The Jews of South-West England
Thesis by Rabbi Bernard Susser
Immigration and Emigration -
The movement of Jews within and without the South-West of England
Sometimes an immigrant would settle in one of the South-West Jewish communities and remain there until his death. Perhaps just as often his stay was limited to a number of years and when new opportunities arose he moved on elsewhere. Even if the immigrant himself remained, then almost invariably some of or all his children, and especially daughters, would move either to other towns in Great Britain or to other countries. The remainder of this chapter is an attempt answer the historian L. P. Gartner's question, Whither did these Jews go? [L. P. Gartner, 'Urban History and the pattern of Jewish settlement in Victorian England', Jewish Journal of Sociology, 23 (1981), p. 40.]
Throughout the period dealt with in this work the main attraction was no doubt London, containing as it did the largest Anglo-Jewish community in the country. Thus Gumpert Michael Emdin, silversmith of Stoke Dammerel, earlier than 1761, [In the Western Flying Post, 2 March 1761 he advertised that he had plate, jewels etc. and 'all sorts of watches as cheap as in London'.] after his bankruptcy in 1767 moved to St. Martins-in-the-Fields, London, where he died in 1775. [P.C.C. Dec. A. 1775.] Men with a skill which had no sufficient local outlet had to go to London. In 1819, Solomon Hart R.A., who later became librarian of the Royal Academy, moved to London from Plymouth with his father, the latter being in some financial trouble. [Solomon Hart, Reminiscences, ed. A. Brodie (1882) (afterwards quoted as Hart, Reminiscences), p. 1; PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 132, 20 October 1816. See Illustration 5.] From the same city left More (Morry) Mordecai, perhaps the same as Moses Mordecai of the Aliens List, [No. 45.] 'He left from here Rosh Hodesh Ellul, 580 [Thursday, 10 August 1820], for the holy congregation of London', as did Moses Hayyim ben Abraham Ralph who 'journeyed from here for London' in 1816. [PHC A/c. 1759, pp. 146, 160.] From Exeter, Jacob Solomon and his wife, née Philips, sailed to London in March 1830, [EHC A/c. 1827. See Illustration 1. They were the great-great-grandparents of Mr Edgar Samuel, Director of the Jewish Museum, London.] where Myers Solomon (no known relationship to Jacob Solomon) died in 1874. [JC, 24 November 1874. He was born in Prussia in 1822. He married Deborah, daughter of E. Lazarus, in Exeter, 8 August 1849 (Ex. Flying Post, 30 August 1849). He moved to London about 1870.] From Dawlish, Leon Solomon moved to London about 1860. [EHC A/c. 1855. He lived in Jermyn Street, and presumably worshipped at the Western Synagogue to which he bequeathed a magnificent Torah mantle (A. Barnett, The Western Synagogue through two centuries (1961), p. 152.] Two of the founders of what was to become a leading London synagogue, the Hampstead Synagogue, came from Plymouth and Falmouth. They were Frank I. Lyons who was born in Stonehouse in 1846, and Alexander Jacob, son of Moss J. Jacob, born in Falmouth in 1841. In 1859, he joined the gold rush to British Columbia, he returned to England c.1861, stayed a short time in Birmingham and then settled in Hampstead. [For the important part played by these two men see R. Apple, The Hampstead Synagogue (1967).]
Others went to the neighbouring towns with which the South-West Jewish communities had always maintained close ties, and of these Portsmouth was the most important. [See supra, p. 55, n. 3.] Those who had lived there before settling in Plymouth include Michael Barnett Levy who was there from 1766 until 1776; Barnet Levy, 1765 until 1775; Eleazer Emdin, from 1794 until 1798; [Lipman, 'Aliens List', 23, 31, 14.] Phineas Levy who was born there in 1784 and moved to Plymouth Dock sometime before 1812; [Census 1851; PHC Min. Bk. I, p. 73.] Moses ben Joseph Gosport who married Zirrele, daughter of Benjamin Jonas of Plymouth, and who settled in Plymouth before 1813; [In 1813, he was resident in Plymouth as a bachelor (List of contributors to the Plymouth Synagogue's Building Fund, 1813), by 1815 he was married (PHC Min. Bk. I, p. 104).] and Barrow Moss (1782-1817) who was a bachelor in Plymouth in 1805, [List of contributors to the Plymouth Synagogue's Restoration Fund, 1805.] and was married to Sarah (Sally) daughter of Solomon Isaac [Lipman, 'Aliens List', 42.] by 1810. [PHC Bk. of Records, p. 5.] Exeter, too, had a representative of Portsmouth Jewry in the person of Joseph Marks who was born in Portsea and moved to Exeter after his marriage to Julia Solomon of Exeter in the early 1830's. [Family tree compiled by the Jewish Historical Society of Australia.] It is natural that Plymouth Jews with Portsmouth connections returned there for personal reasons. Caroline, orphan daughter of Barrow Moss, married George Jackson of Liverpool at the Portsmouth Synagogue in 1845, [JC, 22 August 1845.] and Abraham Ezekiel after 50 years in Exeter moved to Portsmouth some three years before his death in 1799. [Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury, 2 December 1799.]
Birmingham attracted Jews from Devon in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The Misses Silverstone of Exeter, Honiton lace manufacturers, moved to 29, Paradise Street, Birmingham, in 1864. [JC, 17 June 1864.] Hyman Hyman [He was a son of Samuel Hyman, for whom see Lipman, 'Aliens List', 5.] moved there to 55, Vyse Street, between 1852 and 1865, when his daughter Lizzie married the Revd George J. Emanuel B.A. [JC, 27 January 1865.] In 1843, Ellen Ezekiel married Abraham Mosely, then living in Bristol, son of Moss Mosely, a member of a numerous and well known Birmingham family. [Ex. Flying Post, 29 June 1843.] As early as 1821, Jewish travellers from Birmingham were visiting Plymouth. [PHC A/c. 1821, passim.]
Most of the other communities in Great Britain in the nineteenth century had a representative from one of the South-West Congregations. Lyon Joseph, formerly of Falmouth, died at Bath in 1825. [PHC tomb. A.13; PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 194.] Jacob Abraham, optician and precision instrument maker of Fore Street Hill, Exeter, set himself up in Bath in 1800. [M. Brown and J. Samuel, 'The Jews of Bath', TJHSE, XXIX (1982), p. 140.] Samuel (Mark) Lazarus was installed as Master of the Royal Sussex Lodge in Bath in 1827. His daughter married a Plymouth Jew called Lyon. When she was widowed, she returned to Bath with her adult daughter Phoebe who married Solomon Wolfe, the chazan of Bath from 1816 to 1866. [Ibid. p. 146.] Naftali ben Judah, born in Plymouth 1788, is described as 'of Chatham' in 1821. [Circum. Reg. 15; PHC A/c. 1821.] At Liverpool, Barnet Joseph, son of the Lyon Joseph who retired to Bath, founded the Hope Place Synagogue, [Wm. Schonfield, 'The Josephs of Cornwall', a paper given at the Jewish Historical Society of England, 20 December 1938, p. 14.] whilst Abraham Hoffnung, son of an Exeter minister, was largely responsible for the building of the Princes Road Synagogue between 1870 and 1874. [JC, 6 March 1908.] At Merthyr Tydvil in 1873 was Mrs Isaacs, daughter of the Revd B.A. Simmons of Penzance. [Her mother, Flora, died there (JC, 11 December 1874).] Manchester connection with Plymouth goes back at least to 1821 when an Isaac ben Joseph was in Plymouth for the Days of Awe, perhaps at the same time as two other travellers who made offerings to the congregation after the Festival of Tabernacles. [Isaac must have been an old Plymothian or a very important person, because he was called up to the Torah on the Day of Atonement [PHC A/c. 1821, pp. 34, 35. Hayyim Issacher who kept the account had some difficulty in spelling Manchester which appears as [twenty-two hebrew characters].] To Newport went Catherine, another daughter of Revd Simmons, who married Hyman Feinburg there in 1850, [PenHC Marriage Register, 9.] and yet another daughter of his married the Revd Harris Isaacs there. [Letter from Flora Marcuson to Godfrey Simmons, 20 July 1946.] Revd Stadthagen's daughter, Phoebe, married Abraham Isaac, pawnbroker of 36 Commercial Street, Newport, in 1858, and settled there. [PHC Marriage Register, 39. She lived there until her death about 1890 (letter from her grandson Lucien Isaacs to the author, 20 November 1963).] A Nathan Jacob and his wife Miriam of Dartmouth settled in Sunderland at the beginning of the nineteenth century. [Wm. Schonfield, 'The Josephs of Cornwall', p. 10.] Jewish brides from Penzance went to Pontypridd (1865), Dowlais (1869), Aberdare (1870) and Newcastle (1876); [PenHC Marriage Register, 4, 12, 13, 14, 15. The last married Elias Pearlson who wrote on his circumcision register: 'In Newcastle on Tyne I married Yetta, the daughter of Isaac Bischofswerder, cantor and shochet in Penzance from a worthy family in Germany...'] and from Plymouth twelve went to London, [PHC Marriage Register, 16, 45, 55, 57, 58, 69, 73, 80, 90, 101, 106, 108.] six to Birmingham, [Ibid. 24, 29, 30, 48, 63, 74.] three to Bristol, [Ibid. 12, 35, 70.] two to Manchester, [Ibid. 11, 68.] and one each to Cambridge and Cardiff. [Ibid. 46, 104.]
About the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century there was a large emigration of London Jews overseas. In a plaintive aside in the London Beth Din minutes, Rabbi Hirschell records in 1833:
in our generation America, Asia, and Africa have become like the environs of London. [H. J. Zimmels, Pesakim Mibet Dino, p. 242.]
There are three main reasons for mass migrations of people - to escape persecution, to find a haven from tyranny, and the desire to better one's economic condition. Religious persecution and political tyranny may be discounted as factors prompting Jewish emigration from England in the nineteenth century. Economic opportunities no doubt provided the main stimulus, and they were seized in the first instance by young men of middle-class background. Personal factors such as poor health, frustrated love and family incompatibility may also have been factors. Jews from the South-West followed the same trend as their brethren from London and other parts of England. In the early part of the nineteenth century some returned to Germany [Cf. John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants (New York, 1959), pp. 7-10. Letter to the author from Dr I. Grunfeld, 28 February 1963.] where one man, Jacob Hart, obtained diplomatic distinction as the British Consul in Saxony. [He died in London 19 February 1846, aged 62, and was buried in Penzance (VJ, 13 March 1846; PenHC tomb. 26).]
Others went to America. [Joseph Solomon Ottolenghe was probably the first Jew who had lived in Exeter to go to America. He named his plantation in Georgia, 'Exonia' (letter to the author from Jacob R. Marcus, 7 May 1965). ~See also, Additional Note 2, p. 375.] One group of former Exeter Jews founded the Jewish community of Cincinnati, Ohio. [Their success may have sparked off an Exeter emigration fever in 1832: 'The tide of emigration to the United States has set in powerfully within the district' (Trew. Flying Post, 1 March 1832).] In October 1816, Joseph Jonas [He was one of the 22 children of Benjamin Jonas and Annie Ezekiel. Benjamin Jonas, a watchmaker, who was almost certainly born in England, lived in Teignmouth, 8 Wellington's Row, next door to Parish the music seller (supra, p. 77, n. 1).] of Exeter arrived in New York from Plymouth and went on to Philadelphia. He wanted to continue to Ohio but was told, 'In the wilds of America and entirely amongst the Gentiles you will forget your religion and your God'. On 2 January 1817, he set off for Pittsburgh. The Ohio was frozen, so he waited until it thawed and on 8 March 1817 he arrived in Cincinnati, the only Jew amongst some six thousand inhabitants. He soon established a prosperous business, but for two years he kept the High Festivals in solitude. [J. R. Marcus, Memoirs of American Jews (Philadelphia, 1955) (afterwards quoted as Marcus, American Jews), I, 203.] His coming created quite a stir. An old Quakeress came to see him and asked, 'Art thou a Jew? Thou art one of God's chosen people! Wilt thou let me examine thee?' She turned him around and finally said, with a tinge of disappointment in her voice, 'Well, thou art no different to other people'. [Marcus, American Jews, I, 205. The author had a similar experience when he was evacuated to a village in North Wales in 1939. Local people felt his back to discover his wings, thinking that Jews were some form of angel. This was no isolated experience. A twelve year old Jewish evacuee from Hackney was examined by her hosts to find her 'horns', whilst another was expected to show her 'pointed ears', supposed to be a Jewish characteristic (JC, 1 September 1989, 'London Extra', pp. 3, 5).] He kept his shop closed on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and when a farmer who had left his watch with Jonas for repair came back and found the shop closed, he thought at first that Jonas had absconded. The neighbours explained the situation and he went back home to explain to his wife why he could not obtain the watch. She went to see Jonas and asked him, 'Are you a Jew?' 'Yes', he replied; she raised her eyes, 'How I thank you, O God, for allowing me to see one of the sons of Abraham before I die'. [JC, 19 August 1864. This may be an amplification and variation of the preceding anecdote quoted in the text above. See also Lady Magnus, Outlines of Jewish History (Philadelphia, 1948), p. 353.]
In December 1818, his friend David Israel Johnson [Perhaps a son of the Joseph Johnson of Exeter who paid poor rate from 1757 until 1760, and who died in 1784 (Trew. Flying Post, June 1784), and almost certainly a relation of Moses and Phineas Johnson who lived in Exeter, Plymouth and Portsmouth.] of Portsmouth came and stayed awhile. He was followed in June by Lewis Cohen of London, Barnet Levi of Liverpool and Jonas Levy of Exeter, [He returned to Exeter where he died in 1884 aged 85 (Ex. tomb. 98). For further details of this man see infra, p. 92, n. 3.] and a few days later by his brother Abraham, [See below for a more detailed account of Abraham Jonas.] his sister and her husband, Morris and Sarah Moses, [He was Moses ben Jose Gosport (PHC Bk. of Records, p. 2b). He may have been born in England. He had a shop at Cawsand, opposite Plymouth, in Cornwall. He 'married Sarah, daughter of Benjamin Jonas of Plymouth Dock on Wednesday last' (Trew. Flying Post, 2 March 1815). Morris Moses was originally called Moses Moses and there were two men of this name in Plymouth. One was a broker in Pembroke Street (Ply. Direct. 1812). Both were members of the Meshivat Nefesh, one, the senior, from 1806-13, the other from 1811-13. In 1813, he gave five guineas to the Plymouth Congregation (PHC Inscrip. 1813).] as well as Philip Symonds, together with his wife and child, all originally of Portsmouth. In 1820, three German Jews arrived. They were followed in 1821 by another Portsmouth Jew, in 1822 by Phineas Moses [Presumably the one who is entered in EHC A/c. 1820, as due to pay £1. 5s. 6d. but did not do so.] and Samuel Jonas [He does not appear in either the Plymouth or Exeter records, so presumably he came straight from Teignmouth.] brother of Joseph Jonas, and in 1823 by two more Jews from Portsmouth and one from Barbados. They formed themselves into a Jewish community, Joseph Jonas was the first President, and Jonas Levy of Exeter was the first shochet. [On his return to England he received an authorization to slaughter from Rabbi Solomon Hirschell, in anticipation of going back to Cincinnati: 'Jonas Levy from Exeter, Devonshire, living at Cincinnati, State of Ohio, United States of America, acknowledge that I have given my hand to the rules mentioned on the other side. Jonah ben Menahem, 15 Shevat 5583 [= Monday, 27 January 1823]. Jonas Levy, Dirrect for Philip Symonds, Cincinnati, State of Ohio, U.S.A.' (C. Duschinsky, The Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, (Oxford, 1921), p. 265). The rules were: not to slaughter if a permanent, professional shochet was appointed, not to shave with a razor, and not to drink the wine of Gentiles.] In 1826, they performed the last rites for the two daughters of the Revd Gershom Seixas of New York who were married to Abraham and Joseph Jonas. [Marcus, American Jews, pp. 206, 208.]
Two years later, they lost another member when Samuel Joseph, originally of Plymouth and later of Philadelphia, died. [Marcus, American Jews, p. 20. A detailed account of this man follows below.] Joseph Jonas continued to be a pillar of the community which had grown to 2,000 souls by 1844, and at his death in 1869 the Board of Trustees resolved:
That we recognise in Joseph Jonas, the Israelite, indeed, and free from guile, whose course through a long life has been such as all good men may study, and whose peaceful end at the age of 77 all may envy.
Resolved, that as the founder of our holy congregation, and as the first Jew that trod this city, we owe him a debt of gratitude which we can only pay by acknowledgement ...' [Proceedings American Jewish Historical Society (afterwards quoted as PAJHS), VIII, 57.]
His brother, Abraham Jonas, had an even more distinguished career. In 1815, he and two of his brothers, Baruch and Jonah, were members of the Plymouth Congregation. Abraham, however, was not apparently an active one, there being no cash entries on his ledger sheet. [PHC A/c. 1815, No. 86.] When Abraham arrived in Cincinnati he went into partnership with his brother-in-law Morris Moses and they opened up as auctioneers. Abraham stayed on only for a few years, before moving to Williamstown, Grant County, Kentucky. From 1834 he became a close friend of Abraham Lincoln and an influential leader of the Republican party. Jonas was admitted to the Bar in Quincy, Illinois, about 1839 and Lincoln did most of his work at that period in Jonas' office. In one instance Lincoln directed his Secretary of War to dispose of the case of a man arrested for disloyalty 'at the discretion of Abraham Jonas, whom I know to be loyal and sensible'. A pen portrait exists of him:
Abraham Jonas was tall, of medium weight, rather inclined to leanness than flesh, with black eyes and hair and complexion between dark and fair. His features were very strong, with a serious face, which broke into a very pleasant expression when amused. He was a very intellectual man and full of humour and wit; and benevolence was well marked in his countenance. [PAJHS, XVII, 123-8.]
The Samuel Joseph referred to above was the older [Contra W. Jessop "A coat of many colours; a history of the Joseph families of Devon and Cornwall' (unpublished MSS, afterwards quoted as Jessop, 'Joseph Families'), p. 120.] son of Abraham Joseph I and was born in Plymouth in 1759. He became a Vestry Member of the Plymouth Congregation in 1803. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 26, 7 October 1803.] He was married to Rebecca Myers before 1805, and their only child Jane was born in Plymouth in November 1806. [PHC Inscrip. 1805; Jessop, 'Joseph Families', p. 120. A brother of Rebecca Myers also emigrated and bought a farm outside Philadelphia.] He was an active member of the Meshivat Nefesh Society from 1795 until 1817 when his account is marked 'gone to America'. In 1819, the Samuel Joseph's were living in Philadelphia and about 1825 they moved to Cincinnati, a centre of wine growing, where Samuel set up as a beer and cordial purveyor. [Ibid. He may have learned the beer and wine trade from Lemon Hart in Penzance. This would account for his absence from the Plymouth Congregation records before 1803. After his death, letters of administration were granted to his brother-in-law Nathan Joseph, as attorney for his widow. She died of cholera in 1849 and was buried in the Chestnut Street Cemetery, Cincinnati (ibid).]
While it is rare to have the early beginnings of a community so well documented within the lifetime of the founders, in the case of the Cincinnati community there is a twofold significance for the Jews of the South-West. It firstly illustrates the influence of a few men from Devon and Cornwall who set the impress of their religious faith on the development of the community. Secondly, it demonstrates the processes, mutatis mutandis, by which the South-Western communities themselves were formed, relatives and friends attracting other relatives and friends in an ever widening circle.
Other Jews who went to America from Devon include Baruch (Barrow) Jonas, another member of the Exeter Jonas family, who in 1832 remitted from Buenos Aires a small debt which he owed to the Exeter Congregation. [EHC A/c. 1827.] There was also a Samuel ben Alexander Aryeh [He was born in Plymouth, 30 November 1784 (Circum. Reg. 1). His English name was probably Levy Emanuel, Emanuel being his father's surname.] who paid five shillings in part payment of his debt of one pound to the Plymouth Congregation on 25 July 1819 &emdash; 'and travelled from here to the country of America on the holy Sabbath of the pericope Deuteronomy, 5579 [= Saturday, 31 July 1819] by ship'. [PHC A/c. 1819, p. 3 (Hebrew pagination).] Henry Hyman, later active in American synagogal affairs, went to Virginia from Plymouth about 1830 and moved to New York during the American Civil War. [Letter from Mrs F. Abrahams, 26 August 1963.]
The preliminaries of emigration and the part played in it by chance are well illustrated by the story of Israel Solomon, a British Jew who had earlier lived in Falmouth. His own memoirs provide a graphic picture:
From the 1870's, there was a slow but steady emigration to America by Plymouth Jews. Members of the Pearl family went out, and some came back. And then others of the family followed in their footsteps. According to the 1881 census, Abraham and Henrietta Cohen were born in Germany. Their first two sons, Joseph and Pinchus were born in the USA in 1877 and 1878 respectively. Their third son, Isidore, was born in Plymouth in 1880. Also in the 1881 Census are six Jewish visitors staying at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel. There is no way of telling from the census returns whether or not they were related, but they were all born in London except ten year-old Sydney Abrahams who was born in New York. He was there with an Alfred Abrahams who was probably related to him. In the twentieth century, Solomon (Spencer) Orgel went there to try his luck in 1929. His bad fortune was to land in the week of the Wall Street crash. He could not find a job and became desperate. His good fortune led him to a factory where the owner, as a child, had heard his parents speaking of the time when their family was en route to America and had been given shelter at a time of great need by 'an Orgel family in Plymouth. When you told me your name and where you came from, did you think that I could turn you away without a job?'
To the West Indies went Angel Emanuel of Plymouth, a nephew of Abraham Joseph I, as the Plymouth Meshivat Nefesh account book recorded:
May his name remain a monument of his virtues, this dear worthy and valuable member went to the West Indies and unfortunately died of the fever then prevalent there, 24 January 1797, 26 Teves 5557. [Mesh. Nefesh, Ply. A/c. 1795. The West Indies had important Jewish communities from the seventeenth century. Barbados removed all disabilities of the Jews in 1802.]
Abraham Joseph I's daughter Esther married Mozely Isaac Elkin of Barbados in 1821, and died only two years later. [Jessop, 'Joseph Families', p. 117.] A nephew (or niece) of Henry Ezekiel wrote to him from the West Indies in Exeter in 1832,
the whole town is under Arms - I refer you to the "Times" 20th - 21st - and this day 23rd - the revolting of the Negroes in the Parishes and Neighbourhood where I had spent 19 of my best years and so well know the kindness I experienced from the West Indians ... [Letter from (?R and P) Phillips to Henry Ezekiel, 23 February 1832, in possession of E. Finestone of Sheffield.]
In 1843, Issacher H. Hyman, [VJ, 8 December 1843. He was born in Portsmouth where his father went after leaving Plymouth in 1823.] son of Hyman Issacher, the Plymouth Congregation's beadle, went to Jamaica, and only 10 weeks later, he died of yellow fever.
It was not until the third and fourth decades of the nineteenth century that Jews began to settle in any numbers in South Africa. The three pioneer Jewish congregations were at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Kimberley (Griqualand West), and the three pioneer ministers were Joel Rabinowitz, Samuel Rapaport, and Meyer Mendlessohn. [TJHSE, VII (1912), 197.]
Mendlessohn had ministered to the Exeter Congregation from 1854 until 1867. [Tablet in the Exeter Synagogue.] He was born in Prussia in 1832 and in 1858 came to Exeter where he married Rebecca, daughter of Israel Silverstone, [Silverstone and his wife were born in Poland, 1807 and 1813. In 1851, their three oldest daughters were Honiton Lace manufacturers and they had eight other children (Census 1851).] shopkeeper, of 107 Fore Street, Exeter. In Exeter, his firstborn son, Sidney, was born in 1861. From Exeter, Revd Mendelssohn moved to Bristol where he remained until he received a 'call' from Kimberley in 1878, probably through his brother-in-law, the Revd Berthold Albu, who was appointed the first minister of the Griqualand West Congregation in 1876. [The Jews in South Africa, eds. G. Saron and L. Hotz (Oxford, 1955), p. 118.] Albu [Born in Berlin, 1825, the son of Israel Albu. He was probably related to the South African mining magnates Sir George and Leopold Albu (letter from Mr Austen Albu M.P. 9 June 1966).] himself had been appointed chazan/shochet in Exeter on 3 July 1853 and acted in that capacity until April 1854 when he resigned. He stayed on for a few months to marry Bella, another daughter of Israel Silverstone. Revd Mendlessohn held the post as minister to the Kimberley Congregation until 1884, and even in his retirement helped out in times of need, until his death in 1889. [Frank R. Bradlow, 'Sidney Mendelssohn', Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 22, 4, June 1968. Revd Meyer's son Sidney produced a monumental bibliography which 'is the foundation of South African culture' (Ibid.).]
The Plymothians who went to South Africa included a branch of the Emdon family of Plymouth; [Witwatersrand Hebrew Congregation Register of Births, no. 276.] some of the descendants of Henry and Brayna Morris towards the latter end of the nineteenth century; [Verbal testimony of Mrs Phyllis Tucker, Plymouth, great-granddaughter of Morris.] some of the relatives of Abraham Robins, whose occupation was a 'South African shipper', [Home Office letter to author dated 1 March 1966; letter from Mrs Ruth Goldstein, 1964.] and the Sulski family. [PHC Marriage Register, 89. Two brothers became farmers there, their family living in Johannesburg in the 1970's.]
Besides America, and to a less extent, South Africa, the other great goal for emigrants was Australia, where Jewish communities began to appear about the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Though there may have been individual Jews leaving for Australia from Devon and Cornwall at that early date, the main outflow from the two counties dates from the mid-nineteenth century. [Plymouth was a port of departure for Australia and many Jews must have passed through. Samuel Pollack of Brompton, returning from Plymouth after saying farewell to his son, slipped from the train and was killed (JC, 15 April 1861).]
The careers of some of these mid-nineteenth century emigrants may be followed in some detail. There was Henry Joseph (1832-1888), second son of Abraham Joseph II, who set sail for Australia about 1853. He is probably the Mr Joseph referred to in the unpublished diary of John James Bond concerning the voyage of the Lady Flora from Gravesend (17 April 1853) to Melbourne (14 August 1853):
April 20. We awoke to hear the seas roaring. Mr Joseph who has eight in his cabin, all ill, came to ours begging to be allowed to say his prayers there as it was not possible in his own. [BBC Broadcast, December 1949.]
He made his way to Ballarat, then the centre of the gold rush. He may have started as a prospector, but he was later a gold assayer at Ballarat and Bendigo. About 1867, he married Rebecca, daughter of Samuel Lyons, an auctioneer, and the couple moved to Gympie in Queensland. [Jessop, 'Joseph Families', chap. XII, passim. Two of their sons became editors, one of the Gympie Miner, and the other of his uncles' paper, The Tamworth News.]
Another son of Abraham Joseph II who emigrated to Australia was Solomon Joseph, born on 15 June 1834. [Circum. Reg. 75.] His father wanted him to be a rabbi but, as his grandson Wilfred Jessop suggests, he either rebelled against his father's will in this matter or in the choice of a prospective bride, so 'he was to all intents and purposes exiled by his father with £300 in his pocket'. [Jessop, 'Joseph Families', p. 160.] On his 25th birthday he started a sorrowful journey from Plymouth to his New World, and from that day until the day before he disembarked at Melbourne on 5 September 1859 he kept a diary. [Original was in the possession of the late Wilfred Jessop, Chicago.] In Australia he met Caroline Cohen, daughter of Abraham Cohen who had in 1832 in conjunction with George Nicholls, a well known Sydney solicitor, founded The Australian newspaper, and they married in 1867. They first lived in Dunedin, New Zealand, where Solomon was employed for a short time by Julius Vogel, later Prime Minister of New Zealand. In 1868, he returned to Australia and after an unsuccessful business career, he founded and edited a weekly communal paper The Australian Israelite. In 1882, he acquired a tenuous control of the Tamworth News which he edited until his death in 1900. [Jessop, 'Joseph Families', chap. XII, quotes an interesting letter Solomon sent shortly before his death to his son Sidney suggesting that he should take over the newspaper.] The descendants of these two brothers are today scattered across Australia.
In September 1853, The Jewish Chronicle printed a long letter from some of the 350 passengers of the s.s. Great Britain which had earlier sailed to Australia. [JC, 23 September 1853.] Sixteen of them were Jewish, three each from Birmingham and Liverpool, one each from Bristol and Hamburg, and no less than four from Plymouth. The Plymothians were Simeon Cohen, who was one of the signatories to the letter, [This man does not appear in the Congregational records.] Isaac Isaac, [It is difficult to identify him. He might be Isaac b. Reuben Selig b. Isaac b. Menahem, born 10 October 1790 (Circum. Reg. 20), but he would be a bit old at 62 to emigrate. He is not likely to be Isaac b. Abraham born Bavaria 1803, hardware man of Bilbury Street (Ply. Direct. 1850) and 31 Frankfort Street (Census 1851), because that man still occupies the latter premises in 1857 (Ply. Town Rental) and is buried in Plymouth in 1872 (PHC tomb. B.113). On the other hand Isaac the son of John Isaacs (Isaac b. Menahem b. Isaac) seems too young, being only eleven years old in 1853 (Census 1851).] Mark Levy, [Not the Mark Levy, widower, general dealer of 3 Westwell Street, son of Moses Levy, who married Ann Rosenthal, widow, on 21 May 1844 (PHC Marriage Register, 10). He died in Guernsey on 23 December 1848 (Death Register, St Peter Port, Guernsey, no. 965). She died December 1851/January 1852 (PHC tomb. B.51). His brother-in-law, Joseph Marks of Exeter, emigrated to Australia in 1853 (see infra.). Another Mark Levy, (Mordecai b. Abraham b. Issacher Jacob b. Joel) was still in Plymouth in 1866 (Kelly's Directory, 1866, 140 Union Street).] and Abraham Marks. [Probably the son of Aaron and Lavisa Marks, born 21 May 1834 (Circum. Reg. 75; PHC Bk. of Records, p. 10).]
Isaac Stone was another Jew from Plymouth who went to Australia. He was born in Poland in 1828, came to Plymouth in 1846 as a Hebrew teacher, married Anna Mordecai in 1857, and shortly after went to Australia for the sake of his health. [PHC Marriage Register, 38; M. Gordon, Van Diemen's Land (Victoria, 1965), p. 110.] Simcha Stone, a relative, was born in Poland about 1837 and came to Plymouth when he was 18 or 19 years of age. In Plymouth, Simcha Stone sold clothes to sailors, probably not on his own behalf. He suffered from asthma, and about 1883 sailed to Australia with his wife and ten children. One of these, Joseph, had already gone out there in 1876 when he was only sixteen years old, but returned to help with the emigration. The father became a photographer in Melbourne and died there aged 54. Joseph, his son, was a sponge merchant in the same city. [Letter from Miss Stone, 19 March 1965.] Finally, it may be mentioned that Rose Marks, born in Plymouth in 1832 and daughter of Charles Marks, married J. Solomon Henry of Adelaide in 1855 in England, [JC, 30 November 1855. Charles Marks was elected as an Assessor of the Borough of Plymouth in 1846, and was the first Jew in Plymouth to be elected to municipal office (VJ, 13 March 1846).] and went to Australia with her husband.
The mid-nineteenth century Exeter Congregation also had its representatives in Australia. Let us examine one family in detail because its story exemplifies so many of the emigrants. Joseph Marks, an uncle of the Rose Marks just mentioned, was born in Portsea about 1806. He joined the Exeter Congregation in 1832 and within a year married Julia, the Exeter-born daughter of Isaac Solomon who was born in Prussia, and Rosetta Solomon who was born in Rochester, Kent. In 1834, he became a vestry member of the Congregation. In 1838, he was the tenant of a shop in Fore Street Hill, Exeter, with a rateable value of £33 per annum; and in 1844 he is described as a clothier in King Street, Exeter, where he was instrumental in catching a notorious fence. In 1843 and again in 1849 his name appeared on the Voters' Register at 113 Fore Street Hill. In 1853, the Exeter Congregation paid a farewell tribute to him for 'having sat among us for 20 years and filled the office of President and Treasurer'. [JC, 8 July 1853.] The Marks family, twelve of them apparently, left Bristol in the Cotfield on 1 August 1853 and arrived in Adelaide on 30 November 1853, the arrival being noted in the South Australian Register. [Letter from His Honour Mr Justice Marks, Melbourne, 1 February 1990, who also supplied the information about the family in Australia.]
Joseph and Julia Marks had thirteen children. Of these, Solomon born 1837, died a few months later; Samuel died and was buried in Exeter in 1870; [EHC tomb. 33. He was born c.1838 according to a family tree prepared in Australia but more likely to have been born after 1851, because his father writes on the tombstone, 'my youngest son', and he does not appear at home in either the 1841 or 1851 censuses. Possibly the boy had returned to, or perhaps never left, Exeter, and his father had arranged for the stone to be erected.] Isabella (b.c.1845), Alexander (b.c.1849), and Miriam (b.c.1852), were alive in Australia in 1884 but were lost sight of thereafter; Isaac (b.c.1834), Sarah (b.c.1836), Charles (b.c.1839), Josiah (b.c.1841), Ellen (b.c.1842), Rosetta (b.c.1843), Henry (b.c.1847) and Catherine (Kate) (b.c.1850) all died in Australia. Joseph and Julia first settled in South Australia and in Victoria in 1856. There he became a wholesale grocer in Elizabeth Street, where an adjoining clothing shop was apparently run by his wife. Joseph died in Melbourne in 1872. He does not seem to have left very much behind him in the way of worldly goods &emdash; furniture valued at £50 and some parcels of land at £20. Letters of Administration were only taken out in 1889, five years after the death of Julia, by which time the land had probably greatly appreciated in value.
As to their children: Isaac was an accountant, married late in life and died in Melbourne in 1904; Josiah left an estate of some £4,000 when he died in 1902. He, too, was an accountant, the founder of a well-known Melbourne Building Society, an active member of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, and a leading Freemason; Alexander had a jeweller's shop in Ballarat; Henry had a successful furniture shop in Melbourne. Their grandchildren included: Julia Marks, a literary figure who wrote poems, novels and songs; Henry and John Harris Marks who dominated the wholesale jewellery trade in Melbourne in the 1920's. One great-grandson, Samuel Clement Leslie (n<130] Lazarus), was a Rhodes scholar who later accompanied Australian Prime Minister Bruce to the 1926 Imperial Conference, and was a U.K. Ministerial adviser during World War II. Another, Ken Marks, is a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, whilst yet another is a County Court judge. Today, the descendants of Joseph and Julia Marks are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and number in their midst doctors, lawyers and business men, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
From Penzance, three of the children of the Revd B. A. Simmons went to Australia - his son Abraham Barnett Simmons, who officiated as lay reader from the 1870's at St Kilda's and Ballarat, and who died in Ballarat in 1908; [Obituary from unknown source, 12 June 1908, in papers of Godfrey Simmons, Birmingham.] Amelia who married Isaac Davidson of London, and Arthur. [Information from Flora Marcuson in a letter dated 20 July 1946 to Godfrey Simmons, Birmingham.] Benjamin Aaron Selig, a watchmaker, who was born in Penzance in 1812 and was president of the tiny congregation there in 1852, sailed for Australia in 1854. He later moved to New Zealand and he became minister of the Wellington Congregation until his death in 1872. [Collectanea Cornubiensis, item 85; Western Briton, 8 June 1849.]
Emigration offered opportunities for commercial and social success to sons of poor men. One son of the Revd Samuel Hoffnung, [Minister of the Exeter Hebrew Congregation, 1840-1853.] Sigmond (1830-1904), or Sidney as he became known, was educated in Liverpool. Lack of capital forced him to leave home. He became a salesman for a West Country firm and became friendly with one of his Jewish customers, Henry Nathan of Plymouth, who lent him £500 to buy goods and take them to Australia. [Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne, 1972), iv, 408.] He emigrated to Australia from Exeter in 1852, and founded what was to become one of that country's largest commercial organizations. [See Illustration 3. Leslie D. Davis, The House of Hoffnung, 1852-1952 (privately printed Australia, 1952). His brother Abraham subsequently took over the running of the firm. Both of them eventually returned to England where they took a prominent part in communal affairs, especially in Liverpool.] Another son, Abraham, [See Illustration 2.] who travelled extensively on his own behalf as well as on behalf of his brother's firm, cultivated extensive trade links with the Hawaiian Islands. He was appointed Hawaiian Commissioner of Immigration, accredited to the Government of Portugal, and in 1879, at the request of the Hawaiian Government, he organized an emigration from Madeira and the Azores to the Hawaiian Islands of about fifteen thousand agricultural laborers. For his services the King of Portugal personally decorated Abraham Hoffnung with the title of Chevalier of the Order of Christ of Portugal, one of the oldest orders in existence. [Some Jews objected to him accepting an order with which the name 'Christ' was identified, but the Chief Rabbi in London ruled that Hoffnung could accept the decoration because it no longer bore a religious significance (JC, 6 March 1908). His sojournings are, perhaps, not untypical: born Poland 1834, lived in Exeter, then Newcastle-on-Tyne, went to London to work, then to New York (1853), then at Quincy, Illinois, back to England, then in Montreal (1858); settled in Liverpool (1866), then in London (1877), and, for a rolling stone, died a rich man.] In 1881, he was appointed the King of Hawaii's Chargé d'Affaires at the Court of St James, and he was the 'first Jew who had penetrated the charmed circle of the "Corps Diplomatique" at the Court of the Sovereign of the British Empire'. [JC, 6 March 1908.]
Throughout the ages, the Land of Israel has attracted elderly Jews from the diaspora who go there to spend their last years and be buried in its holy soil. [A little earth from Israel is often put into the coffins of Jews who die in the diaspora so that they too may lie in the soil of the Holy Land.] There is no record of any Jew from the South-West of England going to Palestine until Abraham Greenbaum, who was the beadle and collector of the Plymouth Congregation some time before 1883, went there about 1900 after his retirement. Old habits die hard, and in a letter dated 3 September 1913 he enclosed a receipt for donations he had solicited in Plymouth on behalf of 'a Yeshivah, Ohel Torah in Gibath Shaool, near Jerusalem - where people recite [Psalms] day and night, and men learn and davven and pray to the Almighty that all should have health and prosperity'. He died in Jerusalem just before the first World War. [Information from his daughter, Mrs Monty Cohen of Plymouth, and holograph letter in her possession.] The family of Tobias Shepherd who was in Plymouth about 1876, [He joined the Hand-in-Hand Society, 22 October 1876 (H. in H. Min. Bk. and A/c. Ply. p. 33).] went out to Israel in the early part of the twentieth century. His daughter, Lily Tobias, became a well known Anglo-Palestinian writer. In the mid-1960's, the families of Jack and Evelyn Smith, Jack and Eve Cohen, Jack and Shirley Richman, and Harold and Betty Richman all made aliyah (emigrated to Israel). Their going halved the number of children in the cheder, made it more difficult to assemble a minyan, and seriously reduced the viability of the Congregation. They were followed in the 1980's by Maurice and Ruth Overs and the late Reginald and Francis Lewis. In Israel they all made and, those still here, continue to make, a notable contribution to the nascent State.
Such then were the outward peregrinations of some of the Jews of Devon and Cornwall. The emigrants beyond the seas could have provided only a small proportion of the Jewish communities in the New World and British colonies. But from what has been noted above they appear to have provided notable religious and lay leadership, possibly disproportionately to their numbers. Moreover, the accounts of their wanderings that have survived often throw light on the new communities, which they formed. This in turn illuminates the steps taken in the formation of Jewish communities in England in the eighteenth century, of which, as has been noted particularly in the South-West, little evidence has survived.
Contact JCR-UK Webmaster:
This website is
owned by JewishGen and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. All
material found herein is owned by or licensed to us. You may view, download, and
print material from this site only for your own personal use. You may not post
material from this site on another website without our consent. You may not
transmit or distribute material from this website to others. You may not use
this website or information found at this site for any commercial purpose.
Copyright © 2002 - 2023 JCR-UK. All Rights Reserved