The Jews of South-West England
Thesis by Rabbi Bernard Susser
Jewish Religious Life in Devon and Cornwall
The religious life of most Jews in the period under study, at least until after the first World War, was led in both synagogue and home. More can usually be said about the synagogal life of the Jew than his home life, for the former was more often recorded. There is, however, by no means an entire silence concerning Jewish life outside the four walls of the synagogue, and both aspects as reflected in the lives of the Jews living in Devon and Cornwall after 1750 will now receive attention.
Consideration will be given first to the most obvious aspect of synagogue life - Divine Service. The liturgy of the South-West Congregations when they were first founded must have reflected that in operation in Germany, from whence the original members emigrated. It soon settled down to Minhag Polin, [See PHC Regulations, 1835, no. 2; Roth MSS 205, no. 2; and J. H. Hertz, Authorised Daily Prayer Book (1947), pp. xxii, 401; Roth, Great Synagogue, p. 67.] that is to say, the form adopted by mitnagged Polish Jews, with one or two additions peculiarly English, notably the hymns recited at the end of the Sabbath services, Yigdal and Adon Olam. [S. Singer, Authorised Daily Prayer Book (1947) (afterwards quoted as Authorised Daily Prayer Book), pp. 166, 223.] Services in Plymouth are still read from an amud, a prayer stand at the front of the synagogue. [There does not appear to have been any direct Hasidic influence in the communal life of South-West Jewry. The only event of a Hasidic nature was the annual pilgrimage until the early 1920's of Eleazer Orgel, to the court of his Rebbe, the rabbi of Belz (Letter from his great-grandson, A. P. Rose, 23 October 1989, to the author).] The inauguration of the Sabbath service [Authorised Daily Prayer Book, pp. 142-148.] is read from the bimah in the centre of the synagogue. [This is a typically German custom.] Other vestiges of the original eighteenth-century German liturgical rites have survived in Plymouth. One is the recitation of the Hymn of Unity [Authorised Daily Prayer Book, p. 224.] on Sabbaths. The other is possibly unique in all Anglo-Jewry. Mourners, or those keeping a yahrzeit, come to the front of the synagogue, to the very steps leading up to the Ark, wearing a tallit (prayer shawl), even at night services when it is not customary to do so, in order to say the Kaddish. [A. I. Sperling, Sefer Taamei Minhagim (Jerusalem, 1957), p. 302.]
Public services in synagogues are generally held daily, in the morning and the evening. There are many incidental references to Sabbath and Festival services in all the synagogues of the South-West, but nothing is recorded which suggests that these were markedly different to those which take place nowadays in any traditionally inclined Anglo-Jewish synagogue.
Curiously, there are very few references to weekday services. A 1779 regulation which gives relief from a fine for the worshipper who arrives at the synagogue in long boots when he has just come from a journey, [PHC Min. Bk. I, Regulation 22.] seems to imply a reference to weekday services. But this is not conclusive as it is possible that the regulation refers to services which were held on special weekdays, such as Mondays and Thursdays, [There is a short Reading of the Law on these days, and observant Jews make a special effort to attend service on them.] on days when a member had yahrzeit, [It was the practice in Plymouth in the 1960's to hold evening services for members having yahrzeit.] or New Moons. [A minor festival in the Jewish calendar.]
There is one direct reference to daily services in the will of Jacob Jacobs who died in 1811. He left £5 to his brother-in-law Rabbi Simon, 'for saying a prayer called Kaddish for me in the Synagogue every day'. [P.C.C. Crickitt, 415.]
It is indeed possible that by 1835 daily services were no longer being held in Plymouth because in that year the regulations specify that the synagogue was to be open on the following weekdays: [PHC Regulations, 1835, no. 2.] Purim, Hanukah, Fasts, Intermediate days of Festival, Penitential days (from before New Year to Day of Atonement) , New Moon and its eve, [The eve of the New Moon has a special service known as Yom Kippur Katan.] yahrzeit, [I.e. when a member had yahrzeit.] when the Torah is read, and Omer. [From Passover to Pentecost.] As the synagogue had to be open only on certain weekdays, it follows that on all other weekdays it did not have to be open. This seems to be a very strange conclusion, yet it is partially confirmed by the comparatively small number of worshippers in the Plymouth synagogue on a typical Sabbath in 1851, only 45 according to the religious census of that year. [Lipman, Social History, p. 186.] At a Monday morning service in 1856 in the Plymouth synagogue there were only 12 men present. [JC, 26 September 1856.]
Apart from the normal weekday, Sabbath and Festival services, special services were also held from time to time in the synagogues of the South-West to mark national events, synagogal anniversaries and occasions of thanksgiving, as well as special charity performances.
At the coronation of George IV, for example, there was a special service in the Exeter synagogue at which 'an excellent lecture was delivered by Rabbi Levy'. The coronation service at the Exeter cathedral was followed by a dinner for the poor at Heavitree. In the synagogue, however, it was 'the elders and chief part of the Congregation who sat down to a handsome dinner'. [Ex. Flying Post, 26 July 1821.] The death of Prince Albert was on 23 December 1861 duly marked in the Exeter synagogue which was 'draped in black and had a most mournful appearance' by a 'most impressive discourse from Rev. M. Mendlessohn'. [JC, 3 January 1862.] Queen Victoria's Jubilee was celebrated in the Plymouth synagogue in 1886, the Order of Service leaflets costing £1. 11s. 3d., the telegram of congratulation 2/11d., and the tea that followed cost the Congregation one pound. [PHC A/c. 1886, p. 344.]
There were other services of intercession at times of need and thanksgiving in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Sometimes no local record of them has come to light. Such an instance must have occurred when Chief Rabbi Adler wrote to the Plymouth Congregation asking them to hold a service in connection with the Indian Mutiny. [Chief Rabbinate Archives, V, no date or letter number.] In many synagogues worshippers have a box under or by their seat in which to keep their prayer books. After a special service some worshippers place the Order of Service for the occasion in their box, a fruitful source for later historical research. Although worshippers in the Plymouth synagogue, other than the wardens, do not have such boxes, the synagogue itself has capacious boxes beneath the seats on the bimah and at the back of the synagogue. A search revealed Orders of Service for the Coronation day of King George V and Queen Mary on Thursday, 22 June 1911; for the 'Restoration of Peace after the Great War' in 1918; [A copy of his Order of Service was signed by J. Sanger.] various Armistice day services; the Silver Jubilee of King George V's accession to the throne, on Sabbath, 11 May 1935; a memorial service for him on the day of his funeral, Tuesday, 28 January 1936; the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937; 'a service of Prayer, Intercession and Thanksgiving in connection with Britain's Fight for Freedom', Sunday, 23 March 1941; services to mark the second, third and fifth anniversaries of the 'Outbreak of Hostilities', 1941 - 1944; 'Praise and Thanksgiving for the Victories of the Allied Nations in the World War', in 1945; a 'National Day of Prayer by command of King George VI', on Sunday, 6 July 1947; a Memorial Service for King George VI, in February 1952; the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
The vicissitudes of the Jewish people in the twentieth century were also noted in the Plymouth synagogue. Amongst the Orders of Service found in the synagogue was a 'Memorial Prayer for the Victims of the Massacres in the Holy Land', when Jews were slaughtered by Arabs, particularly in Hebron in 1929. Even more ominously was the 'Service of Prayer and Intercession for the Jews in Germany', Sunday 10 November 1938, after the rape of German Jewry in the Crystal Night pogrom; and an 'Order of Service on the day of Fasting, Mourning and Prayer for the Victims of Mass Massacres of Jews in Nazi Lands', Sunday, 13 December 1942. All these Orders of Service have survived by chance. Undoubtedly there were many services of which there is now no trace.
Services were held to celebrate landmarks in the lives of the South-West Congregations. The opening of the Penzance Synagogue was marked by a special service on Friday, 12 Shevat 5563 (=4 February 1804). [Original Order of Service in the possession of Godfrey Simmons.] So was the reopening of the Exeter Synagogue in 1854. Of the latter, a detailed account is given in the Jewish Chronicle. [JC, 9 June 1854.] Three boys carrying wax candles led a chuppah (wedding canopy) followed by a Scroll of the Torah into the flower-bedecked synagogue. Seven circuits of the synagogue were made, and a prayer, specially composed by the Chief Rabbi, was recited. The bicentenary of the Exeter synagogue was marked by a special service conducted by the Revd B. Susser of Plymouth on Wednesday, 2 September 1964.
Ceremonies were held in the Plymouth synagogue after extensive repairs and renovations. An inscription hanging in the synagogue records its renovation in 1864. The title-page of the 'Order of Service at the Re-Consecration of the Synagogue' on Sunday, 27 February 1910 informs us that the Honorary Officers were: T. Brand, President; D. Jordan, Treasurer; M. Fredman, Burial Warden; and H. Orgel, Secretary. The service was conducted by 'the Revs. D. Jacobs and A. K. Slavinsky and Choir'. A service was held in the Plymouth synagogue to mark the bicentenary of the Congregation at a "Re-Consecration of the Synagogue on Sunday, 25 May 1952. It seems that some Honorary Officers and ministers are not loath to have special services, for the Plymouth Congregation celebrated another bicentenary just nine years later. This time it was the two hundredth anniversary of the building of the synagogue. The cover of the Order of Service informs us that the service was 'held on Wednesday, 14 June 1961 and was attended by the Chief Rabbi, The Very Rev. Dr Israel Brodie and The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Arthur Goldberg. Officiating Clergy: The Chief Rabbi, and the Reverend B. Susser. Israel B. Black, President; Maurice Overs, Treasurer; Brian I. Pearl, Secretary'. A fortnight or so earlier, there was 'a Civic Service of Prayer and Thanksgiving attended by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs Arthur Goldberg, with the Aldermen, Councillors and Corporate Officers of the City Council on Saturday, 3 June 1961 conducted by the Lord Mayor Chaplain, The Rev. B. Susser, B.A.'. This Civic Service followed the precedent set when 'His Worship the Mayor of Devonport, Alderman Myer Fredman J.P. accompanied by the Magistrates and Members of the Corporation' visited the synagogue on Sunday, 19 November 1911.
A rather extraordinary series of services took place in the Exeter Synagogue in 1815. Messrs Lightindale, Solomon, and Braham officiated at the Sabbath services towards the end of May, probably travelling around the country as a trio. Gentiles, particularly the musical public, were invited to be present. Trewman's Flying Post [25 May 1815.] went into enthusiastic raptures. So great was the impression made by 'the sweet singers in Israel' that they were prevailed upon to give six further services, on Friday and Saturday, 9 and 10 June, and on the following Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. and 6.45 p.m. each day. [Trew. Flying Post, 8 June 1815.] Still the 'musical amateurs' of Exeter were not sated, and tickets were sold for the trio's final Sabbath service, the proceeds in aid of the Devon and Exeter Hospital. [Trew. Flying Post, 22 June 1815.] The services were a financial success, Mr Ezekiel sending £30 to the hospital. [J. Harris, The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (1922), p. 72.]
Services in most English synagogues have always tended to be somewhat informal. Even when the Plymouth congregation was on its very best behaviour, at the Civic Service in 1961, the Plymouth Coroner, walking afterwards in procession to a reception in the Plymouth Guildhall, remarked to the minister, 'Do you know what impressed me about the service?' 'No,' replied the minister, expecting a compliment on the decorum. 'Well, it was the delightful informality of it all!' There are certain days, such as Purim and the Rejoicing of the Law, [Samuel Pepys made the point in his diary: 'But, Lord! to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes ...' (A. Cohen, Anglo-Jewish Scrapbook (1943), p. 275).] when there is a licensed or tolerated revelry with banging, clapping, dancing and drinking. Even ordinary Sabbath services tend to have a relaxed atmosphere.
From the early nineteenth century onwards there was a growing movement in Anglo-Jewry to introduce greater decorum into synagogue services. [Roth, Great Synagogue, p. 251.] This culminated in a brochure issued by Chief Rabbi Adler in 1847: Laws and Regulations for all the Synagogues in the British Empire, [Ibid. p. 258. Adler's suggestions were considered in Penzance and the sale of Aliyot, as suggested by him, was discontinued (PenHC Minutes, 1843-1861, p. 12).] which made elaborate arrangements for improving decorum, notably by cutting down 'the prolonged mi-sheberach'. The Mi Sheberach was a blessing recited by the cantor after each man was called to the Reading of the Law. In each Mi Sheberach it was customary for the man called to the Torah to offer a sum of money to the synagogue or its ancillary charitable societies and at the same time invoke Divine blessing on his family, the dignitaries of the synagogue, and his friends and neighbours. As it takes about a minute to recite the Mi Sheberach, it follows that if ten men (which is not an unduly large number even nowadays) were called to the Reading of the Law and for each man seven Mi Sheberach's were recited (and this number, as will shortly be shown, was apparently not unusual), then the service was prolonged for well over an hour. The general trend in Anglo-Jewry to improve decorum was closely paralleled in the Devon and Cornish Jewish communities. Early attempts to maintain decorum are apparent in the Plymouth Congregation's regulations of 1779. [PHC Min. Bk. I, Regulation no. 21.] There was an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Mi Sheberach problem under control, limiting the number to six for each person. But though the title of the rule is in the index there is a blank left in the text itself, indicating, perhaps, that the reform was not acceptable to the bulk of the Congregation. [Ibid. no. 34.] Riotous behaviour on the Rejoicing of the Law was to some extent tackled: 'both in the evening and in the day, none of the young boys - and how much more so none of the men - shall enter the women's section'. [Ibid. no. 46.]
In Exeter the attempt to improve decorum was spelt out in greater detail. The regulations of 1823 empower the Honorary Officers to give a spot fine to anyone creating a disturbance and, if necessary, to 'call a Constable and treat him or them as the Act directs, being protected by the Bishop's license'. [EHC Regulations, 1823, no. 9. The licence certified the building as one used for a religious purpose, but was not a prerequisite for holding religious services.]
At the High Festivals of New Year and the Day of Atonement when the synagogue was particularly full no boys under six years of age were allowed in, nor girls under the age of 12. In both cases parents and friends had to keep children in order under pain of fine. [EHC Regulations, 1823, no. 18. See Illustration 14.] Whereas the Plymouth Congregation was interested in keeping the men out of the women's gallery, in Exeter the rule was 'no females at all to be suffered in the men's synagogue'. [Ibid.] Once again the Mardi Gras days of the Rejoicing of the Law and Purim were regulated. On the former day, children under bar mitzvah, that is below the age of 13, were allowed to have flags and banners but no lights fixed to them: [In some Congregations it is still customary to fix an apple and a lighted candle in it to the top of the flags the children carry round the synagogue on this day.] nothing was to be thrown down from the ladies' gallery: no liquor, wine, or cakes was to be given out in the synagogue: children under bar mitzvah could dance around but adults had to keep their seats. [Ibid. no. 48.] Whilst on the latter festival, children were permitted to make a noise during the reading of the scroll of Esther, [It being customary to drown out Haman's name each time the reader mentions it.] but "no person above bar mitzvah is to make any noise in the synagogue neither with hammers nor in any other way whatever under fine of Five Shillings". [EHC Regulations, 1823, no. 48.]
The 'any other way whatever' may refer to fireworks. Mayhew interviewed a Gentile fireworks seller who told him that 'Poram fair, sir, is a sort of feast among the Jews, always three weeks [actually four], I've heard, afore their Passover; and then I work Whitechapel and that way'. This particular seller cleared 13s. 6d. 'last Poram fair'. [Mayhew, London Labour, I, p. 430.]
Even before Chief Rabbi Adler's attempt in 1845 to streamline services, there had been previous attempts to shorten the inordinately long services on the Day of Atonement. These were particularly prolonged by the Penitential prayers (Selihot) recited on that day. As early as 1830, printed slips were handed to worshippers indicating the particular prayers to be recited. These slips presumably emanated from Chief Rabbi Hirschell and were probably used in Plymouth, as a copy was found in a festival prayer book used there. [In the author's collection.]
In an effort to improve decorum the South-West Congregations attempted to regulate the type of attire worn to services. Plymouth Jews in 1779 were fined for coming to services in long boots and a minute of the Exeter Congregation stipulated that no-one was to come to services in a 'Jim Crow or dustman's hat'. [EHC Min. Bk. 1848, p. 7.] Many of these rules were adopted from one Congregation to another in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Liverpool (1799), for example, 'none called to the Torah dare wear Jack boots outside his trousers, nor a coloured handkerchief around his neck, nor may he chew tobacco'. [Kokosalakis, Ethnic Identity, p. 78.]
It is customary nowadays in most Anglo-Jewish Congregations for all worshippers saying Kaddish to do so simultaneously, either in their seats, at the bimah, or before the Ark. In the Plymouth synagogue, at least until 1835 and probably until the East European influx, each Kaddish was recited by only one person, and he was chosen according to a very strict order of precedence. [PHC Regulations, 1835, nos. 110, 111.] The rules are set out in great detail in an illuminated manuscript prayer book written in 1805 and kept up to date until the mid-twentieth century. [The prayer book was written and illuminated by one Sender, beadle in Portsmouth, at the behest of Joseph Joseph. For a resumé of the laws of precedence as practised in Plymouth, ~see Additional Note 3, p. 376.] Just how important the order of precedence in saying Kaddish was to the eighteenth-century Jew is demonstrated by a letter sent by Chief Rabbi Hirschell in 1832 informing the Plymouth Congregation that he and his Beth Din had converted the children of Abraham Franco. He reminded the Congregation that the girls could not marry cohenim (priests), a very usual reminder which is given to converts to this day, but he also stipulated that the boys had no precedence whatsoever in the saying of Kaddish, [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 216.] a stipulation that no English Beth Din would make nowadays.
It is not unlikely that the rules of precedence for saying Kaddish were dropped because too many arguments arose from their application. Much the same applies to the system of obligatory aliyot. There were various occasions when a vestry member in the South-West could demand to be called up to the Torah, whilst others were called at the Honorary Officers' discretion. [PHC Regulations, 1835, no. 46. Roth MSS 205, no. 33 spells out the same rights for Penzance members. For Exeter, see EHC Regulations, 1833, no. 21.] Principally these were: the Sabbath before and after the marriage of a child, a circumcision, or yahrzeit: the day of his wife's appearance in synagogue after her confinement: the day of his son's bar mitzvah: [Religious majority.] when he had to bentsch gomel. [A thanksgiving blessing recited after escape from danger, after overseas travel or after recovering from childbirth or serious illness.] Although not mentioned in the rules of any South-West Congregation it was also customary to call a mourner after the week of mourning, as will be seen shortly.
Difficulties arose when the Segan (the presiding warden responsible for allocating honours during the service) favoured his own relations and friends on the occasion of some rejoicing in his family and overlooked the rights of others. The Exeter Congregation, no doubt in response to a situation which had once arisen, made a rule that if the Segan neglected to call someone entitled to an aliyah, then the Gabbai had to order the cantor to call up the man for the seventh portion. [EHC Regulations, 1833, no. 21, end.] In most Congregations to the present day there are worshippers who set great store by the position of their aliyah. In their view, the third [Known as shlishi.] is the best, followed by the sixth. [Known as shishi.] To offer the penultimate aliyah was often regarded as an insult. [Eins fur acharon, as it was known.] In 1855, one member felt impelled to write to the Jewish Chronicle that the Plymouth Honorary Officers only called up their friends '... causing great noises, when the police are called in, and summonses taken out to appear before the magistrates'. [JC, 13 July 1855.] Matters reached a head a year later when Josiah Solomon summoned Solomon Solomon, Joseph Joseph, Hyman Hyman, Woolf Emden, and Abraham Ralph. The dispute arose because when Josiah was Segan he did not call the son of a deceased Mrs Joseph on the Sabbath after the week of mourning when the synagogue was well attended, even though the mourner had been called to the Torah the previous Monday, but then there were only 12 men at the service. [JC, 26 September 1855.] Hyman Hyman, seeing that Josiah called a Joseph Roborichkey as the last aliyah so that there was no chance for the mourner to be called, shouted out: 'Shame, iron hearted fellow, tyrant'. [JC, 12 September 1856.] Abraham Joseph came down to Plymouth from London to try to patch things up, unsuccessfully. When the case came to court the plaintiff addressed the magistrates: 'If I cannot have justice as an Israelite let me have it as a Christian'!! [JC, 26 September 1856.] Eventually the solicitors and magistrates' clerk effected a settlement by which the plaintiff paid all costs and the defendants apologized. [Plymouth Journal, 4 September 1856.] For months the community was riven on account of the case. [JC, 14 November 1856.]
On one occasion, a brawl in the Plymouth Synagogue, in 1858, attracted the attention of the local press. [The Plymouth Herald's report of the following incident and strictures are quoted at length in the JC, 15 October 1858.] Judah Solomon Lyon claimed that he was flung from his seat in the synagogue on the first day of Tabernacles (=23 September 1858) by William Woolf <197]
I went into the vestry with my sister and he squared his fists and said, "Let me get at him". He seized a candlestick and attempted to strike me.
The Plymouth Herald's comment was:
The Jews are a small body in Plymouth and should be able to live in harmony as they have hitherto done with their Gentile neighbours.
The four Jewish communities in the South-West undertook a number of responsibilities in order to make the celebration of Festivals easier for their members. Passover, which occurs in the spring, comes first and with it the need for matzot, the unleavened bread. It is exceedingly difficult to prepare matzot, as the dough must be baked within 18 minutes of the flour being wetted, and all crumbs from one batch of dough disposed of lest they leaven the next. For the Jews of Devon and Cornwall, obtaining matzot, the staple diet on Passover, was a perennial source of anxiety.
In 1779, the Honorary Officers of the Plymouth Congregation were obliged to ensure a proper supply of flour and appropriate utensils so that the matzot could be baked locally. [PHC Min. Bk. I, Regulations, no. 19.] A special oven was kept for the purpose and at one time the oven used by the Falmouth Congregation was on display at the Falmouth Museum. [Roth, Provincial Jewry, p. 62.] In 1801, pursuant to the twenty-two years' old regulation the Plymouth Congregation decided to bake matzot at 7 ~<171]2d. per pound. The baking was done on two days and every seatholder with a seat on the right hand side of the synagogue had to help on the first day and those who sat opposite them had to help the next day. Anyone desiring matzot but who did not help, had to pay a penal price of 2/6d. per pound. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 21.]
Apparently the communal baking was not too successful, as in 1803 it was decided that the matzot should be ordered from London. [Ibid. p. 25.] One can imagine the difficulties of transporting some half a ton of brittle matzot over nearly 200 miles of bone-rattling roads, unless they came by ship, which would have posed its own problems, and the state in which the matzot arrived. It is not surprising that the community decided to bake the matzot locally again. This time, in 1805, the baking was put out to tender, and a consortium of three members of the Congregation &emdash; the brothers Eleazer and Phineas Emden and one Abraham ben Isaac &emdash; agreed to bake the matzot at their own expense and provide them to local Jews at 8d. per pound. [Ibid. p. 33.] This last arrangement seems to have been more satisfactory as it lasted for 30 years or more. The contract was renewed in 1814 when the vestry ordered 1,300 pounds from Eleazer Emden at 9d. per pound, [Ibid. p. 95.] and in 1833 when it ordered 220 pounds of matzot and 20 pounds of flour at 5d. per pound. [Ibid. p. 172.] The last reference to the baking of matzot in the Plymouth Congregation's Minute Books was in 1834 when there were three tenders for the baking, at 4~3/4d., 5d., and 5~½d. per pound. [Ibid. p. 227.] In 1884, the Plymouth Congregation purchased £8. 19s. worth of matzot, these were presumably for the poor. [PHC A/c. 1884, p. 224.]
An unusual Passover celebration occurred in 1962 when the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Plymouth (Alderman and Mrs Arthur Goldberg) held a civic seder for more than a hundred Jewish personnel of the American Task Force 'Bravo', which was in Plymouth on Nato exercises. The seder was attended by the Honorary Officers of the Congregation and chaplains of the American fleet. It was conducted by the Lord Mayor's chaplain, Rabbi B. Susser.
At Pentecost, which occurs in May or June, it is traditional to decorate synagogues with flowers and shrubs. This custom was presumably maintained in the four synagogues of the South-West throughout their existence. There are direct references to it in Exeter in 1833, [EHC Regulations, 1833, no. 30.] and in Plymouth where 11/9d. was spent on flowers in May 1884. [PHC A/c. 1884, p. 224.] Another custom associated with Pentecost is for some men to remain awake all night spending their time in study. This tradition was kept in Exeter, and there is a reference to it in the Congregation's minutes of 1833. [EHC Regulations, 1833, no. 30.] Almost certainly it was also kept in other years, as well as in the other Congregations of the South-West, although no reference to the custom has been noted in their surviving records.
Again, with regard to the Festival of the Day of Atonement, which occurs in October, there is a custom that each household lights a large candle which burns for 25 hours. This candle was often taken to the synagogue. Records of purchases of wax for the Day of Atonement occur in every year for which detailed accounts survive. [PHC A/c. 1821, passim; PHC A/c. 1886, p. 344.] The beadle stayed up in the Plymouth Synagogue on the night of the Day of Atonement, [E.g. PHC A/c. 1883, p. 112; PHC A/c. 1887, p. 121.] and it is likely that he did so in order to watch the candles in case of fire.
There are two rites associated with the Festival of Tabernacles, which is celebrated each year in October. One is to wave the Four Species, i.e. the palm, bound with myrtle and willow twigs, and the citron, during the recitation of Psalms, 113-118. [See Authorised Daily Prayer Book, pp. 294-300.] Each person ought to buy his own set, but where this is not possible it was customary for the members of a Congregation to pay into a special fund in order to purchase a set. There is evidence that this custom was maintained in Plymouth and Exeter in the nineteenth century. In Exeter, members paid 1/-d. each every year to a communal fund for the 'etrog', i.e. Four Species. [EHC A/c. 1830, passim.] In 1884, the Plymouth Congregation bought four citrons and three palms paying £1. 8s. for them, as well as 2/6d. for carriage, 5/-d. for dressing them (i.e. binding the myrtles and willows to the palm), and 5/-d. to one Frank 'for taking Louliff [I.e. the lulav (=palm).] round' to people in their homes. [PHC A/c. 1884, p. 224.]
The other ceremonial observed at the Festival of Tabernacles is the building of a booth, known as a succah, covered with a leafy roof in which the Jew eats and, subject to limitations of climate, lives. Apart from exceptional circumstances each Jewish family should build their own booth. Nowadays, when many Jews neglect their obligation to build a succah, it is customary for Congregations to erect one. This was not always the case. The Voice of Jacob in an editorial in 1845 [VJ, 22 October 1845.] praised the Bevis Marks Synagogue, London, for having built a succah, lamenting that for many years it had been the only Congregation to do so, and expressing its pleasure that Crosby Square Synagogue had followed suit. The editorial went on to exhort all synagogues to build a succah. It is therefore most significant to find that the Exeter Congregation at least as early as 1823 required its Honorary Officers to 'provide and fit up a decent succah in the synagogue yard at the Congregation's expense'. [EHC Regulations 1823, no. 25.] The implication would seem to be that Exeter Jews were not punctilious about making a succah in their own homes. This impression is somewhat confirmed in Plymouth where the members of the Meshivat Nefesh Society arranged a function at which coffee was served at the London Inn on an intermediate day of Tabernacles in 1799. [PHC Meshivat Nefesh A/c. p. 23.] They could not have been over-particular about the precept of succah. A congregational succah is first mentioned in Plymouth in 1884, [PHC A/c. 1884, p. 224. See Illustration 15 for its present succah.] but there was possibly one there very much earlier.
It may be observed that there is some evidence that the custom of learning throughout the night of Hoshannah Rabbah (the last intermediate day of the Festival of Tabernacles) was also observed in both Plymouth and Exeter from time to time during the nineteenth century. [EHC Regulations, 1833, no. 30; PHC Meshivat Nefesh A/c. passim.]
Since 1842, when the West London Synagogue was established, there has been an active Reform movement in the Anglo-Jewish community. The Jewish Reform movement has modified or abolished many traditional practices and ceremonial observances of Judaism, particularly the dietary and Sabbath laws. In its synagogues, men and women sit together, an organ is played during services, and the use of the tallit (prayer shawl) and head coverings for men are optional. None of the changes introduced by the Reform movement were ever put into effect by any of the Congregations in the South-West.
It is clear from surviving records that the major religious ceremonies and practices of Jewish life attendant on birth, religious majority, marriage and death were all carried out in traditional style in the Devon and Cornish Congregations throughout the period of their existence.
The rite of circumcision at eight days old or as soon thereafter as is medically practicable, for example, an invariable step for a boy of the Jewish faith, was carried out in the Jewish communities of the South-West. There is, however, no evidence to suggest whether the circumcisions took place at home or in the synagogue. When the infant is brought in for the operation, he is first placed on a seat known as 'Elijah's Chair'. There is no record of such a chair in any of the Congregations of the South-West, [Cf. Roth, Great Synagogue, plate 49, opp. p. 212.] though there is a record of a brit milah (circumcision) cushion in the possession of the Plymouth Congregation. [The cushion and inventory (about 1925) have now disappeared.] Each mohel (circumciser) had his own instruments. Women are ineligible to perform the rite, and as he had only daughters Revd Stadthagen bequeathed his instruments to any grandson who would become a mohel. [P.C.C. 1862/414. The Jewish Historical Society of England has a set of silver circumcision instruments hallmarked Exeter and London 1771, 1794, 1821.] The two silver goblets used by Joseph Joseph during the circumcision ceremony may be seen at the Jewish Museum, London. One was used to hold the wine for the blessing, the other held whisky or brandy to wash out the mouth to disinfect it before performing the action of metzitzah, [Jewish Encyclopaedia, IV, p. 99, where an account of the opposition to metzitzah by mouth is given.] (sucking the wound to stem the flow of blood).
There used to be a beautiful custom associated with the birth of a boy which has fallen into almost complete disuse in Anglo-Jewry. [See Encyclopaedia Judaica, V, p. 288.] The mother, perhaps whilst resting and recuperating, would lovingly embroider a binder for the Scroll of the Torah. One example of this has survived from the Plymouth Congregation. It was embroidered by Mrs Brimay Joseph, [She was a daughter of Abraham Joseph I and married Nathan Joseph.] on the birth of her firstborn. Her embroidery reads, in translation: [The binder, or wimpel, is in the author's collection. The Hebrew text is þ .]
Abraham ben Nathan Nata KÚ born, for good luck, on Thursday 28 Kislev 5562 [=3 December 1801]. May the Lord rear him to the Torah, to the Chuppah, and to good deeds. Amen. Selah.
After the covenant of circumcision, which takes place eight days after his birth or as soon after that time as is practicable, the next important milestone in every Jewish boy's life is his bar mitzvah. [On the thirtieth day after the natural birth of a firstborn male child the father is obliged to redeem him at a ceremony called Pidyon HaBen. Some Congregations kept platters, especially decorated and inscribed, upon which to place the baby during this ceremony. There is no record of such a platter in the South-West Congregations.] Technically, 'bar mitzvah' means that henceforth the boy is obliged to carry out the religious duties of an adult male Jew, and this takes effect when the boy is thirteen years and one day old. Nowadays, this 'coming of age' is widely celebrated in most Jewish communities by calling the boy to the Torah, when he generally reads the Haftarah (portion from the Prophets) on the first Sabbath after his thirteenth birthday, and celebrating with a party or even formal banquet, very much as if he were a bridegroom on his wedding day. The records of the Congregations of the South-West show that a boy's bar mitzvah was an important day in his life. Henceforth he was eligible, at least in the eighteenth century, to become a baal habayit (vestry member) [PHC Min. Bk. I, p. 45.] with the privileges of that status. [See supra, pp. 192, 193.] It is not now possible to tell whether boys read the whole pericope on their bar mitzvah, or just the Haftarah. In 1821, Zvi son of Samuel Hyman of Plymouth read the whole of his bar mitzvah pericope the year after his bar mitzvah, so it was probably the custom for able boys, at least, to read the whole pericope. [PHC A/c. 1821, p. 127.] On one occasion in Plymouth, in 1821, a boy under bar mitzvah read the Haftarah [PHC A/c. 1821, p. 127.] but the records are too sparse to indicate whether this was usual or unusual. [In Poland, where it was customary to recite the haftarah silently, a boy under bar mitzvah was often called to read the portion.] The occasion of a bar mitzvah would often bring Gentile friends to the synagogue. On an unusual occasion when there were two bar mitzvah boys on the same Sabbath, in 1890, a correspondent wrote, 'the [Plymouth] synagogue was crowded with Christians'. [JC, 16 May 1890.]
A girl becomes obliged to carry out her duties when she is twelve years and one day old, i.e. when she is bat mitzvah. Traditionally, there were no celebrations corresponding to those of the bar mitzvah boy. Reform Congregations marked the occasion for girls with a 'Confirmation' service at or about her sixteenth birthday. After the Second World War, Orthodox Congregations began to hold special bat mitzvah services. These were designed for young teenage girls, often for several at a time, attending a course of instruction emphasizing the duties of a Jewish woman. The first such ceremony in Plymouth took place on Sunday, 21 June 1964 when Caroline Peck and Andrea Lewis celebrated their bat mitzvah. This was followed by a similar celebration by Sharon Aloof and Monique Hirshman on 3 December 1978.
Another major religious ceremony, affecting Jewish men and women, is that of the wedding. There is no reason to believe that wedding ceremonies performed under the aegis of the Congregations of the South-West were at any time different to those performed by similar Congregations elsewhere. It is interesting to note, however that there does seem to have been a change of venue for the actual ceremony. Until the nineteenth century, Ashkenasi weddings were never solemnized in the synagogue itself. [A. I. Sperling, Sefer Taamei Minhagim, p. 408.] This procedure was followed in Plymouth until 1874. Prior to 1874, all 68 weddings registered in the marriage register of the Plymouth Congregation took place at halls or private homes, though whether indoors or outdoors is not stated. [PHC Marriage Registers, I, nos. 1-68.] In 1874, a wedding was celebrated for the first time in the synagogue itself. Thereafter until the First World War, 35 weddings were celebrated in the synagogue and 51 elsewhere. [Ibid. I, nos. 69-154; II, nos. 1-3.] The first wedding celebrated in the Penzance synagogue took place in 1839, much earlier than in Plymouth. From 1841 to 1892 there were a further 14 weddings, of these half took place in the synagogue and half elsewhere. [PenHC Marriage Register.] In Exeter, weddings were celebrated in the synagogue from an early date, 1838, yet of the 32 weddings celebrated from 1838 until 1907 only 11 were in the synagogue, the rest being celebrated elsewhere. [EHC Marriage Register, passim.]
The other matter related to marriages where there appears to have been a change in practice in the latter part of the nineteenth century concerns levirate marriage. According to Jewish law when a married man dies childless, his widow is regarded as married to his brother, unless the brother frees himself of his obligations to her and cuts the bond binding them together by performing a ceremony known as halitzah, [See Deuteronomy, xxv, 5-10.] and thus enabling her to remarry outside the family. There are unscrupulous men to the present time who refuse point blank to perform the ceremony out of spite, or will do so only after receiving comparatively large sums of money. In order to prevent brothers blighting their widowed sister-in-law's remarriage prospects it was customary until the twentieth century amongst European Jews for them to give the bride a document called a shetar halitzah, some time prior to the ceremony. In this document,brothers undertook, in the event of the bridegroom dying childless, to perform the ceremony of halitzah with the widow. The undertaking was made in the form of a most solemn oath with provisions for the payment of punitive damages in case of non-fulfilment. Only one example of a shetar halitzah in the South-West, dated 1840, has come to light, but undoubtedly it was the custom to give one until it fell out of general use in Anglo-Jewry towards the end of the nineteenth century. The relevant document begins (in translation) : [Facsimile of original in the author's collection.]
For a memorial of what was before us on Wednesday, 23 Sivan 5600 [=Wednesday, 24 June 1840] according to the counting we count here in the City of Exeter, how the bachelor brother, Isaac ben Moses [Isaac Mosely, born 12 May 1821, died 12 July 1850.]....promised Ella bat Zvi [She was Ellen or Eleanor, the youngest daughter of Henry (son of Abraham) Ezekiel (Exeter Flying Post, 29 June 1843).] known as Hirsch who is to be the wife of Abraham ben Moses [He was Abraham Mosely of 30, Park Street, Bristol, born 19 June 1817.] ... that if, Heaven forfend, my brother shall die without leaving holy seed ... then I will give proper halitzah without charge immediately after three months ... And if I do not do so within six months of being asked to do so then I shall pay her damages of fifty pounds sterling ...
Witnesses: ÝÝBenjamin ben Samuel SGL [He was Benjamin Jonas, originally of Plymouth, then Exeter, and then lived in Teignmouth. He was the father of Abraham and Joseph Jonas, the first Jews in Ohio.]
John Levi [He married Georgiana, second daughter of Henry Ezekiel, on 6 March 1839 (EHC Marriage Register, no. 4).]
This agreement was made, possibly at some ceremony of tannaim (engagement) three years before the actual marriage ceremony, which took place on 21 June 1843. [EHC Marriage Register, no. 11.] Only one other reference to the writing of a shetar halitzah, also in Exeter and about February 1867, has been noted. Chief Rabbi Adler wrote to Solomon Elsner of Exeter at that time asking him 'have you a brother or brothers who will attend wedding to write shetar halitzah?' [Chief Rabbinate Archives, 9, letter no. 1141.]
Some light is thrown on the social aspect of a wedding in upper class Jewish society [Corresponding perhaps to the middle middle-class of Gentile society of that time.] in Exeter in the early part of the nineteenth century, by the invitation to the wedding of Ellen Levy's parents in 1810. The forms of etiquette were observed, the wedding reception took the form of a tea; and mirabil<130] dictu, the invitation pointedly stated 'No Presents accepted'.
At the wedding of Mr S. Elsner and Miss Silverstone in the Exeter synagogue in 1853, there was 'a numerous attendance (including non-Jews) most of whom sat down to a rich dinner'. [JC, 30 September 1853.] A year later when Chief Rabbi Adler happened to be in Torquay, probably on holiday, he came over to Exeter to marry Revd B. Albu to another Miss Silverstone. After the service they returned 'to an inner chamber of the synagogue ... where dejeuner ... for about 70 persons was served'. [JC, 1 September 1854.]
Traditionally, Jewish couples remain in town for the week following their wedding, and a special grace is recited in the presence of the bridal couple, known as sheva berachot (= seven blessings). No evidence has come to light to show whether the Jews of the South-West maintained this beautiful tradition.
The rites and ceremonials associated with death play a large part in the life of the Jew. It would appear that throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Jewish laws and customs in respect of the last rites in sickness, funerals and burials were maintained by the Congregations of the South-West.
Poor Jews in the South-West who became seriously ill could expect to be looked after and to be kept company. The Exeter Congregation's Regulations of 1823, for example, stipulated that the Charity Warden should discharge all expenses occasioned by the sickness of members. [EHC Regulations, 1823, no. 40.] Wealthy individuals must have paid their own way, but the poor were provided with a nurse and even, during the cholera epidemic of 1832, brandy. [EHC A/c. 1832 p. 127.]
In Plymouth, as early as 1779, when any Jew attached to the Congregation fell dangerously ill, then the Cemetery Fund Treasurer had to place the names of all members into a ballot box and draw out two of them. These two had to keep vigil and one had to move into the invalid's bedroom 'provided he is a suitable person to be with an invalid'. [PHC Min. Bk. I, Regulations, no. 29.] Rachael Benjamin who made her will the day before her death on 11 March 1817 left instructions 'my shroud to be made of wollen if it can be got, if not of linen', whilst Eleazar Emdon, a humble and religious man, specified that his shrouds should be of linen. [Devon Record Office, Wills, B652, E351.]
Friends, relatives, or fellow members of Friendly Societies such as the Meshivat Nefesh or Bikkur Cholim sat up at night watching the corpse at home [Vachers as they are known in Yiddish. See Rule Book of the Bikkur Cholim, Plymouth, rule no. 2.] in those cases where the burial was delayed to the next day.
Jewish law requires that a corpse should be buried as soon as possible, preferably on the day of death. [Ganzfried, Code of Jewish Law, 198, 3.] As far as can now be ascertained about one corpse in five in the old Jewish cemetery on Plymouth Hoe was buried on the day of death. [It is worth noting that the Revd Stadthagen, died 21 April 1862 (PHC tomb. B76), a nine-month old baby, Barnett Goodman, died 18 May 1890 and who was buried a week later (PHC tomb. Giff. Pl. G17), and S. W. Fredman, died 25 April 1899, (PHC tomb. Giff. Pl. E2) were buried on a second Festival day, burial on a second Festival day being permitted by Jewish law, but unusual. ] There are 37 tombstones now extant in that cemetery on which the dates both of death and burial are inscribed. Nine people died on the Sabbath, on which day burials may not take place. Sixteen people were buried on the day following death, in five cases there was a somewhat longer delay, particularly where death took place on a Friday. [Lyon Joseph was one of these five, he died in Bath on Tuesday, 7 May 1825, and was buried in Plymouth five days later (PHC tomb. A.13).] In only seven cases was the person buried on the day of death, and one of these was a cholera victim. [See supra, p. 136ff.] It seems that as the nineteenth century wore on there was a tendency to perform funerals on the day after death. Indeed, in the last decade of the century, Chief Rabbi Adler wrote in peremptory terms to Revd Spiers at the Plymouth Congregation because he buried a child soon after death: 'It is highly necessary to prevent a repetition of proceeding which may lead to grave scandal or danger'. [Chief Rabbinate Archives, 34, 13 April 1890.]
Even more necessary than watching the corpse before burial for kabbalist or other reasons, was the watch maintained after burial to prevent body-snatching. Precautions were taken by both the Plymouth and Exeter Congregations for the post-funeral protection of corpses. The Plymouth Congregation's Regulations in 1835 specify:
To guard against the robbery of graves, watch shall be kept on the ground for three nights after burial, by three Jews [An undated roster for three nights (about 1830) has survived (stuck to PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 180). It includes for the first night 'a Christian being Friday'. He was needed to keep the fire up and trim the lamp, the Jews being unable to do this on their Sabbath.] each night, to be decided by a ballot of every person in the congregation: in case of refusal to be fined Five Shillings. [PHC Regulations, 1835, no. 132.]
The Exeter Congregation with a small cemetery, required only two men to stand guard and these were presumably hired professional guards as each member was charged one shilling to pay the expense. [EHC Regulations, 1833, 52(7).]
In view of these precautions against body-snatching there is a certain grim irony that in early nineteenth-century Devon,
one of the largest dealers [in bodies] was Israel Cohen, commonly called Izzy, a Jew, well known to surgeons and sextons. By the surgeons he was patronized, of the sextons he was patron: and so complete the understanding that the interest of all three was advanced by coalition. He was a square built, resolute ruffian, with features indicative of his Hebrew origins, black whiskers and a squint'. [Baring-Gould, Devonshire Characters (1908), p. 407.]
It may be noted that the name of Israel Cohen does not occur in the records of the South-West Congregations.
Standing guard at the Jewish cemeteries involved not only physical discomfort but also some anxiety occasioned by superstitious beliefs. Shemoel Hirsch, then a peddler down on his luck, made his way from the South-West to Ipswich about 1823:
The Rabbi asked me to watch at a grave of a dead Jewess who had asked for two people to watch the first four nights. I said I had no objection if he would lend me a prayer book to use during the night. (Note: The Jews consider the burial ground a most solemn and awful place, and would never pass one at 12 o'clock at night ... as they believe the dead awake at that time and go to prayers in the synagogue. Their fear is diminished if they have tsitsith [A garment worn by observant Jews under their jacket or shirt with 'fringes' (cf. Numbers, xv, 37-41) at each corner. Hirsch's assertion is arrant nonsense.] and proper prayers.) Good tsitsith I had, but I wanted a prayer-book. [Clegg, Shemoel Hirsch, p. 41. He was paid one pound for the four nights (p. 43).]
In most Jewish communities there is a society, generally known as the Hebrah Kaddishah, whose members, male and female, attend to the needs of the corpse, doing in a voluntary capacity the work which is generally done by the undertaker in Gentile society. There is no doubt whatsoever that such a society existed in each South-West Congregation, and the overseer or warden of the Cemetery Fund, whose duties have been discussed above, was almost certainly its chairman. +Nonetheless, there appear to be no records of any Hebrah Kaddishah until the Bikkur Cholim Society of Plymouth, founded in 1901. The primary objects of this society were:
(a) personally to visit the sick;
(b) to secure watchers (of the sick) when required;
(c) to provide watchers after death (before burial);
(d) to perform the last rites, viz. Tahara (washing, purifying and dressing body) and Levoyah (funeral), and to visit the mourners. [Rule Book of the Bikkur Cholim, p. 2.] The warden of the Cemetery Fund was also probably the chairman of the Hebrah Kaddishah.
There is no fixed custom nowadays in Anglo-Jewry as to where the last rites of purification and clothing the body in shrouds take place. In some communities these rites are performed at the place of death, be it at home or in a hospital at the mortuary, in others in the chapel (ohel) at the cemetery. It would appear that in the Exeter Congregation, at least in the mid-nineteenth century, these rites took place in the deceased's home. The relevant Exeter rule reads (in a mixture of English and Yiddish):
Agreeable to the custom of London by order of the Chief Rabbi, Alle koved was onbelongt zu der meis [all honours due to the dead] must take place in the house where the meis [corpse] is mitaher [washed and purified] and not at the cemetery. [EHC Regulations, 1823, no. 44; repeated in 1833, no. 52 (9).]
This rule implies that not only the last rites of purification took place in the house but also funeral orations were given and certain prayers were recited. [See Singer, Authorised Daily Prayer Book, p. 421.]
From the proximity of certain tombstones in the old Jewish cemetery on Plymouth Hoe, it seems that, sometimes at least, coffins were buried on top of one another. [This is permitted by Jewish law, provided six handbreadths of earth interpose (Ganzfried, Code of Jewish Law, 199, 5).] This is apparently the purport of a letter from the Chief Rabbi in London to the Congregation referred to in a minute of 1825:
it was agreed to take up the ground in the new cemetery and to cover in the old cemetery some graves which have been reserved... [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 195.]
In the Jewish cemeteries at Exeter and Plymouth places were reserved 'beyond the boards' for Gentiles married to Jews, as well as for Jews married to Gentiles, and for suicides. [Ganzfried, Code of Jewish Law, 199, 6.] In 1838, the Exeter Congregation wrote to Dr Adler asking whether a memorial prayer could be said in the synagogue for the late Mrs Jonas 'in as much as it was said that she was not made a convert by sanction of the Chief Rabbi and Beth Din of London'. The letter went on to say that the said Mr and Mrs Jonas were interred in our ground in the regular row ... [EHC Min. Bk. 1838, p. 56.] It is clear from this last remark that those who were certainly not Jewish were buried outside the normal plot in the Exeter cemetery. Similarly, Abraham Joseph wrote to Dr Adler in 1867 asking him to ensure that if a Samuel Ralph, married once or twice in church, was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Plymouth, it should not be in the main part. [Jessop, 'Joseph Families', p. 126. Samuel Ralph died 17 March 1867, aged 64, and is buried on a raised plot separated from the rest of the cemetery (PHC Tomb. A.133).]
From the early part of the eighteenth century and possibly earlier, the corpse whether in its permanent coffin or a temporary one, or on a bier covered with a shroud, was conveyed to the cemetery in a hearse. This was certainly the case in the South-West Congregations and in London. So important was this 'kindness to the dead' that in Exeter in 1823 the Cemetery Fund Warden 'where parties defunct are known to be poor' had to provide a hearse at the Congregation's expense, as well as a mourning coach. [EHC Regulations 1823, no. 41, and similarly in the 1833 Regulations.] In Plymouth, the Congregation apparently had its own hearse about 1835. There are references to it at a time when its upkeep was becoming expensive and every seatholder was expected to pay 2/6d. per annum towards its upkeep. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 243.]
B. H. Ascher in his Book of Life [Second edition, London, l861, p. 212. See also Ganzfried, Code of Jewish Law, 199, 17.] intimates that in Germany Jews customarily set a tombstone a year after death at the yahrzeit, whereas 'in England, more especially in London, the tomb is set after the thirty days of mourning' or even sooner. At some time, possibly after the influx of East European Jews after 1880, the prevalent custom throughout England was to set the stone about a year after the burial. There is no evidence to indicate which custom was followed in the South-West Congregations, all that can be said is that tombstones were usually erected by the family or friends of the deceased. If there were no family or friends, and a dead man left sufficient money to pay for it, the Plymouth Congregation arranged for a stone to be set. A loose piece of paper now bound into the Plymouth Congregation's second minute book notes the expenses incurred by the Congregation on behalf of one Jacob who died in February 1803: [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 253.]
On the other hand when there was insufficient to pay the debts, the Congregation did not incur further expense. Thus, when one Samuel HaLevi died in 1800, his garments fetched 18s, four watches made £5. 4s., a total of £6. 2s. As the Congregation had laid out £7. 0. 7d. on his behalf there was no question of commemorating him with a tombstone. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 252.] Nor did Deikah wife of Moses Isaac the Beadle fare any better when she died in 1815. Her effects were sold and the Congregation took all the money to pay its expenses incurred by it on her behalf. [Ibid. p. 105. For similar cases, see Ibid. pp. 121, 167.]
To be deprived of a tombstone was considered a serious matter. On at least one occasion the Exeter Congregation attempted to force a son to pay his father's debt to the synagogue by refusing permission to erect a tombstone until the debt was paid. Josiah Solomon, the son, appealed to Dr Adler who wrote to the Exeter Congregation in 1855, 'our law demands that the father should not suffer for the son, therefore we are not justified to do such an open insult to an innocent man'. [Chief Rabbinate Archives, 4, letters 758, 811, 827.] At least one Plymouth Jew living on Congregational relief had a tombstone to mark his grave. He was Ze'ev ben Naftali who received 3/6d. per week in 1812 until his death on 7 October 1813. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 68, and Berlin, 57. He is, perhaps, the Naftali Benjamin who came to Plymouth in 1745 (see Lipman, 'Aliens List', no. 32).] It must have been a comfort to the sick, and especially to the poor, to know that their bodies would be laid to rest with honour and respect.
Members of the Plymouth Congregation often left money to the synagogal officials to recite kaddish after their death (particularly if they had no sons), to 'learn' for the benefit of their souls, and to burn a light in their remembrance. Thus, Rachael Benjamin in 1817 left 'one pound to Moses Solomon to say prayers as usual in the shool, one pound to Mr Isacher to learn one month. A light to be burnt one month'. Eleazar Emdon wanted a light to be burnt in the synagogue for 12 months. [Devon Record Office, Wills, B652, E353.] In 1862 Myer Stadthagen left '£3 to my congregation as a memorial to be made every Festival of freewill offerings [i.e. at yizkor], and to pay some fit person to say a prayer [i.e. kaddish] for me during the year, and a light shall be burned ...' [Extract of will kindly supplied by Lucien Isaacs, a descendant, in a letter dated 20 November 1963.]
From birth until death, and even after death, a Jew could live, if he or she so chose, within the framework of a Jewish community, which provided the opportunity to maintain the ancient Jewish ways in the new surroundings of Devon and Cornwall.
index there is a blank left in the text itself, indicating, perhaps, that the reform was not acceptable to the bulk of the Congregation. 
Many of these rules were adopted from one Congregation to another in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Liverpool (1799), for example, 'none called to the Torah dare wear Jack boots outside his trousers, nor a colored handkerchief around his neck, nor may he chew tobacco'. 
[Kokosalakis, 'Ethnic Identity', p. 78.]
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