer (loshen kodesh). The influence in the synagogue are of an East European flavour reflecting the stiebl shuls that the founding community had left. As far as we are aware the original shul was founded by Abraham Shwable and Morris Davis Koenigsberg in 1903. The congregation consisted of "frum yidden" (religious Jews) mainly from Poland and Lithuania.
My research, which is far from conclusive, suggests that at least one strand of the community was based at 42 Lucas Street, London E1 (now known as Lukin Street). This strand was called the Bikur Cholim and on a personal level my maternal grandmother was Esther Frankel and a Gustavus Frankel was influential in the establishment of the synagogue. My grandparents lived in Lucas Street in the early 1900s so it seems that it is not coincidental that I now lead the community.
Another strand was Chevra Yisroel and when the Stetziver shul in Johnson Street closed they joined our community. Our current location at 351-353 Commercial Road was being used as a bootmaker's premises up until the War. To function as a synagogue the premises were redesigned by Lewis Solomon and Son in reconsecrated in 1921.
Apparently our synagogue was the first Mizrachi shul in Britain and the last of the Folk Art Synagogues in England. As you move into the main part and look above the Aron Kodesh (holy ark) you will see a most beautiful skylight which, when the sun shines, brings out the true beauty of the shul. In particular the painting above the Ark by Dr. Philip Steinberg depicts Jewish symbols such as the menorah, shofar and Arba Minim (four species of Succot). Dr Steinberg lived and practiced opposite the synagogue and it was my privilege to have known his brother-in-law Dr Mark Godfrey.
My apologies to anyone whose family I have not included but if they would like to enlighten me, this would be an excellent was of establishing contact with your past and hopefully your future.
I became interested in the Synagogue approximately 15 years ago as I was walking past: there were swastikas scrawled on the walls. Morry and Izzy Lixenberg were in charge and they encouraged me to join the. They dedicated their lives to our community and kept the shul alive even though they were both ill people.
Unfortunately the leaders passed away and I was left with a legacy of a building, in a poor state of repair and struggling to get a minyan for services. We have worked hard to try to bring the shul back to its former splendour and hope you will come and enjoy what we have achieved.
We hold regular services on Friday night and Saturday mornings plus Festivals. We are keen for people to join our small but very friendly community where everyone is made welcome. I am sure that many of you will want to join us for services and maybe more.
Although we have depleted our coffers to renovate the synagogue there is still much more to be completed. We are actively seeking people who would like to get involved with fund raising and other activities for the benefit of our community.
This year we had a successful Centenary celebration with guest of honour the Chief Rabbi and many other dignitaries and this event is featured on our website www.congregationofjacob.org (donated and maintained by Mile Gold). This will hopefully give you an appetite to learn more about the Congregation of Jacob Synagogue.
Continuing on the theme of centenary celebration, our Chasan Beraishis, Dr E. M. Passes is a grandson of our founder Abraham Shwalbe and Maurice Rome is our Chasan Torah. They are both affectionately known as Monty.
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