the former

Sunderland Jewish Community

Sunderland, Tyne & Wear




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congregations throughout the British Isles and Gibraltar, both past and present.
NOTE: We are not the official website for this community.

City of Sunderland

Sunderland, only granted city status in 1992, is an important seaport in the North East of England, lying on both sides of the estuary of the river Wear on the North Sea coast.  The present boundaries date from 1974, when the metropolitan borough of Sunderland was formed, within the then new metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear.  Sunderland became a unitary authority in 1986 when metropolitan counties were abolished except for ceremonial purposes.  Until 1974, Sunderland was a county borough and historically part of County Durham. Sunderland has been a registration district since 1 July 1837.

The Sunderland Jewish Community

The first Jewish settlement in Sunderland was in 1755 and the first congregation was established in about 1768.  Sunderland was the first provincial community to be represented on the Board of Deputies of British Jews.  A vibrant Jewish community developed in the town, numbering up to some 2,000 between the wars, and still almost 1,400 individuals in the mid-1960's. However, the numbers dramatically dwindled to a mere handful by the mid-2000's, with the last remaining synagogue closing in 2006.

The first Jew to settle in Sunderland is believed to be Abraham Samuel, who became a jeweller and silversmith, and died in 1794. He was joined shortly after his arrival by his brother Hart (Mark) Samuel and by a family by the name of Davis.(iii)

Jewish Congregations

The following are the Jewish congregations that existed in Sunderland:

The following are former or alternative names of the above congregations:

    • Adath Yeshurun - see Sunderland Hebrew Congregation

    • Chevra Torah - see Sunderland Beth Hamedrash

    • Englisher Shul - see Sunderland Hebrew Congregation

    • Greeners' Shul - see Sunderland Beth Hamedrash

    • Israelites Congregation - see Sunderland Hebrew Congregation

    • Meaburn Street Synagogue - see Sunderland Beth Hamedrash

    • Moor Street Synagogue - see Sunderland Hebrew Congregation

    • Mowbray Road Synagogue - see Sunderland Beth Hamedrash

    • Ryhope Road Synagogue - see Sunderland Hebrew Congregation

    • The Cedars Synagogue - see Sunderland Yeshiva Synagogue

    • Villiers Street Synagogue - see Sunderland Beth Hamedrash

    • Vine Street Synagogue - see Polish Synagogue

    • Zion Street Synagogue - see Sunderland Beth Hamedrash


Sunderland's only Communal Rabbi

(To view a short profile of Rabbi Zahn, hold the cursor over his name.)


Sunderland Jewish Cemeteries Information


Search the Sunderland Jewish Cemeteries Database,
including burial records and photographs of the headstones,
as well as plans of the cemeteries

The following four cemeteries have been used, consecutively, by the Jewish Community in Sunderland:

  • Ayeres Quay Cemetery

    This is the earliest known of the Sunderland Jewish cemeteries, in use from about the 1770's until 1856. Although it is estimated that up to 500 persons may have been buried at the cemetery, the site, some distance from the Jewish community, has been neglected, is overgrown and has been the object of vandalism over the years.

    All that remains visible and legible is a broken monument and two headstones. The monument bears the inscription - "This monument was erected by the children of David Jonassohn of Usworth Hall, Durham, in memory of their beloved parent who died on the 25th July 1859 in the sixty fourth year of ......". One headstone is inscribed (in English) - "In memory of Leah Louise Lee, Widow of the late Aaron Levi Lee...", and the other stone bears the Hebrew inscription to Reb Moshe, son of Reb. Shlomo, who died aged 67 and whose date of death appears to be Friday 8 Nisan 5615 (which, if correct, corresponds to 25th May 1855.) The remaining text on the stones was not decipherable.

  • First Bishopwearmouth Cemetery.

    This plot, in use from 1856 to 1899, is at the northeastern corner of the main Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, adjacent to Hylton Road, Sunderland, and contains over 100 graves. The inscriptions on many of the stones are still legible. A list of most of those known to have been buried here appears as an Appendix to Arnold Levy's "History of the Sunderland Jewish Community 1755-1955", Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1956.

  • Second Bishopwearmouth Cemetery.

    This cemetery, in use from 1899 to 1926, is situated in the central section of the western side of the main Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, Sunderland.

  • Third Bishopwearmouth Cemetery

    This cemetery, dating from 1926 and still in use, is to the northwest of the main Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, Sunderland. It is accessible from Hylton Road.

Records of these cemeteries are also on the JOWBR and/or All-UK Database (see below).

(For additional information, see IAJGS Cemetery Project - Sunderland)


Search the All-UK Database

The records in the database associated with Sunderland include:

  • Burials

    • All-UK Database

      • Bishopwearmouth Cemetery , 1874-1996 (1,178 records*);

      • M Levy Salem Hill Jewish Funerals, 1913-1941 (316 records*); and

      • WWII Civilian Casualties, (5 records)
        *A search in the database may also reveal duplicates of these records on JOWBR (JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Register).

    • See also JCR-UK Hosted Database above

  • Marriages

    • 1837 - 1985 (716 records).

  • UK Jewish Communal Leaders Database - Sunderland records:

    • Jewish Directory for 1874 (records of 26 individuals);

    • Jewish Year Book 1896/97 (records of 13 individuals); and

    • JCR-UK Listings (records of 412 individuals - as of the  March 2024 update).

  • 1851 Anglo Jewry Database (as of the 2016 update)

    • Individuals in the "1851" database who were living in Sunderland during the 1780s, 1790s, 1800s and 1810s (1 record for each year); 1820s (13 records), 1830s (38 records), 1840s (81 records), 1850s (127 records), 1860s (58 records), 1870s (33 records), 1880s (21 records), 1890s (8 records), 1900s (3 records) and 1910s (1 record).


On-line Articles and Other Material
relating to the Sunderland Jewish Community


on third party's website

Notable Jewish Connections with Sunderland

  • Jewish Mayors of Sunderland:

    • Sir Jack Cohen, OBE (c.1897-1982), who was Labour Leader on the Sunderland Council, served as Mayor of Sunderland in 1949/50.

    • Lady Kitty Cohen (c.1897-1980), the wife of Sir Jack Cohen, served as Mayor of Sunderland in 1961/2.

    • Cllr. Charles Slater (c.1929-2017), a former Labour Leader on the Sunderland Council and a Deputy Lieutenant of the County, served as Mayor of Sunderland in 1976/7.

  • Manchester-born Judge Myrella Cohen, QC (1927-2002), an active member of the Sunderland Jewish community, was one of Britain's first female judges and, at the time (aged 44), she the youngest person to be appointed as a judge and was the first women to hold judicial office on the NE Circuit. Her husband, Sunderland-born solicitor, Lt. Col. Mordaunt Cohen, MBE, TD (1916-2019), was a decorated World War II veteran and one of the most prominent members of the Sunderland Jewish community. He served as Conservative Leader on the Sunderland Council (1967-1974) and was a Deputy Lieutenant of the County. In 1974 he was appointed Chairman of Industrial Tribunals, Newcastle, whereupon he and Myrella made legal history becoming the first married couple in Britain to both hold full-time judicial roles. He was also a former chairman of AJEX and for 60 years (until the age of 99), he led the 1st AJEX Battalion down Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday.

  • Lieut. Colonel Marcus Lipton, CBE (1900-1978), Labour politician who served as Member of Parliament for Lambeth Brixton (1965-1974) and Lambeth Central (1974-1978), was born and grew up in Sunderland.

  • Ernest (Ernie) Lotinga (1875-1951), a celebrated actor and comedian, was born in Sunderland and the son of a former president of the Sunderland Hebrew Congregation.

  • Australian-born Dr. Marion Phillips (1881-1932), a prominent figure in labour and women’s movements, was the Labour Party's first Chief Woman Officer (1918-1932) and was elected as Member of Parliament for Sunderland in 1929 serving until 1931. She was Sunderland's first female MP and was also Britain's first Jewish female MP (biography).


Other Sunderland Jewish Institutions & Organisations

Educational & Theological

Sunderland's Menorah School, providing both secular and religious studies, commenced activities in Autumn 1958, initially with a kindergarten group of eight children, using a room provided by the Beth Hamedrash. By 1962 it had grown to four primary school classes and 60-70 children and by 1964 there was a full complement of classes for children aged 4 to 11. At one stage there were over 100 pupils. In 1961, the school moved to a new building at 21 Thornhill Park. However, as the community contracted, coupled with a lower birth rate, there was a sharp decline in numbers beginning in the 1970s. The school moved to premises adjoining the Ryhope Road synagogue in about 1978 and closed in the 1980s.(vii)

Other Institutions & Organisations

This Home, opened on 22 September 1946, was a regional retirement home for aged Jews in the Northeast of England. The home was made possible as the result of a generous gift by Joseph Intract of Newcastle of a large house at 3 Gray Road, Sunderland, on 1½ acres of ground, which was suitable for conversion into a retirement home for some thirty residents. The conditions laid down by Mr. Intract, all of which were accepted, were that the home was to be open to both men and women; that it was to be conducted on strictly orthodox lines; and that it would be named in memory of his late brother, Joel. The home included a synagogue on the ground floor. A new wing was added in 1957 and a further extension took place in 1962.(viii) The home closed in the late 1990s and was transferred to Philip Cussins House in Newcastle.

In June 1939, a hostel was set up in Sunderland, in conjunction with the South Shields community, to give a home and refuge to young Jewish girl refugees, aged five to fourteen, who had escaped Nazi oppression (and near certain death) in Germany and Czechoslovakia and who had reached England by way of the Kindertransport. The hostel, which initially housed 32 girls, later reduced to 24 when eight found relatives in Britain, was at 2 Kensington Esplanade, Sunderland. The building had been provided by Julius Behrman and following the war, in 1946, it was transferred free of charge to became the first home of the Sunderland Yeshiva.(ix)

A chevra kadisha (often referred to as a burial society in English) is the association which is charged with preparing the body of the deceased for burial according to Jewish tradition and ensuring that it is protected from desecration until burial. The Sunderland Chevra Kadisha, which encompassed both congregations in the town, was formally organised in 1869.(x)

    • Board of Shechita (c.1938-1965), later United Shechita Board (c.1965-c.2000) - List of Officers

Founded on 24 July 1869, as the Sunderland Hebrew Benevolent Society, until some time between 1877 and 1992, when the above name was adopted. Its object were for the relief of Jewish Poor.(xii) 














Annual income:













Number relieved:













Founded by at least 1896 and known as the Maternity Society until about 1900 and then as Sunderland Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society until about 1925. Its objects were initially "to assist poor Jewish women", but in 1925 this was expanded to "to assist poor and ailing Jewish women and further women's welfare in Palestine". It continued to exist until at least 1959.(xiv)

    • Jewish Dorcas (c.1921-c.1924)

    • Orphan Aid Society, branch (from at least 1896) - List of Officers

    • Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women, Sunderland Branch at least 1922 to 1952(xv) - List of Officers

  • Literary & Social Associations

The club, whose address was 22 Murton Street, Sunderland, was active from at least 1903 until the 1930s.(xviii)

Various Jewish literary associations had existed in Sunderland at different times, dating back to the latter part of the nineteenth century, when distinguished guests would be invited to address the literary group. However, by the early years of the twentieth century the literary society appears to have disappeared. In 1911, it was relaunched by Sol Novinski and was known as the Jewish Literary & Debating Society. In about 1920, the society was reorganised and became known as the Jewish Literary Society, adopting the name Jewish Literary Circle in about 1926. Over the years meetings were held at a number of venues, including Lawrence Street, Hudson Road, Boilermakers' Hall (Norfolk Street), Unity Chambers (Frederick Street) and the Ryhope Road Synagogue Communal Hall. The "Lit" was continuously very active and in full bloom until the outbreak of World War II. However, although it continued for some years following the war, it never fully regained its former self, despite several attempts to reorganise it.(xix) In about 1955, it merged with the Sunderland Judeans Sports Club to form the Sunderland Jewish Club.(xx)

  • Friendly Societies, Lodges, etc.:









In existence from at least 1924 to at least 1934. It was formed with the objects of collecting funds for distressed Jews in the Ukraine.(xxix)

  • Women's Organisations

Over the years, a number of ladies or women institutions had been listed in Jewish Year Books, commencing in 1909, and, in most instances, it was not clear as to whether they were connected to a specific congregation or were communal. These institutions included the Jewish Women's Guild, Jewish Ladies Guilds, Royal Infirmary (Jewish Ladies Guild), League of Jewish Women, Guild of Jewish Women and the Jewish Women's War Service Committee.(xxx)

  • Youth and Sports Organisations:

The Sunderland Judæans were active from at least 1936 until World War II (or possibly for a short while after it ended).(xxxiv) However, while it was still active, a Judæan Sports Club (affiliated with British Maccabi) appears to have been formed in about 1938. It is unclear whether this remained active during, and for the first few years following, World War II but by about 1949, it was again active until about 1955.(xxxv) In that year a Delegate Committee was formed to oversee the amalgamation of the Judæan Sports Club with the Sunderland Jewish Literary Circle,(xxxvi) to form the Sunderland Jewish Club, which does not appear to have been active for long and possibly ceased to exist by about 1959.(xxxvii)

    • Students Society - from at least 1973 to c.1982(xlviii)

    • Youth Representative Council - from at least 1975 to c.1983(xlix)

    • Jewish Youth Study Group - from at least 1978 to c.1986(l)

Sunderland always possessed a strong Zionist movement and ultimately many members of the community made aliyah to Israel. The first Zionist society was formed in about 1899 and Rabbi H. Hurwitz was a delegate to the 6th Zionist Congress in Basle in 1903.(lv)

For Young Zionist associations - see above

  • Miscellaneous

    • Anglo-Jewish Association, Sunderland branch (from at least 1896)

    • Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men & Women (AJEX)(lxvi) - List of Officers

    • Council of Christians and Jews - at least 1946 to 1959

    • Judæan Section of St Johns Ambulance Brigade - from at least 1948 to 1959(lxvii) - List of Officers

    • Naturalization Society (from at least 1896)


Community Records

  • Registration District (for BMD):Sunderland (since 1 July 1837)


Sunderland Jewish Population Data





150 to 200

(1851 Synagogue Census Return)



(Jewish Chronicle)



(Sunderland Hebrew Benevolent Society report)



(The Jewish Year Book 1896/7)



(The Jewish Year Book 1902/3)



(The Jewish Year Book 1912)



(The Jewish Year Book 1920)



(The Jewish Year Book 1945/6)



(The Jewish Year Book 1951)



(The Jewish Year Book 1955)



(The Jewish Year Book 1961)



(The Jewish Year Book 1962)



(The Jewish Year Book 1966)



(The Jewish Year Book 1974)



(The Jewish Year Book 1975)



(The Jewish Year Book 1976)



(The Jewish Year Book 1980)



(The Jewish Year Book 1983)



(The Jewish Year Book 1984)



(The Jewish Year Book 1985)



(The Jewish Year Book 1986)



(The Jewish Year Book 1989)



(The Jewish Year Book 1990)



(The Jewish Year Book 1991)



(The Jewish Year Book 1992)



(The Jewish Year Book 1998)



(The Jewish Year Book 2001)



(The Jewish Year Book 2008)


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) and (ii) Reserved.

  • (iii) History of the Sunderland Jewish Community 1955-1955 by A. Levy (1956) ("Levy's History") p.27.

  • (iv) and (v) Reserved.

  • (vi) The Jewish Communities of North-East England by L. Olsover (1980) ("Olsover"), pp.286/8.

  • (vii) Listed in Jewish Year Books at Ryhope Road from 1979. School last listed in the 1983 edition.

  • (viii) Olsover pp. 290/3.

  • (ix) Olsover p.284 and The Sunderland Beth Hamedresh 1889-1999 by D. Taylor & H. Davis (2010) ("Taylor-Davis SBH"), pp 173/4.

  • (x) Levy's History p.65.

  • (xi) Reserved.

  • (xii) Levy's History p.81. Annual figures were extracted from Jewish Year Books. According to Taylor-Davis SBH pp. 14 & 25, there was a society called the Society for the Sick and Aged founded in 1841, which in 1874 became the Hebrew Benevolent Fund and which later split into the Sunderland Board of Guardians and the Hebrew Congregation's Gemiluth Chasodim.

  • (xiii) Listed in The Jewish Directory of 1874 by Asher I. Myers (with a note of year founded). It was not listed in any Jewish Year Book, first published 1896/7.

  • (xiv) Listed in Jewish Year Books from the first publication (1896/7, when it had 40 members). The changes of name reflect the respective names under which it was listed.

  • (xv) Listed in Jewish Year Books from 1923 through 1952.

  • (xvi) and (xvii) Reserved.

  • (xviii) Listed in Jewish Year Books from 1904/4 through 1936, always with the same address.

  • (xix) Olsover, pp.281/3 and Jewish Year Book listings.

  • (xx) Jewish Year Book 1956.

  • (xxi) Date of formation and annual numbers were extracted from Jewish Year Books.

  • (xxii) and (xxiii) Reserved.

  • (xxiv) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1940, 1945/6 and 1947.

  • (xxv) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1906/7 through 1924.

  • (xxvi) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1920 through 1938.

  • (xxvii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1925 through 1931.

  • (xxviii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1925 through 1934.

  • (xxix) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1925 through 1934.

  • (xxx) Jewish Year Books 1909 through 1995.

  • (xxxi) and (xxxiii) Reserved.

  • (xxxiv) Listed in Jewish Year Books in 1939, 1940 and in 1945/6. However, it is unclear whether the entry for 1945/6 is correct or whether it was still active following the war.

  • (xxxv) Listed in Jewish Year Books in 1939 and 1940 and from 1950 through 1959. However, the last couple of years may have been an error in light of the almagamation in about 1955 (see next note).

  • (xxxvi) Jewish Year Book from 1956.

  • (xxxvii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1956 through 1959.

  • (xxxviii) and (xxxix) Reserved.

  • (xl) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1920 and 1921.

  • (xli) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1937 and 1938.

  • (xlii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1935 through 1938.

  • (xliii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1935 and 1937.

  • (xliv) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1939 and 1940.

  • (xlv) and (xlvi) Reserved.

  • (xlvii) Although only listed in Jewish Year Books from 1956 through 1959 (with date of formation given), it exited well into the 1970s.

  • (xlviii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1974 through1983.

  • (xlix) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1976 through 1983.

  • (xlix) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1979 through 1986.

  • (li) to (liii) Reserved.

  • (liv) Listed in Jewish Year Books only from 1914 through 1938.

  • (lv) Olsover pp. 275/6.

  • (lvi) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1955 through 1995.

  • (lvii) Reserved.

  • (lviii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1920 through 1940.

  • (lix) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1926 through 1938.

  • (lx) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 through 1952.

  • (lxi) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1953 through 1959.

  • (lxii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1964 through 1994.

  • (lxiii) to (lxv) Reserved.

  • (lxvi) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1949 through 1959.

  • (lxvii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1939 through 1954.

  • (lxviii) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1949 through 1959.

  • (lxix) Listed in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 through 1959.

Jewish Congregations in Tyne and Wear

Jewish Communities of England home page

Page created: 21 August 2005
Data significantly expanded and notes added: 17 January 2022
Latest revision or update: 26 March 2024

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