A Brief History of the Hambro' Synagogue
Page created: 13 August 2006
The Hambro' Synagogue was a schismatic offshoot of the Great Synagogue, founded by a wealthy gem dealer, Marcus (or Mordecai) Moses (also known as Marcus Hamburger). Marcus Moses wished to establish a small house of study and prayer (a beth hamedrash) in a house in St. Mary Axe. The move was bitterly opposed by the Great Synagogue, who with the support of the Bevis Marks Synagogue, had obtained an injunction from the Court of the Alderman of the City of London against the erection of such alternative place of worship. A dispute subsequently developed regarding a divorce, in which Marcus had publicly and scathingly criticised the ecclesiastical authorities, which lead to his being excommunicated by the then Chief Rabbi of the Great Synagogue.
In 1707, Marcus established a congregation meeting in his home in Magpie Alley (also called Church Row or Church Passage), Fenchurch Street. Jochanan Höllischau, Marcus's family tutor from Hamburg, was engaged as its rabbi and dissolved the decree of excommunication. At the same time, a separate burial ground was was acquired by the congregation in Hoxton.
For about twenty years, the congregation continued to meet at the home of Marcus Moses. However, in 1725, in defiance of the injunction and against the obstruction of the other synagogues, Marcus Moses built a regular synagogue in the garden adjacent to his house in Magpie Alley. The foundation stone for this structure, discovered in 1893, gives the Hebrew date of foundation as 3 Sivan 5485 (which corresponds to 15 May 1725), and states that it was laid by R. Zeeb Wolf, son of Isaac Bimas, of Bomsal, Prague (who become known as the Wolf Prager).
Conforming originally to the Hamburg minhag (customs), the synagogue was styled as "The Hambro'." It was also known, at various times as "Mordecai Hamburger's Synagogue", "Wolf Prager's Synagogue" and "Henry Isaac's Synagogue" (after the son of the Wolf Prager).
Jochanan Höllischau's successor in office was R. Meshullam Salomon, son of R. Jacob Emden. In 1757-8, Rabbi Hirsch (father of Dr. Herschell)was effectively appointed as the chief rabbi of both the Hambro' and the Great.
The freehold of the site in Magpie Alley was bequeathed to the congregation in 1805 by Eleazar Philip Salamons.
In 1892-3, the synagogue was demolished, as part of City of London improvements
A new Hambro' Synagogue was opened in 1899 in Union Street, off Commercial Road, in Whitechapel in the heart of London's East End. However, this closed in 1936, when the congregations was merged with the Great Synagogue, after nearly 230 years of independence.
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