The date about which the first Jewish family arrived in South
Shields is obscure but there is evidence that Aaron Simon Gompetz
arrived in South Shields in 1846. He was followed later by Henry
Kossick and Samuel Levy and their families. These three families
formed the nucleus of the congregation. There was then no synagogue
or organised Jewish religious life in South Shields; the Jews
travelled to North Shields from 1850 onwards for religious services
and the children received their Hebrew instruction there. There
was a Congregation in North Shields in Linskill Street, and a burial
ground at Preston.
The Gompetz family were joined by Joseph Pearlman and Lazarus
Joseph and their families and by 1880 they had started services in
a private house. In 1885 the said Aaron Simon Gompetz was
certified as first secretary for Jewish marriages in South Shields.
The register shows that the first marriage was solemnised at Sunny
Terrace, South Shields in 1892. This apparently was a hall used
as a temporary synagogue. As new members joined the congregation
they decided to acquire larger premises for communal worship.
There must have been a sizeable community then for the Jewish Year
Book of 1890 records that the Hebrew school consisted of 35 boys
and 5 girls. The Headmaster was Rev. Bernard Lipkin and the
Rev. Lawrence of Sunderland was a visiting minister.
South Shields is situated on the South bank of the River Tyne
about ten miles east of Newcastle and has surpassed North Shields as
its main port of entry. It is the industrial port for the Tyne,
loading its heavy cargoes of coal, iron and steel to the continent
and its ships returning with grain, textiles and indeed all kinds
of merchandise. It is not surprising therefore that Jews settled
in this busy town which had direct links with the Baltic and German
ports. Some of the Jews who had settled earlier in North Shields -
the twin town on the opposite side of the river - subsequently
settled in South Shields, thus diminishing the size of the earlier
By 1897 the Jewish population had reached 100 and the small
community decided to purchase a house, No. 38 Charlotte Square, which
was converted into a Synagogue. The executive consisted of:
President J. Pearlman, Treasurer S. Levy, Secretary J. Gompetz.
The weekly income was 31/6. There is reference to a marriage in
that year. As the congregation grew it became necessary at the
High Festivals to obtain more accommodation at the New Victoria Hall
in Fowler Street, or at the Presbyterian Hall in Ingram Street. The
community subsequently purchased a plot of land in Wharton Street
with a view to building a synagogue, but later disposed of this
land at a profit.
New immigrants kept on arriving from the continent and by
1900 there was a Jewish population of 140. A Chevra Kadisha was
founded with 25 members and a Board of Guardians with 30 Founder
members. The president of this institution was J. Pearlman and
W. Sheckman was the treasurer. A Chovevi Zion movement was also
established in the same year. In addition to the other institutions
there was also a Ladies' Benevolent Society.