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Page created: 27 June 2017
Latest revision or update: 29 Auguust 2017

Sephardi Congregations
and Other Eastern Rites (Edot haMizrach) Congregations

The premier Sephardi synagogal organisation in Britain is the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation. This, as well as most Sephardi and other Edot ha-Mizrach (Eastern Rites) congregations, is centred primarily in London. However, most Sephardi or other Edot haMizrach congregations are independent, although many are today loosely affiliated with the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation (which is often referred to as Western Sephardi).

Although the Sephardi community is the oldest Jewish community in Britain, having been established nearly half a century prior to the first Ashkanazi congregation, Sephardi Jews form only a small percentage of British Jewry. Membership of Sephardi and other Edot ha-Mizrach congregations in 2016 constituted only 2.9% of total synagogue membership in the United Kingdom.(1)

Basic Data

Name:

Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation

Head Offices:

2 Ashworth Road, Maida Vale, London W9 1JY

Date Formed:

1657

Ritual:

Western Sephardi Orthodox - Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Rites

Website:

https://www.sephardi.org.uk

Burial Society:

Spanish & Portugues Jews' Burial Society (Hebrat Guemilut Hassadim) of 2 Ashworth Road, Maida Vale, London W9 1JY

Kashrut Authority:

Sephardi Kashrus Authority of 2 Ashworth Road, Maida Vale, London W9 1JY

Reg. Charity No:

212517

 
History

The Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation in London dates back to 1657. It was founded by a group of Marranos or New Christians (now generally referred to Anusim) merchants who had been living in London, openly professing to be Spanish Catholics, but clandistinely continuing to practise the Jewish religion. When, as a result of a number of events, it became apparent at the end of 1656 that there was no longer a prohibition on Jews living in England (Jews had been expelled by King Edward I in 1290), the group of merchants acquired a house in Creechurch Lane, in the City of London, for use as a synagogue, holding services there from 1657 until 1601, when the Bevis Marks Synagogue was built. Bevis Marks is the oldest extant synagogue in Britain (other than possibly a medieval synagogue in Lincoln).

A branch congregation was established in Wigmore Street (in London's West End) in 1853, moving to Bryanston Street in 1861 and to the existing building in Lauderdale Road, Maida Vale, in 1896. Other branch congregations were established, in Ramsgate and Wembley, and a number of other independent Sephardi congregation were founded having loose links with the "mother" congregation. The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, Holland Park was established in 1928 under a Deed of Association with the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation.

The Congregation is by governed by a Board of Elders, as well as a Mahamad of five members, who act as an executive. The affairs of the Congregation are regulated by a body of Laws, known as Ascamot, the earliest of which is known to date from 1663.

The community is served by a team rabbinate: the post of Haham (see list below), or chief rabbi, is currently vacant (and has frequently been so in the Congregation's history), the current head being known as the "Senior Rabbi".


Congregations

The following lists the Sephardi and other Eastern (Edot haMizrach) rites Synagogues within regions covered by JCR-UK, which includes all the synagogues in Gibraltar.


Synagogues of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation
:


Independent Sephardi & Edot haMizrach Synagogues - London
(a number of these are loosely affiliated with the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation) :


Other Sephardi & Edot haMizrach Synagogues - Provincial
:

Other Sephardi Synagogues - Gibraltar:

In addition, Sephardi congregations are to be found at a number of ostensibly non-Sephardi synagogues in London, including the following:

*  A congregation that is still active

A congregation now merged into the Sephardi Congregation of South Manchester..

 


Search the All-UK Database

The records in the All-UK Database associated with the Sephardi Congregations:

Marriages

Bevis Marks Synagogue, 1836 - 1918 (1,253 records);

Burials

Hoop Lane Cemetery (Spanish & Portuguese Jews Congregation), (425 records*);
Novo Cemetery, Mile End
, 1733 - 1918 (
Spanish & Portuguese Jews Congregation), (10,732 records*);
*A search in the database may also reveal duplicates of some of these records on the
JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Register (JOWBR).

Communal Leaders

Jewish Directory for 1874 (76 Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregations records, London & Manchester).

 

Bibliography, On-line Articles and Other Material relating to Sephardi Congregations

on JCR-UK

on Third Party websites

 

Cemeteries of the Spanish & Portugues Jews' Congregation

The following are cemeteries of the Spanish and Portugues Jews' Congregations:

  • Mile End - "Velho" (Old) Cemetery (disused), behind 253 Mile End Rd, London E.1
    This is the oldest (post re-settlement) Jewish cemetery in Britain, opened in 1657 and is Listed Grade II. (For additional information, see IAJGS Cemetery Project - Mile End Old)

  • Mile End - Nuevo (New) Beth Chaim Cemetery (disused), 320 Mile End Road, London E.1.
    This cemetery, also known as Beth Haim Novo Cemetery, was acquired in 1725 and first used in 1733. Although some 2,000 graves remain, some 7,500 remains and tombstones of people buried between 1734 and 1876 were moved in 1974 to a small cemetery in Brentwood (see below), following the sale of the land, and the consquential destruction of a the major part of the cemetery. (For additional information, see IAJGS Cemetery Project - Mile End New)

  • Brentwood Sephardi Jewish Cemetery (disused), Dytchleys, Coxtie Green, Brentwood, Essex.
    The cemetery includes some 7,500 remains re-interred in 1974 in a mass grave from the greater part of the Nuevo Cemetery at Mile End, London (see above) where they had originally been buried mainly between 1734 and 1876. (For additional information, see IAJGS Cemetery Project - Brentwood)

  • Hoop Lane (East) Sephardi Cemetery (active), Hoop Lane, Golders Green London NW11 7EU
    This section of the cemetery, the eastern section, comprising some eight acres, was acquired in 1896 by the Sephardi community from the West London (Reform) Synagogue, who still retain the larger part of the cemetery. (For additional information, see IAJGS Cemetery Project - Hoop Lane)

  • Edgwarebury Sephardi Cemetery (active), Edgwarebury Lane, Edgware HA8 8QP
    This cemetery, opened in 1973, is also shared with various non-orthodox Jewish congregations. (For additional information, see IAJGS Cemetery Project - Edgwarebury)


 

Hahamim (2)
(and senior rabbis of the Separdi Congregation)
The biographical information for the list below is currently a work in progress

  • Haham Rabbi Jacob (ben Aaron) Sasportas - 1664 to 1665.

Born in Oran, Algeria, 1610. He served successively as rabbi of the Moroccan communities in Tlemçen (at the age of 24), Marrakesh, Fes, and Salé. He was a distinquised and erudite talmudist and was known as a fierce opponent of the Shabbathean movement. In about 1646, he was imprisoned by the King of Morocco, but escaped to Amsterdam with his family (c. 1653). He was called back by the King and sent on a special mission to the Spanish court (c. 1659). In 1664, only seven after the Resettlement of Jews in England and the founding of the Creechurch Lane Synagogue, he was appointed Haham of the new community but left the following year to escape the Great Plague of London of 1665. He went initially to Hamburg until 1673, then to Amsterdam and in 1673 to Leghorn, Italy. In 1680 he returned to Amsterdam, ultimately being appointed to the rabbinate of that city (his lifetime ambition) in 1693 at the age of 83. He continued to hold such office until his death in 1698. Although he only spent a year in London, he nevertheless continued to be a source of advice and support to the London community and its spiritual and lay leaders until his death. See also the Jewish Encyclopedia articles on "Sasportas"c. 1906.

  • Haham Rabbi Joshua (Yehoshua) da Silva - 1670 to 1679

Born in Amsterdam. He was appointed Haham by the London community in 1670, five years after the departure of Haham Saspotas. Not a great deal in known about his background. He died in office in London in 1679.

  • Haham Rabbi Jacob Abendana - 1681 to 1685

Born in Morocco or Spain in 1630, he grew up in Germany and attended yeshiva in Rotterdam. In 1665, he was appointed Haham to the Amsterdam community and in 1681 acceptd the appointment as Haham to the London community. Like his younger brother, Isaac Abendana, who taught Hebrew and rabbinics at both Cambridge and Oxford (although he was not a formal member of university staff as such a position was banned to Jews), he was celebrated author, Hebraist and translater. He died in office in London in 1685. - See also the Jewish Encyclopedia articles on "Jacob Abendana" and "Isaac Abendana" c. 1906.

  • Haham Rabbi Solomon Ayllon - 1689 to 1700

Born, probably in Solonika, in 1664 (or possibly 1660). He was somewhat of a controversial figure as regards his personal relationships and the fact that had been a follower of Sabbatai Tzevi. He travelled quite widely in Europe and the Near East before visiting London, where he was invited to fill the office of Haham in 1689. His stay in London was not a happy one and he was attacked vigorously by a member of the congregation who had heard something of Ayllon's past. After leaving London in 1700, he became associate rabbi in Amsterdam, where his lot was no happier and he remained the centre of controversy. He died in Amsterdam in 1728 - See also the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Solomon ben Jacob Ayllon, c. 1906

  • Haham Rabbi David Nieto - 1702 to 1728 

Nieto (also spelled Nietto) was born in Venice in 1654, the son of Rabbi Phineas Nieto. He studied medicine in Padua and at the same time obtained rabbinical smicha from a local rabbi. He graduated in Medicine and Philosophy in 1687 at the age of 33. Nieto then moved to Leghorn, Italy to work as a physician and was appointed Dayan (rabbinical judge) of the local Beth Din. There he wrote a number of works in which he dealt with the differences of calculation in the calendars of the Greek, Roman, and Jewish ecclisiastical authorities pointing out a number of errors which had crept into the Christian calendar. In 1702, Nieto was appointed Haham to the London community, now in their recently completed Bevis Marks Synagogue. He died in office in London in 1728. Nieto was one of the most accomplished Jews of his time and was equally distinguished in philosophy, physics, medicine, poetry, mathematics, astronomy and theology. See also the Jewish Encyclopedia article on David Nieto, c. 1906.

  • Haham Rabbi Isaac Nieto - 1733 to 1741

Born in Leghorn, Italy, in 1687. In 1733, Nieto (also spelled Nietto) succeeded his father, David Nieto, as Haham of the London community, five years following his father's death. He resigned in 1741 and initially went to Leghorn. He returned to London in 1747 and took up the profession of a notary. In 1749, he travelled to Gibraltar and was appointed Gibraltar's first Rabbi, establishing the Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Gibraltar. Following the untimely death of his successor, Haham de Mesquita in 1851, he was appointed Ab Bet Din of the London Sephardi community, resigning in 1757 as a result of a violent dispute over the titles of the members of the Bet Din and the relationship of the members to one another. He died in London in 1773. See also the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Isaac Nieto, c. 1906.

  • Haham Rabbi Moses Gomez de Mesquita 1744 to 1751

Born in 1688. He was appointed Haham of the London community following the resugnation of Isaac Nieto in 1744. He died in office in London in 1751. See also the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Moses Gomez de Mesquita.

  • Haham Rabbi Moses Cohen d'Azevedo (or Dazevedo) - 1761 to 1784

Born in Amsterdam in 1720, the son of Rabbi Daniel Cohen D'Azevedo, Haham of Amsterdam. Emigrated to London in his youth, joining the staff of the Bevis Marks Synagogue. In 1749, he married the daughter of the then Haham, Rabbi de Mesquitta, succeeding him as Haham in 1761, ten years after his death, having earlier (in 1757) been appointed a Dayan in the London Beth Din. (This appointment precipitated the resignation from the Beth Din of a former Haham, Isaac Nieto.) He died in London in 1784, his son Daniel d'Azevado having been appointed as Chazan of Bevis Marks in 1782 and continued to serve in such capacity until 1812. Twenty-one was to pass following Moses D'Azevedo's death before a successor haham was appointed.  See also the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Moses Cohen d'Azevedo.

  • Haham Rabbi Raphael Meldola - 1805 to 1828

Born in Leghorn, Italy, 1754, the elder son of Moses Hezekiah Meldola, and the grandson of the Haham of Pisa. He received a thorough university training, both theological and secular, and, when only fifteen years old he tooke his seat in rabbinical college. For some years he was preacher in Leghorn and obtained smicha in 1803. In 1805, Meldola was appointed Haham of the Spanish and Portuguese communityin Britain. From the time of his appointment, he was a dominant factor in British Jewry and remained so until his death. Meldola married Stella Bolaffi (Abulafia), by whom he had four sons and four daughters, one of whom, Rebecca, married Hazan David de Sola. He died in London in June 1828. It would be another 38 years before the Bevis Marks appoints its next Haham. See also the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Raphael Meldola.

  • Haham Rabbi Benjamin Artom - 1866 to 1879

  • Haham Rabbi Moses Gaster - 1887 to 1917

  • (Rabbi Shem Tob Gaguine - 1920 to 1953, "Ecclesiastical Chief of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation")

  • Haham Rabbi Solomon Gaon - 1947 to 1977

  • (Rabbi Abraham Levy - 1995 to 2012, "Communal Rabbi and Spiritual Head of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation")

  • (Rabbi Joseph Dweck - 2013 to present (June 2017) "Senior Rabbi of The S&P Sephardi Community")

 

Synagogal Organisation in the United Kingdom

London Jewish Community home page

________________

Notes & Sources ( returns to main text)
  1. "Jewish News", Issue No. 1010, 6 July 2017, pp. 1 & 4, quoting report by Board of Deputies Policy Reseach, carried out between April and September 2016.

  2. The biographical information (© David Shulman) has been extracted from a number of publications, including the Jewish Enclyclpedia, c.1906, the History of the Great Synagogue by Cecil Roth, 1950, Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, and British Chief Rabbis 1664-2006 by Derek Taylor, 2007, which latter publication includes a separate chapter of each haham.

 

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