the former

Bedford Hebrew Congregations

and Jewish Community





JCR-UK is a genealogical and historical website covering all Jewish communities and
congregations throughout the British Isles and Gibraltar, both past and present.

Town of Bedford

Bedford, the former county town of Bedfordshire in south central England, has a population of about 100,000 and is situated on the river Great Ouse. In 1974, the municipal borough of Bedford was merged with adjoining areas to form the local government district (later borough) of North Bedfordshire, which in 1992 was renamed the borough of Bedford, remaining within the administrative county of Bedfordshire. In April 2009, the borough of Bedford became a unitary authority and Bedfordshire became purely a ceremonial county.

The Jewish Community

There was a medieval Jewish community in Bedford. In modern times, Jews began settling in Bedford in the 1780s(i) although a congregation was not established until 1803, which survived until 1827. A congregation was re-established in 1837 which closed in the 1870s. In 1903, a congregation was again established but this had closed after about four years. In 1939 as a result of the influx of war-time evacuees, a congregation was re-established yet again, which appears to have been largely dormant in the 1950s and 1960s, and which had closed by the early 2000s.

In 1967, a progressive congregation (now known as the Bedfordshire Progressive Synagogue) was formed. This initially met from time to time in Bedford, and from 1982 relocated primarily to Luton, now holds most of its services in Bedford.

Data on the Congregations

Early 19th Century Congregation(iv)


The first Bedford Jewish congregation was established by Michael Joseph in 1803.


Little is known of the congregation, its synagogue and its officers.


Ashkenazi Orthodox


The synagogue was dismantled and services discontinued in 1827.


Mid-19th Century Congregation(v)


The second Bedford synagogue was established in 1837.


The congregation met only on the solemn festivals, initially a private room in Offa Street, St. Peter's, Bedford, serving as the place of worship. By 1853, the synagogue was situated in High Street, St. Peters, Bedford.

Officers and Members:

The congregation, at least initially and in 1853, had only five members (0ne of whom in 1837 was non-resident). The known members were:

Godfrey Levy, who presided over the congregation in 1853.

Moses (Morris) Lissack, a 'teacher of languages and dealer in jewelry', who had settled in Bedford in 1839 and the only Jew in Bedford in 1879.

Lewis Levy (probably son of Godfrey Levy), the last secretary of this congregation, who in 1833 had received his authorisation as shochet and in 1862 performed a marriage ceremony.


Ashkenazi Orthodox

Membership Data:

Board of Deputies Returns(vi) - Number of male seatholders:









*one of whom was a non-resident.


The synagogue had become defunct by the 1870s.


Early 20th Century Congregation


Bedford Hebrew Congregation(xi)


none listed.

When Formed:



The congregation had come to an end by about 1907.(xiii)


Ashkenazi Orthodox


An unaffiliated congregation, presumably under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi.

Reader & Shochet:  

Rev. Daniel Caplan - from 1903 until about 1906.(xiv)

Lay Officers:

Alfred Newmann - President c.1903-c.1907 and Treasurer c.1905-c.1907.(xvii)

Isaac Abrahams - Treasurer c.1903-c.1905.(xviii)

Alfred Finestone - Hon. Secretary c.1903-c.1905.(xix)


Mid/Late 20th Century Congregation


Bedford Hebrew Congregation(xxv)


none listed.


The congregation was formed in 1939(xxvi) as a result of the influx into the town of war-time evacuees from from built-up areas.


Numbers began to dwindle again following the termination of the war, to the extent that the congregation was practically dormant from the late 1940s until the early 1960s,(xxvii) and thereafter services were generally only held on high holy days. The congregation came to an end by the early 2000s.(xxviii)


Ashkenazi Orthodox


An unaffiliated congregation, under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi.


None listed.

To view a short profile of a minister - hold the cursor over his name.

Dayan Dr. Julius Jakobovits - in about 1941.(xxx)

Rabbi A. Rappaport - from at least 1945 until about 1947.(xxxi)

Lay Officers:

S. Orgel - President from at least 1945 until about 1947.(xxxii)

S. Keye - Treasurer from at least 1945 until about 1947.(xxxii)

John Trevax - Hon. Secretary from at least 1945 until about 1947.(xxxii)

A. Rochlin - Hon. Secretary from at least 1964 until about 1971 and Chairman from about 1971 until at least 1978.(xxxiii)

R.J. Berman - Hon. Secretary from about 1978 until 2000s.(xxxiv)

Membership Data:

Reports & Survey(xxxv)

1977 - 10 male (or household) members and 1 female member

1983 - 10 male (or household) members and 1 female member


Search the All-UK Database

The records in the database associated with Bedford include:

  • 1851 Anglo Jewry Database, including Bilston (3 miles to the southeast) (updated 2016)

    • Individuals in the 1851 Anglo Jewry Database who were living in Bedford during the 1780s (1 record), 1790s (2 records), 1800s (7 records), 1810s (5 records); 1820s (7 records), 1830s (17 records), 1840s (31 records), 1850s (30 records), 1860s (10 records), 1870s (8 records) and 1880s (8 records).


Online Articles and Other Material
relating to the Bedford Jewish Community



Other Bedford Jewish Institutions & Organisations

  • Jewish Residents Association - existing from late 1970s to early 1990s.(xxxviii)

  • Ladies Zionist Society (later Ladies Aid Society) - existing in the late 1940s.(xxxix)


Community Records

  • Registration District (for BMD): Bedford (since 1 April 2009).

    • Previous Registration Districts
         Bedford (from 1 July 1837 to 1 May 1999);
         Bedfordshire (1 May 1999 to 1 April 2009).

    • Any registers would now be held by the current register office.

    • Register Office website


 Bedford Jewish Cemetery Information

There is no known Jewish cemetery in Bedford.


Bedford Jewish Population Data


Approx. Number




(The Jewish Year Book 1906/7)



(The Jewish Year Book 1964)



(The Jewish Year Book 1978)



(The Jewish Year Book 1983)



(The Jewish Year Book 1984)



(The Jewish Year Book 1985)



(The Jewish Year Book 1987)



(The Jewish Year Book 1991)



(The Jewish Year Book 1993)



(The Jewish Year Book 2000)



(The Jewish Year Book 2002)


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) Section on Bedford from The Rise of Provincial Jewry by Cecil Roth, 1950.

  • (ii) and (iii) Reserved.

  • (iv) Sole source of information is the section on Bedford from The Rise of Provincial Jewry by Cecil Roth, 1950, in part quoting Margoliouth.

  • (v) Except where otherwise stated, the source of information on this congregation is also the section on Bedford from The Rise of Provincial Jewry by Cecil Roth, 1950.

  • (vi) Paper prepared by Dr. Aubrey Newman for a conference at University College, London, convened on 6 July 1975 by the Jewish Historical Society of England

  • (vii) to (x) Reserved.

  • (xi) This is the name under which the congregation is listed in Jewish Year Books 1903/4 through 1906/7.

  • (xii) Jewish Year Book 1903/4

  • (xiii) The congregation's final listing was in the Jewish Year Book 1906/7.

  • (xiv) The Jewish Chronicle of 1 January 1904 reported that Rev. D. Caplan, "late of Sydney and formerly of Pontypridd", had been elected chazan, shochet and teacher of the congregation at the end of 1903. He was listed as reader of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1904/5 through 1906/7. To view a short profile of Rev. Caplan - hold the cursor over his name.

  • (xv) and (xvi) Reserved.

  • (xvii) Based upon Mr. Newmann's listing as president in Jewish Year Books 1903/4 through 1906/7 and as treasurer in the editions 1905/6 and 1906/7.

  • (xviii) Based upon Mr. Abrahams's listing as treasurer in Jewish Year Books 1903/4 and 1904/5.

  • (xviii) Based upon Mr. Finestone's listing as hon secretary in Jewish Year Books 1903/4 and 1904/5.

  • (xx) to (xxiv) Reserved.

  • (xxv) This was the name listed in Jewish Year Books and in reports of the Board of Deputies.

  • (xxvi) The Jewish Year Book 1945/6 states that the congregation was established in 1939 and the 1964 edition states that it was formed in the 1939/45 War.

  • (xxvii) The congregation was not even listed in Jewish Year Books 1948 through 1963.

  • (xxviii) The congregation ceased being listed with effect from the Jewish Year Book 2012,although it probably became defunct some years earlier.

  • (xxix) Reserved.

  • (xxx) Dayan Jakobovits's Jewish Chronicle obituary 14 February 1947.

  • (xxxi) Based upon the listing of Rabbi A. Rapaport as minister in the first Jewish Year Book following World War II (1945/6) and in the 1947 edition.

  • (xxxii) Based upon the listing of Messrs Orgel, Keye and Trevax in the respective offices in the first Jewish Year Book following World War II (1945/6) and in the 1947 edition.

  • (xxxiii) Based upon A. Rochlin's listing as hon. secretary in Jewish Year Books 1964 through 1971 and as chairman 1972 through 1978.

  • (xxxiv) Based upon R.J. Berman's listing as hon. secretary in Jewish Year Books 1979 through 2011, although the congregation may have closed some years earlier.

  • (xxxv) Reports on synagogue membership in the United Kingdom, published by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and which can be viewed on the website of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research. Click HERE for links to the various reports.

  • (xxxvi) and (xxxvii) Reserved.

  • (xxxviii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1979 through 1993.

  • (xxxix) Listed respectively in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1473.

World War II Evacuee Communities

Jewish Congregations in Bedfordshire

Jewish Communities of England homepage

First Bedford page created: 21 September 2005
Bedford pages merged, data significantly expanded and notes added: 26 December 2022
Page most recently amended: 30 March 2024

Research and formatting by David Shulman

Explanation of Terms   |   About JCR-UK  |   JCR-UK home page

Contact JCR-UK Webmaster:

JGSGB  JewishGen

Terms and Conditions, Licenses and Restrictions for the use of this website:

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 - 2024 JCR-UK. All Rights Reserved