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The Circumcision Register of Rabbi Ash of Dover, 1765 - 1818

by Rabbi Dr Bernard Susser LLB, MPhil


[The following introductory paragraphs are adapted from an article written by Rabbi Susser for Shemot, December 1996, Volume 4, Number 4, page7]

     It was a letter from one of our Honorary Vice-Presidents, Dr Anthony Joseph, which set the ball rolling. He wrote to me asking if I would help Mr Martyn Webster of Brighton who is researching Dover Jewry by translating the Brit Milah Register of Rabbi Ash of Dover, 1765 - 1818. I said I would gladly help, Mr Webster sent me a photocopy of the Register, MSS160, which is deposited at the Jewish Museum, London.

     The photocopies were very legible, except in one or two places, I went to the Museum to check with the original and I must record my gratitude to Mesdames Rickie Burman, Jennifer Marin and Alisa Jaffa for their help and kindness.

     Although Cecil Roth in his Rise of Provincial Jewry declared that the Register was kept by Rabbi Ash of Dover, the Museum itself on the rubric describing it was slightly more hesitant - "probably kept by Rabbi Ash of Dover". I have not been able to find anything about this man, and if any reader has any information I would be glad to learn more.

     When I noted that there was some doubt about the authorship I looked more carefully at the manuscript. Immediately apparent was the fact that 45 entries were written in a flowing cursive script (plus 8 weddings) whilst 42 entries were written in square Hebrew letters. I guessed that there might have been two mohelim at work, named them Script and Square, and listed their characteristics:-

1. Script numbered his entries, Square did not.

2. All Script entries were performed between 1765 to 1809 whilst Square operated from 1810 until 1818.

3. Script mentioned the town where the circumcision took place in the body of the entry, Square used the town as a heading.

4. Both operated in Deal and Dover, but otherwise each operated in different towns - Script in Canterbury, Dublin, Folkstone, Hythe, Margate, Norwich, Ostend, Ramsgate and Swansea. Square operated in Boston (in Lincolnshire), Bushey 'near London', London, (King's) Lynn, Sheerness. The Dublin and Hythe entries had not previously been noted.

5. Script and Square both spelled out 'Dover' in Hebrew letters - but each consistently used different ones.

6. There is a standard blessing at the end of each entry invoking the Almighty's help in bringing up the child 'to the Torah, the Chuppah (marriage canopy), and good deeds'.

a. Script always uses 'Hashem' [= the Name] for the Almighty, Square uses 'Hamakom' [= the Omnipresent].

b. Script correctly uses the active [yegaddel, Piel], 'may the Omnipresent raise him ...'. Square, ungrammatically, uses the passive [yeguddal, Pual], 'Hashem, may he [ie the child] be raised ...'.

7. Square constantly mis-spells and leaves out words here and there. Script is educated and cultured and makes no mistakes.

     By the time I had listed all these differences I was convinced that there were two mohelim at work. The clincher came when I noted family relationships to the mohel.

8. Both mohelim had a brother called Moses. But Script's brother Moses was dead by 1803, when a grandchild, also called Moses was born. Whereas Square's brother Moses was alive in 1810.

     I have deposited the translation with a full index of names of the children and an index of the names of their fathers at the Jewish Museum. At the time of writing (August 1996) the Museum is giving consideration to the publication of all its Circumcision Registers with an Anglo-Jewish Ashkenasi connection.

     May I suggest to the Editor of Shemot, that the Society keeps a Register of what work members are engaged upon, update it and publish it in Shemot at regular intervals.

     For the record: I have recently transcribed and indexed (!) but not yet published until copyright issues have been sorted out:-

The Duplicate Ketuba Book of the New Synagogue, London, 18 - 18 .

The Burial Register of the Great Synagogue, 179 - 18 (photocopies of the New & Great sent to me by Mr Charles Tucker).

The Marriage Register of the Western Synagogue, 1806 - 1843, with A. M. Hyamson's genealogical notes (photocopy sent to me by Mr Jonathan Harris).

[Archivist's note: Jewish Museum, London MS268. Register of circumcisions 1789 - 1816, Hebrew and English. Among the places where the operation is recorded to have been performed are Chelmsford etc. and the Kings Bench Prison. The actual address is given in many cases. Lent by the United Synagogue.] 


INTRODUCTION


ILLEGITIMATE

No. 9 Moses born of the woman Sarah.
 

CHILD & FATHER WITH SAME NAME

No. 11 Nathan b Nathan was possibly posthumous, because the usual blessing 'May he merit to raise him to all good' is put into the passive, 'May he be raised ...', with the omission of 'May he merit', i.e. presumably the father was dead.
 

DATES

Someone, other than the mohel, has converted the Jewish years to secular years, with varying degrees of accuracy. At entry 37 and generally from entry 124, the mohel himself notes the secular year, adding the traditional postscript 'according to their counting' or 'according to the counting of the Gentiles'.

Gregorian dates taken from Computer programme. Underlined days show that the computer day is different to the day shown in the Register.
 

ABBREVIATIONS & GLOSSARY

malti u'farati = I circumcised and uncovered the corona

* before an entry number indicates that the photocopy is unclear, and the entry needs to be checked against the original.

************

ENTRIES ON THE REGISTER

1 On Thursday 22 MarHeshvan '550 pericope Hayei Sarah I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Zvi Hirsh b Isaac Eizak May he merit to raise him to all good. 11 Nov 5550 [= 1789]

2 On Sunday 17 Tevet '550 pericope Shemot I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Isaac b Samuel May he merit to raise him to all good. 3 Jan 5550 [= 1790]

3 On Monday 7 Nisan '550 pericope Tzav I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Isaac Eizak b Ary'[eh] Leib May he merit to raise him to all good. 22 March 5550 [1790]

4 On Thursday 10 Nisan '550 I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Mordecai Gumpel b [blank] May he merit to raise him to all good. pericope Tzav. 25 March [1790]

5 On the eve of the holy Sabbath [date blank] I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Samuel Suntel b Sender. May he merit to raise him to all good. [1790]

6 On Monday 2 Tamuz '551 pericope Balak I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Abraham b Benjamin BACHARACH. May he merit to raise him to all good. 4 July 5551 [1791]

7 On Sunday 16 MarHeshvan '552 pericope Hayyei Sarah I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Samuel b Jonah. May he merit to raise him to all good. 13 Nov 5552 [1791]

8 On Thursday 2 Shevat '552 pericope Bo I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Sampson b Ary''[eh] Leib. 26 Jan 5552 [1792]

9 On Tuesday 23 Iyar '552 pericope Behar Behukotai I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Moses who was born of the woman Sarah. May he merit to raise him to all good. 15 May [1792]

10 On Monday 8 Tishri '553 pericope Ha'azinu I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Mordecai Zvi b Juda Leib. May he merit to raise him to all good. 24 Sep 5553 [1792]

11 On Monday 12 Nisan '553 I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Nathan b Nathan. May he be raised to all good. 25 March [1793]

*12 On the holy Sabbath 10 Iyar '554 pericope Emor I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Isaac Eizak b . May he merit to raise him to all good. 5554 [1794]

13 On Sunday 23 Sivan '554 I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Juda Leib b Isaac. May he merit to raise him to all good. 22 June 5554 [1794]

14 On Sunday 12 Elul '554 pericope Ki Tavo I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Phineas Zelig b Juda Leib. May he merit to raise him to all good. 7 Sep 5554 [1794]

15 On Monday 3 MarHeshvan '555 pericope Lech Lecha I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Nathan b Joseph. May he merit to raise him to all good. 2 Oct 5555 [1794]

16 On the eve of the holy Sabbath 3 Shevat '555 pericope Bo I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Jacob Kopil b Meir. May he merit to raise him to all good. 23 Jan 5555 [1795]

17 On Wednesday 13 Menahem '555 pericope Va'ethanan I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Gedali'[ah] b Jacob HaLevi. May he merit to raise him to all good. 29 July 5555 [1795]

18 On the eve of the holy Sabbath 13 Tevet '556 pericope Va'yehi I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Moses Ary'[eh] b Menahem Nahum. May he merit to raise him to all good. 25 Dec 5556 [1795]

19 On Thursday 23 Adar I '556 pericope Vayakhel I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Baruch Bendit b Moses. May he merit to raise him to all good. 3 March 5556 [1796]

20 On Sunday 19 MarHeshvan '557 pericope Hayyei Sarah I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Gedali'[ah] b Moses. May he merit to raise him to all good. The sandek was Moses ROCHFORD. Gadaliah M. Daniel, BILLERICAY, ESSEX. Hamburg Synagogue 20 Nov 5557 [1796]

21 On Wednesday 5 Shevat '557 pericope Bo I circumcised and uncovered in Walton upon the river Thames the corona of the child Abraham b Joseph. May he merit to raise him to all good. Hamburg [Synagogue]. 1 Feb 5557 [1798]

[Perhaps I was not sent a photocopy of the page with nos. 22 - 34]

35 On Thursday 1st day Rosh Hodesh Tamuz '558 pericope Korah I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Juda Leib b Isai'[ah]. May he merit to raise him to all good. 14 June 5558 [1798]

36 On the eve of the holy Sabbath 28 Menahem '558 pericope Re'eh I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Abraham b Naphtali. May he merit to raise him to all good. 10 Aug 5558 [1798]

37 On Tuesday 1st day Rosh Hashannah '559 I circumcised and uncovered the corona of the child Joseph nicknamed Josepha b Aaron. May the Lord merit [the father] to raise him to all good. 11 Sep 5559 1798 according to their counting

************

Hypocoristic & Other Name Forms Used in this Register and elsewhere in 18th/19th Centuries

Abish = Abraham

Anshel = Asher

Arbilai = Abraham

Ber = often follows Dov or Issachar

Bunam (from the French Bon Homme)

Dov = often followed by its translation Ber

Eizak = Isaac

Eizik = Isaac

Eliezer = often occurring in English as a surname or a forename, George or Lazarus

Feiss = A mid-European form of Feivish

Feivel = Phoebus, cognomen of Uri and Shraga (a lamp); often occurring in English as a surname or a forename, Phillip/s

Feivish = Phoebus, cognomen of Uri and Shraga; often occurring in English as a surname or a forename, Phillip/s

Fishel = Feivish

Gimpel, see Gumpel

Gitcha = see Gittel

Gittel = 'A good lady'

Gittela = see Gittel

Gumpel = from the German name Gumprecht

Hadas = In English 'Myrtle'

Hana = Hannah

Haya = Feminine of Hayim, life

Hayim = often occurring in English as a surname or a forename, Hyman, Hyam/s

Hena = Hannah

Hendela = Hannah

Hennah = Hannah

Hevva = Eve

Hindela = Hannah

Hirsh = associated with Naphtali, Zvi; often occurring in English as a surname or a forename, Henry

Hirtz = variant of Hirsh, the modern spelling is often Hertz or Hertzl in its hypocoristic form

Hunnah = Elhanan

Issachar = often followed by Ber, Behr (hence - Behrman), Baer

Isserle = Israel

Itzik = Isaac

Jakob, see Yakob

Juda = Judah, ie the German spelling with an Aleph at the end of the word instead of the Hebrew spelling with the letter Heh

Judah = often with Leib or Aryeh; often occurring in English as a surname or a forename, Levy or Lyon/s

Judela = Judah

Kopil = Jacob, (medieval: Cop)

Kossel = Yekutiel

Leib/ush = Juda/h, Aryeh

Lekish =

Lemela = Asher

Lezer/Lezel = Eliezer Lima = Lemela = Asher

Loze/r = Eleazer, Eliezer

Manela = Menahem Marram (MHRM) = Meir Mendele = Menahem Menki = Menahem Merela = Mary, Miriam

Michael = often with Yehiel Michel = Michael, often following Yehiel

Michal = A female name

Mirrel = Miriam

Model = Mordecai

Monas = Menahem Monis = Moses

Naphtali = often followed by Zvi, Hirsh or Hirtz Nota = Nathan

Pheivish, see Feivel/Feivish

Pya = Zipporah

Rechel = Rachel

Rechela = Rachel

Reizecha = Rose Sender = Alexander

Yakob = The German form of Jacob Yette/le = perhaps from Yenta, or Gittele

Yozel = Joseph

Yozela = Joseph

Yudel/a = Judah

Yusha = Joshua

Zanvil = Samuel Zekel = Isaac, Ezekiel Zelig = with or without Isaac, being Hebrew & German for 'happy'

Zemel = ?Meshullam Zender, see Sender Zimela = Samuel Zischa = Feminine variant of Suss, sweet

Zissel = perhaps from Alexander, or from Israel

Zvi = often follows Naphtali, and both are often followed by Hirsh or its variants
 

************

ASH CIRCUMCISION REGISTER

W1 Wed 21 June 1775

W2 Wed 21 Feb 1776

W3 Tue 18 June 1776

W4 ???

W5 Thur 8 May 1777

W6 Wed 27 June 1781

 

S1 Wed 23 Oct 1765

S2 Sat 4 May 1776

S3 Thur 1 Jan 1767

S4 Mon 27 July 1767

S5 Fri 25 Mar 1768

S6 Fri 29 July 1768

S7 Tue 13 Mar 1770

[but no Adar II]

S8 Tue 5 Feb 1771

S9 Sun 6 Sept 1772

S11a Sun 29 Dec 1771

S11b Thur 8 July 1773

S12 Sat 19 March 1774

S14 Sun 31 Dec 1775

S15 Mon 4 Nov 1776

S16 Sat 6 Dec 1777

S17 Fri 4 June 1779

S18 Mon 10 Apr 1780

S19 ???

S23 Tue 14 Mar 1786

S24a Sat 16 Feb 1788

S24b Tue 5 May 1789

S25 Mon 15 Dec 1788

S26 Sat 21 Nov 1789

S27 Sun 10 Feb 1793

S29 Wed 19 Nov 1794

S36 Fri 9 Dec 1803

S37 Sun 1 Apr 1804

S39 Mon 19 Aug 1805

 

Q1 Sat 12 July 1817

Q5 Sun 21 Dec 1817

Q11 Fri 30 Nov 1810

Q15 Tue 8 Sep 1812

Q16 Fri 27 Nov 1812

Q18 Thur 2 Dec 1813

Q19 Thur 2 Dec 1813

Q25 Wed 28 Dec 1814

Q26 Mon 2 Jan 1815

Q27 Mon 23 Jan 1815

Q28 Thur 2 Feb 1815

Q29 Wed 1 Nov 1815

Q30 Fri 10 Nov 1815

Q31 Fri 8 Dec 1815

Q32 Sun 4 Feb 1816

Q39 Wed 12 July 1815

Q42 Mon 9 Oct 1815

 

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