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by Cecil Roth
(published 1950)

The Early Communities - Section 5 - (Oxford to Yarmouth)


For some time past, I have been engaged in collecting every scrap of material regarding the re-settlement of the Jews in this ancient University city, and I hope that the opportunity of publishing this will be afforded me before long.* It is sufficient if I sum up here my general results, leaving aside the stray scholars who came from time to time to teach Hebrew or to study. There were Jews living in Oxford as early as 1733, when the circumcision took place, at the hands of the expert Isaac Carricao de Payba, of Manuel ben Hayim Levy: his brother Abraham (whom I identify with an Andrew Levy who lived subsequently in the American colonies) is entered under the date 1750 in the same register. Various Oxford residents are recorded among the members of the London synagogues in the last decades of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the next. Among these was Henry Isaacs (Hirsch ben Moses Englander) who was buried in 1812 under the auspices of the Great Synagogue. The Gentleman's Magazine (lxxxii, 401) reports this in the following terms:

October, 1812: Death - Advanced in years, Mr. Isaacs, of Oxford. Being an Israelite he was immediately placed in a shell and forwarded to his Synagogue for interment in conformity to the funeral rites of that people.

This phraseology makes it appear probable that there was at that time no organised community in Oxford. The traditional date for the foundation is, in fact, 1841. There is good reason for believing that this is approximately correct. In 1842, Rabbi Hirschell authorised a certain Isaac Jacob Cohen as Shochet, but with the express condition that he should not function in Oxford. From this, one must deduce that there was already in that place a duly authorised functionary, probably appointed not long since, and not acting on his own behalf only. In 1851 indeed the foundation of the community was suggested to have taken place about three years since; but the difference is immaterial. The remainder of the history must be left to another occasion.

Note to Oxford

* My monograph, Jews in Oxford after 1290, will appear in Oxoniensia, by way of appendix to a substantial volume on the Jews of Medieval Oxford, which will shortly be published by the Oxford Historical Society.

Oxford Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



I have given a full account of the Jewish community of Penzance, based on the original minute-books in my possession, in two articles in The Jewish Chronicle of May and June 1933: the only comprehensive record of any of the small provincial communities hitherto published. It is enough for me here to recapitulate the bare outline. According to Margoliouth, the community was organised about the year 1740, but my records begin in 1807, when the new Synagogue in New Street was dedicated. However, the history of the congregation clearly goes back for some time earlier, as "Rabbi" Abraham Hart (d. 1784) and Lazarus Hart (d. 1803), grandfather and father respectively of the communal Maecenas Lemon Hart, subsequently of London, had both according to report been local residents. The community knew a brief period of prosperity in the first half of the nineteenth century, under the leadership of a few men of profound Jewish enthusiasm, but decayed in the latter part of the reign of Victoria. The Synagogue (still standing) was sold in 1906, the proceeds being devoted to the upkeep of the cemetery, and the community as such came to an end (according to my most recent information) in 1915.*

It may be recorded at this point, as a contribution to Anglo-Jewish folklore, that the Cornish Jews are said to have been in the habit of referring to London as Makom Lamed (='L-place').

Note to Penzance

* A possible communal worthy was Mr. Levy, who according to G. C. Boase, Collectanea Cornubiensia (1890), p. 498, died suddenly at Penzance on April 9th, 1817, a reputed centenarian. I cannot trace him in the congregational records.

Penzance Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



The first record of Jews in Plymouth is in A Picture of Plymouth (1740), in which seven persons may be traced: two dealers in naval stores, two silversmiths, a grocer, a general merchant, and a slop-seller.(i) If authentic, this record is important, for it makes it probable that, though direct evidence is lacking, Jews were settled in the other seaports at this date in approximately similar proportions. Not long after, in 1752, a cemetery on the Hoe (facing what is now Frobisher Terrace) was acquired through the agency of Jacob Myer Sherrenbeck. Hitherto, the community had worshipped in extemporised premises; situated, according to tradition, in Hoor or Woolsten Street.

The Plymouth Synagogue

(Built 1761/3)
(from a photograph)


In 1761, however, a piece of ground for a new building was leased by the Mayor and Commonalty to Samuel Chapman, acting on behalf of J. Sherrenbeck and Gumpert Michael Emden, "elders of the Synagogue of the Jews." The same year, the sum of 300 was raised on mortgage in order to "complete the buildings and edifice which is designed for a Jewish Synagogue." The community still worships in this building, the oldest Synagogue in England outside the capital. It seems that doubts later arose as to whether the tenure of land by Jews, even for this purpose, was legal. In 1786 accordingly the lease was surrendered and a new one entered into with five leading Protestant citizens, who held it on trust for Abraham Joseph; eleven years later, another lease was granted to Henry Hart, Joseph Joseph and Samuel Hart. The construction of the permanent synagogue was apparently completed in 5524 (1763-4) which accordingly figures in the communal records as the official year of the establishment of the congregation. The statement has often been made that R. Tevele Schiff officiated as Rabbi in Plymouth before his appointment in London. This is based on a misinterpretation of the records, which include his name in a list of the Chief Rabbis of England who are stated to have 'exercised the Rabbinate in Plymouth' - itself important testimony to the authority of the office. During the interregnum in the London Rabbinate between the retirement of Hart Lyon in 1761 and the appointment of Tevele Schiff in 1763, one Hirsch Mannheim was licensed somewhat irregularly by the existing London authorities to act as Shochet in Plymouth.

Rabbi MOSES EPHRAIM of Plymouth

(from the original by A. Daniel
in the Author's collection)


The Abraham Joseph referred to above was the leading Jew of his day in the south-west of England. He was agent to the Duke of Clarence (subsequently William IV), was as charitable as he was wealthy, and was known popularly as the King of the Jews. A record of circumcisions which he carried out is in the possession of Mr. H. M. Harris, of London. Another local resident was the silversmith Benjamin S. Nathan, registered at the Exeter Assay Office, whose name ceases to figure in 1773. The early records of the community are now deposited in the Jewish Museum, London: particularly interesting are the lists of aliens compiled at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, with place of origin, port of entry, and previous places of residence carefully entered in every case. Early officiants included Phineas ben Samuel, author of Midrash Phineas (London, 1795), formerly a preacher in the metropolis, who was appointed as Dayan and Moreh Zedek in 1800 at a salary of 45 a year with coals and lighting; Rabbi Moses Ephraim, who died in 1815 at the age of 70, and is said to have obtained his Rabbinical diploma at the preternatural age of eight years (G.M. 1815, p. 375; his portrait by the Jewish artist A. Daniel is in my possession); and the centenarian Myer Leoni, said to have had one of the finest voices in the country, who officiated here as Hazan for upwards of sixty years, dying in 1829(ii) (Ibid. 1829, p. 380).

There was at this period a subordinate congregation at Plymouth Dock (separated from the Town itself by the Sound) the later Devonport. Here (where A Picture of Plymouth of 1812 enumerates several obviously Jewish residents, including three or four silversmiths) a shochet was appointed to supply local requirements from at least 1810 onwards.

Notes to Plymouth

(i) Cf. the article by Rumney in J.C. Supplement of January 1936: but the only edition of the Picture of Plymouth traceable, or known to the local antiquaries, is that of 1812, the data in which do not coincide by any means with those here given. (It shows in Plymouth house at least nine Jewish silversmiths). The date confirmed by R. N. Worth, A History of Plymouth (1890), which states that 'about the year 1740 several Hebrew families settled in the town, and formed a congregation in Broad Hoe Lane.' The oldest resident recorded in the Aliens' Roll of 1798 is Benjamin Nap, box-maker, of Ilbersheim (near Mannheim) who had arrived in England about 1745. A Joseph Cohen of Plymouth is mentioned in the London Gazette of October 1749.

(ii) This is not the famous singer of the name, formerly Hazan of the Great Synagogue in London, who died in Jamaica in 1796. But it looks as though he is identical with the Lema b. --,who was appointed (or reappointed ?) Shochet and Hazan for one year in 1796 at a salary of 25 per annum. Joseph Levy (of Lissa: formerly of Dusseldorf) and Moses Isaac (of Mesteryz: formerly of Frankfort, who had landed at Harwich in 1748) are enrolled in the local Aliens' Returns in 1803 as 'Clerk' of the Jews' Synagogue. (These data are derived from the earliest communal minute-book, now in the Jewish Museum, London.) The Commemoration Book records also Simon ben Nathan of Feiss(?), who was appointed ' Kahal's Rabbi' in 1812.

The Hazan Myer Leoni (who does not figure in the Aliens' Returns and therefore was presumably native-born) is probably identical with the Judah Leib ben Wolf of Edinburgh who figures elsewhere in the records as Reader: for a Wolf of Edinburgh, see above.

Plymouth Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



In 1936, I published in the Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society a fairly detailed account of the Portsmouth Community and its historical background, based on materials garnered in the congregational archives, the public library and the burial ground in the course of a hurried week-end visit. There is no need for me to do more than summarise my conclusions here. Local tradition ascribes the foundation of the community to 1742, but the congregational seal gives the date as 5507 (1746-7), and the cemetery was acquired in 1749. It is obvious in any case that the body was properly organised before the end of the first half of the eighteenth century. The original synagogue was in Oyster Street, off the High Street; later (probably in 1739) it was removed to White's Row (now Curzonhowe Road) Queen Street, Portsea. For a long time, the community, the basis of whose prosperity was the busy navy establishment and the coming and going of seamen, was the most important in England outside London. One day in 1758, a boatload of Jews hurrying back from a ship in the harbour on a Friday afternoon, in order to be home in time for the Sabbath, capsized in a sudden gust of wind, and eleven out of twelve were drowned: the survivor was one Samuel Emanuel, ancestor of a line of distinguished artists, authors, and lawyers. The commanding figure in the community in its early days, who may indeed be reckoned its founder, was Benjamin Levi, of Wiesbaden, engraver (some book-plates executed by him are extant): his children were artists, like himself, and he counts among his descendants the Waley and Waley Cohen families.

In 1765-6, there took place the great split in the congregation, which is of such importance in the history of the Chief Rabbinate, half of the members wishing to affiliate themselves to the Great Synagogue in London and its spiritual leader, and the rest to the Hambro' Synagogue and its Rabbi. This resulted in the formation by the latter element of a rival synagogue in Daniel's Row, Portsmouth Common, which flourished for some years (a communal circumcisional register which I found in the communal archives throws much intimate and amusing light on the inner history of the dispute*). In 1771, however, a concordat was reached between the two bodies, and in 1789 the secessionists penitently returned to the fold. Already in 1780 the original community had reconstructed its synagogue in White's Row, which continued to serve Portsmouth Jewry until 1936.

Note to Portsmouth

* The late Rev. M. Rosenbaum suggested to me that in the name of R. Leib Aleph, whose records were my main authority for reconstructing the history of the community and have been drawn upon continuously in these pages, the initial indicates Aub, which I tentatively suggested as his place of origin.

Portsmouth Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



The Ramsgate community stands in a category by itself, as it owed its existence to the enthusiasm and liberality of a single person, without whose aid it would never have come into existence. The full story may be read in Cardozo and Goodman's Centennial History, Think and Thank (Oxford 1933). I need say here only that the first local Jewish resident seems to have been Isaac Lyon, silversmith, whose name occurs in the rate-books from 1786 onwards, being joined within a couple of years by Levi Abraham, formerly of Portsmouth, and Noah Levi, a watchmaker. Sir Moses Montefiore took up his residence there in 1822, and in 1833 erected the Synagogue, where the Spanish and Portuguese rite is still followed.

Ramsgate Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



The invaluable Jewish Chronicle account of a century ago states that the Sheerness congregation was established about the year 1790, Isaac and Samuel Abrahams being the principal founders. Of the former, who had apparently come from Chatham, we know that he was a subscriber to the Jews' Hospital in 1808, and that his two sons, Abraham and Meir (known in the synagogue as "the sons of Isaac Chatham, of Sheerness") were admitted members of the Great Synagogue in 1807 and 1810 respectively. Solomon Moses, founder of the Jewish community of Goulburn, (Australia) was born at Sheerness in 1800, his parents being Simon and Caroline Moses. The port attained its greatest importance during the Napoleonic Wars; and its Jewish community developed pari passu. From the Navy List of 1816, it is possible to reconstruct a good part of its membership roll, the following names occurring among the licensed navy agents for petty officers and seamen: Joseph Aaron, Levy Alexander, Samuel Abrahams, Hyam Abrahams, Henry Abrahams, Benjamin Foreman (?), Abraham Moss, Samuel Solomon, and Sam. Solomon. (Levy Alexander was a kinsman of the late D. L. Alexander, President of the Board of Deputies, whose father Joshua Levy was left a fortune on condition that he changed his surname).

In 1811 a new synagogue was built. In The Star of May (?) 12th of that year we read:

On Friday last a new Synagogue was consecrated at Sheerness, which was very numerously attended, and the service performed by Messers Leos and Phillips, who went from London for that purpose. The music was composed by one of the Mes. Leos, and was perhaps as grand as has been witnessed, as Mr. Leo led the band in a most excellent manner. Several persons of distinction were admitted to see the ceremony performed.

This gives a very exaggerated account, I fear, of the Synagogue, which was situated in Blue Town between Sheppey Street and Kent Street, and according to report was a simple wooden structure. And it is perhaps significant that the Reader who came down to officiate was not attached to one of the larger London communities, but to the struggling Westminster Congregation in Denmark Court. Little about the history of the Synagogue is known - unlike its predecessor, which had come into the news once in 1810, the service being disturbed when a wild cat was thrown through the window and a reward of no less than 20 guineas was offered for the discovery of the perpetrator of the outrage. The cemetery was at the rear of what is now 61 High Street. (The title-deeds were exhibited by Dr. Adler at the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition of 1887, but I have been unable to trace them). It is a tiny plot, in which only eleven stones are now visible. The earliest legible is that of Hannah Moses, who died in 1804 aged 15 (?). This cemetery was in use until 1855; afterwards, from 1859 onwards, use was made of a Jewish plot in the Isle of Sheppey Cemetery. The Hazan in 1816 was Abraham ben R. Judah Leib, who in that year witnessed the marriage contract between Sarah Myers (daughter of Joel Myers of Maldon, for whom see p.19) and Hyam Abrahams of Sheerness brother of the Abraham Abrahams and Myer Abrahams mentioned above.

According to a record of the London Beth-Din in my possession, that body had its attention drawn in 1812 to an unseemly episode which had taken place in Sheerness. One Friday, a number of members of the community had gone aboard a man-o'-war in order to collect their debts. Since they could not finish before nightfall, most of them went ashore again. But they returned next day, on the Sabbath: and, once on board, they sold merchandise to the crew, and settled up with them, and even wrote down their accounts. The learned Dayanim imposed suitable spiritual penalties--even on those who had remained aboard overnight, as their intentions had not been pure, even though their actions may have been within the bounds of Rabbinic permissibility.

The Sheerness community began to decline with the close of the Napoleonic Wars. Ten out of the 47 Jews residing in Glasgow in 1831 were natives of Sheerness; and when in about 1841 the Synagogue was restored only five Jewish families were left and an outside appeal for help had to be made. At this time, the Secretary of the congregation was M. Abrahams; the Hazan from 1837 was a Mr. J. Benjamin, who in 1844 left to take up a similar position in Liverpool; and the Wardens were Isaac Jacobs and Moses Abrahams. In 1850, A. Abrahams (d. 1892) emigrated to Adelaide, where he played a prominent part in communal life. In 1853, there were fifteen seat-holders, and the President was John Jacobs (probably Isaac Jacobs' son). By the end of the century, the Congregation was in full decay. In about 1887, the Synagogue was in such a deplorable condition that, on the advice of the Chief Rabbi, it was dismantled: but it remained standing until about 1935, when it was pulled down. The last Trustees were G. M. Abrahams and M. Russell, who died between 1890 and 1900; thereafter, interest in the affairs was taken only by W. Telfer Leviansky, a well-known London solicitor and communal worker, on behalf of the estate of a Mrs. Jacobs, widow of a former trustee. Some of the appurtenances were sent to the Stroud congregation - itself now extinct - and others to the Norwood Jewish Orphanage; the Candelabrum for Hanukah, of a type common in English synagogues, went to the Mocatta Museum, London.

The most distinguished scion of the Sheerness community was Henry Russell* (originally Levy), the song-composer, whose Cheer, Boys, Cheer and Life on the Ocean Wave are still popular English songs. He was father of William Clarke Russell, famous as author of sea-novels and biographies, of Sir Herbert Russell the war-correspondent, and of Sir Landon Ronald the composer.

Note to Sheerness

* The Rev. M. Rosenbaum suggested that he may have belonged to the Raphael family, which supplied beadles to the Western Synagogue for three generations: several of the Russells were members of this Congregation.

Sheerness Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



The story of the Jewish community of Sheffield provides a curious example of the tendency of nineteenth-century Anglo-Jewry to confuse its origins. In the Jewish Directory of 1874, the date of the foundation of the Great Synagogue there is given as 1850, which one would have imagined to be correct. On the other hand, Margoliouth states, very plausibly, that Jewish merchants visited this centre as early as the eighteenth century, and the Jewish Year Book indicates that the Synagogue was established in 1790 when (it is said) two brothers, Philip and Isaac Bright, settled there. There were indeed Jews in the city in 1827, when Alderman Solomon Cohen, later of Hull (brother of Dr. George Cohen, the first Jewish Coroner), was born there (J.C. 13.iii.1903). The group centred apparently about a certain Mr. Jacobs (son of Joseph Jacobs, of London, a founder of the New Synagogue), whose son used to recount (J.C. 24.viii.1900) how they were the only Jewish family when they first arrived in Sheffield in the eighteen-twenties. They had their synagogue in their house, and their own Shochet, Abraham Neugass, who was in their service for twenty-five or thirty years and used to supply Kosher meat also for the two Jewish families then living in Leeds.

According to A. A. Levy (followed as usual by Margoliouth) a permanent congregation was established only in 1838, mainly through the exertions of Messrs. Emanuel and Jacobs. (I am at a loss to reconcile this with the tradition that the synagogue's annual appeal on behalf of the local hospitals was instituted in 1828: though I must say that it is a tradition which impresses me as being of very recent origin, and based perhaps on faulty arithmetic). In 1842, the Synagogue was situated in Folly Street, and the burial ground in Boden Street. The reader was I. Levy, the President I. Ezekiel, and the Secretary was M. Emanuel*: and there were ten Jewish families in the town. When Margoliouth wrote, in 1851, the number had doubled.

Note to Sheffield

* He must have retired shortly after; in the Jewish Chronicle of 22.vii.47 the Congregation advertised for a Hazan-shochet; applications were to be made to Mr. A. Leon, presumably Emanuel's successor as Secretary.

Sheffield Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



The Jewish Year Book gives the date of the Southampton community as 1864, but this is the year of the construction of the permanent synagogue, the community having been in existence at least since 1833, a room in East Street serving as its centre. Jews were, however, settled there half a century earlier still, a Mordecai Moses, alias Edwards, watchmaker, living there as early as 1785; he was possibly the father of the Naphtali ben Mordecai, whom Reb Leib Aleph, of Portsmouth, circumcised in 1782. Members of the Emanuel family of Portsmouth settled there, probably before the close of the reign of George III. Moses Sailman, formerly of Oxford, was living there in 1815 as a teacher of Hebrew, and published a polemic work against the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity among the Jews. He specifically states indeed in this (pp. 58-9) that, although the conversionists had established contact with one of his coreligionists in the town, 'there was no congregated body of Israelites there.'* One was, however, established (as we have seen) well before the close of the Rabbinate of Solomon Hirschell (d. 1842), who was in correspondence with it. Nor was it of negligible dimensions, for it was large enough to indulge in a split, apparently over the Shochet, a certain Mr. Goldman. Thus, for a short time, Southampton too had two congregations. It was one of the first important achievements of Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, after his appointment to the Chief Rabbinate, to introduce peace and unity in the group.

The original Census return of 1851 confirms the date of the establishment of the community as 1833.

Note to Southampton

* The only possibly Jewish names that occur among the local subscribers to Sailman's book are those of J. Hart, Geo. Jacob and I. Davids. It is interesting to note the names also of L. Isaacs, of Oxford, -- Segar, of Guernsey, and M. Davis, of Poole.

An Aaron Myers died in Southampton in 1823.

Southampton Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



The case of Sunderland is an outstanding one, showing how prone English Jews have been to forget their history. In 1911 the fiftieth anniversary of the local congregation was formally celebrated. But by that time it had probably been in existence for something less than a century and a half. The Newcastle Courant announced, in 1791, how on December 3, a marriage was celebrated at Sunderland according to the rites and ceremonies of the Jews between Lyon Hermann, dentist, of Edinburgh (see above), and Mrs. H. Pollock, widow of the late Mr. Pollock, merchant in London. Since neither of the parties was apparently a native of Sunderland, it is probable that they went thither for their marriage because the town already harboured an established community. From the same periodical we learn details of the outstanding Jew of the town - Abraham Samuel, silversmith, who died in 1794.* One of his daughters married Israel Isaacs, of London, in 1792 "after the manner of the Jews," another Barnett Cowen (1795); his son Philip, married Miss Oraniberg of London (1796) and his son Lazarus, Ann Davis, of Sunderland, (1796) introducing us thus to a second local family.

In 1806, George Levy, watchmaker, of Ipswich, was married at Sunderland to Dinah, daughter of Hart Samuel of that town; while in the Navy List of 1814, etc., Levi Samuel appears as a licensed Navy Agent.

The problem of the date of the establishment of this community is solved by the consultation of the original MS. of the census returns of 1851, where we learn that the 'Polish' Synagogue in Vine Street, Sunderland, was established in or about 1781.

According to Garbutt's History of Sunderland (1819) "the Jews residing in Sunderland and its neighbourhood met for worship in a house, formerly the property and residence of Lieut.-Col. Lilburne" and "a short distance to the west of Bishopwearmouth is a small burying-ground belonging to this people." Eleven years later, according to Burnett's History of Sunderland of 1870, their Synagogue was situated in Vine Street and their cemetery in Hetton Staiths. In 1851, the offices of President, Secretary and Minister were combined in the person of Myer Marks of 154 High Street. By now, there was a second community in the town, of 'Israelites', founded in 1829 and meeting for worship in the house of Jacob Joseph, "Rabbi and Silversmith," who, born in 1769, settled in Sunderland in 1790 and remained active until his death in his ninety-third year in 1861. He was a man of some learning, and we find him in correspondence with the Chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell regarding an error in a Scroll of the Law. His nephew, Judah Leib ben Nissan, was authorised as Shochet in 1839. By 1832, the congregation was so firmly established that it received representation on the Board of Deputies, being the first provincial community to be so distinguished. When in 1858 the movement for reorganising the various groups which then formed the congregation began, it was announced that they had for the last ninety years worshipped in rooms, suggesting that the settlement began about the year 1768. In view of the data assembled above, and of the parallel of other places concerning which our information is more secure, there is little reason to doubt this statement, though the formal organisation was apparently some twelve or thirteen years later.

Note to Sunderland

* He had been resident there since before 1782: see the London Magazine of that year, p. 444, and G.M. 1783, p. 183; as well as J.C., 22.xii.1911.

Sunderland Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



The community of Swansea is the only one in Wales of any antiquity, its establishment going back well into the eighteenth century. Oral tradition speaks of a Solomon (?) Lyons whose business, still in existence, was established in the city in 1731: while one of the founders of Canadian Jewry, Lazarus David, is reported to have been born there in 1734. A more reliable tradition(i) tells how the first Jewish settler was David Michael, who came over from Germany as a refugee and settled in Swansea in 1741, together with Nathaniel Phillips, later a "banker" at Haverfordwest.(ii) Later on, he was joined by two other Jews named respectively Cohen and Joseph. Before long, they began to hold regular meetings for prayer, David Michael ultimately building for this purpose a simple synagogue, holding about forty persons, at the back of his house in Wind Street. The traditional date for the foundation of the community is 1780, but this is clearly too late, as it was in 1768 that the Corporation granted Michael the plot of land still used as cemetery (the first person buried there was a Jew from Caermarthen).

About the year 1789 the congregation removed to a wooden building in The Strand. In 1818, a 99-year lease was taken on a plot of land in Waterloo Street, where a synagogue building with accommodation for sixty or seventy persons was erected. The names of the leading members of the community at this time are preserved: they were David Michael's two sons, Levi and Jacob (who had set up in business as silversmiths and were reputed at this time to be among the most successful businessmen in South Wales(iii)) Jacob Cohen, Ephraim Joseph, and Ephraim Mosely. The last-named was presumably son of Jacob Mosely, born in 1770, who according to the information of one of his descendants was resident in 1797 at Cardiff and subsequently removed to Swansea. Here he was in business in

Castle Street as a watchmaker and jeweller; and at the time of the Napoleonic invasion-scare served as a sergeant in the Glamorganshire Yeomanry. His son, Henry Philip Mosely (d. 1904), was born in Swansea in 1811.

Of the early officiants of the community, we know only of Meir b. R. Judah. authorised to practice as Shochet in 1829. The community was flourishing in the eighteen-thirties, when it presented Rabbi Solomon Hirschell with a silver Kiddush goblet, now in the Jewish Museum, London. It contributed to the Chief Rabbi's Fund in 1841, and participated in the election of the new Chief Rabbi that year.

There was by this time a rudimentary community also in CARDIFF, the foundation of which goes back according to tradition to 1840 (Jews were already settled here from the close of the previous century, as has been seen already). By 1847, this city had a synagogue maintained by three full subscribing members, representing a total population of nine (adult male?) Jews. The founder of the community was Mark Marks, an auctioneer, whose son, B. S. Marks, the eminent painter (d. 1916), was born here in 1827.

Harriett Cohen of Swansea married in 1831 David I. Cohen of Baltimore: her autograph album, and that of her sister Matilda, is in the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Note to Swansea

(i) The details are largely from articles, based in part on MS. material of 1859, which appeared in The Herald of Wales of 12.viii.1933 and in The South Wales Evening Post of 14.i.1947.

(ii) Nathaniel Phillips was presumably the father of Levi Phillips of Haverfordwest, author of The Universal Hebrew Grammar, published c. 1770, and a forebear of the great preacher Hugh Price Hughes and of Lord Plunket.

(iii) Levi Michael, stated on his tombstone to be the first Jew born in Wales to be buried in the Principality, was a subscriber to the London Meshibat Naphesh charity in 1797 and to Nahum Joseph's Hebrew dictionary published in Bath in 1814: his son, Francis David, founded the Swansea Savings Bank. Jacob Michael, Levi's brother, was the progenitor of a highly distinguished family which became absorbed in the general community, including William Henry Michael, a pillar of non-conformity and founder of the Ragged School, who was chairman of the gas company, first Medical Officer of Swansea and ultimately an eminent Q.C.

Swansea Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK

Cardiff Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



According to the Jewish Chronicle article of January 14, 1842 relating to this community, at that time it had barely a minyan of Jews, consisting of five or six families employing their own Shochet. Services had been held for the first time, we are informed, on the occasion of the New Year of 5601 (Autumn 1840) in the house of Mrs. Myers. Jews had of course been living hereabouts from a relatively early date. Meir Aryeh ben Mordecai Greenwich (his English surname was Marks) was admitted a member of the Great Synagogue in 1783/4, and his son Joseph subscribed to the Midrash Phineas in 1795. Masonic records furnish the name of Ebenezer Cohen of Woolwich (about 1800). David Davis, a benefactor of the Jews' College, who died in London in 1907 at the age of ninety, was a native of Woolwich, and his father (perhaps Lewis Davis, of Woolwich, whose wife Anne passed away in 1848 aged 38) was presumably one of the founders of the community of 1840. This, however, did not last for long; indeed, when the present congregation was founded in November, 1900, it was stated that "there have been at least two earlier attempts to establish a permanent synagogue at Woolwich, which, in spite of considerable sacrifices on the part of some of the older inhabitants, ended in loss and dissension."

Woolwich Hebrew Congregation home page on JCR-UK


(Great) Yarmouth

The establishment of the Jews in Great Yarmouth, as elsewhere in the Eastern Counties, must date back to the eighteenth century. The pioneer settler here was a silversmith named Simon Hart, who arrived at the beginning of the reign of George III. It was he who, in 1801, when he had been resident for some forty years, rented a plot of land for use as a burial-ground. It is situated in what was called "The Deans" (now Tower Road), and there are in it some sixteen tombstones: one of the earliest being that which marks the resting-place of the pious founder (1803). In 1838, the land was conveyed to Isaac Mordecai, Isaac Mayers, and Schreiner Woolf(i), all silversmiths: but it may be noted that, later on, various interments took place at Norwich--Mrs. Louise White, wife of Anthony White (1850) and Esther (Eve), wife of Henry Cohen (1853).

It is to be presumed that a place of worship existed at the time of the purchase of the cemetery, being situated apparently in Chapel Street, Row 108 (?); the site was subsequently occupied by a Masonic Hall, in which a famous Chartist Meeting was once held. Later, the synagogue was transferred to Row 42, off George Street, traditionally known as Jews' or Synagogue Row. The names of some early members of the congregation, in addition to those mentioned above, may be pieced together from scattered sources. There was Samuel Levi, slop-seller, and Kate, his wife, whose son, Meyer, a jeweller (born probably in Yarmouth in 1792) was baptised as John Herbert at St. Stephen's, Norwich, in 1827 (The Ashlar, Jan. 1947). Edward and Henry Michel (Mitchell or Michaels, 1729-1815: hebraice Naphtali b. Michael of Dunkheim) and Isaac Lee were subscribers to the Jews' Hospital in London in 1808. Joseph Miers or Mayers (1761-1835) and Henry Mordecai were, according to tradition, associated with Simon Hart in founding the congregation. To the former family belonged, apparently, the writer M. J. Mayers, of Yarmouth, who published a Brief Account of the Zoharite Jews at Cambridge in 1826.(ii) A Shochet, Moses ben Zevi Hirsch, was appointed to officiate at Yarmouth in 1825 and his successor, Aaron Abrahams, in 1832. The latter was followed by I. Cohen, presumably father of the Maurice Cohen of Yarmouth who became Hazan in Hobart Town, Tasmania, in 1846. It may be added that several publications regarding Jewish Emancipation appeared at the Norfolk seaport in 1847, when Francis Goldsmid offered himself as Parliamentary candidate at the General Election.

When the place of worship in Synagogue Row fell into a state of dilapidation, a new one was constructed in 1846/7 on the same site. The foundation-stone, we are informed, was laid by D. L. Cohen, in the presence of Messrs (Isaac) Mordecai and (Isaac) Mayers (d. 1852), and at the dedication ceremony in the following year the Rev. M. B. Levy, of Brighton, officiated. It is noteworthy that several Gentile names figure on the list of contributors. It is said that the Yarmouth synagogue of 1847 was the smallest in England, there being seats for no more than sixty persons all told, men and women. At the time of its construction, the community had comprised all told just forty-eight persons.

In 1850, Michael Mitchell, son of Henry Mitchell, was Warden of the Congregation and Anthony White was Treasurer; the senior member, who succeeded to the office of Warden, was the Isaac Mordecai mentioned above, who died in March, 1853, in his 77th year, "the oldest member of this congregation and its President." In 1854, the warden was A. Solomons, and the number of seat-holders was reduced to twelve. Another member of the congregation was Jacob Falcke, whose widow, Hannah, died in 1854. They were the parents presumably of Isaac Falcke, a native of Yarmouth, who on his death in 1909 at a ripe old age left a memorable benefaction of ceramics and porcelain to the British Museum.

The ministers who officiated in the new synagogue after I. Cohen were S. Levy, M. Hirsch, and finally Levi Levenburg, who died in 1870. Seven years after, in 1877, Michael Mitchell (d. 1890), who had "supervised" the synagogue when it was opened thirty years before, and claimed proprietary rights, (the last member of the White family being then in Liverpool) decided to close the synagogue down, notwithstanding the fact that three or four Jewish families were even then resident in the town. Ultimately, after being used for some time as a store for fishing-nets, it was sold, in 1892, with the adjacent cottage, for 150, and converted into a mission hall. It was, however, reopened for services for a few years from 1899 onwards.

Notes to (Great) Yarmouth

(i) He subsequently emigrated to South Africa and was the first Mayor of Kimberley.

(ii) M. J. Mayers seems to have been a memorable character. He had published in 1824 as M. Mayers a 500 page work, The History of the Jews, from their Origin to their Ultimate Dispersion - the first work of this nature written by an English Jew--which displays a warm Jewish feeling. But he must have been converted shortly afterwards to Christianity, and is probably the Yarmouth 'Rabbi' whose baptism in Berlin, about this time, was much advertised: for his Brief Account of the Zoharite Jews (not in fact an original work, but a plagiarism of the chapter on the Frankists in Peter Beer's Lehren und Meinungen aller relig. Sekten der Juden, Brunn 1822), published under the name of M. J. Mayers, is clearly the work of one who had embraced Christianity. (The preface is dated Yarmouth, 8th November 1826). He then entered the Church, being colonial chaplain in Tasmania in 1831, then consular chaplain in Marseilles, and subsequently holding benefices in different parts of England; he died at Winchester in 1881. As the Rev. Michael John Mayers, he published a number of insubstantial works on various ecclesiastical subjects. He was father of William Frederick Mayers (1831-1878), an eminent sinologist, for whom see the Dictionary of National Biography. Israel and Joseph Mayers, both silversmiths, figure in the Yarmouth poll-books in the eighteen-thirties.

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