Hull Jewry
in Victorian Britain




Extract from papers on
Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain

Papers prepared by Dr. (later Prof.) Aubrey Newman for a conference at University College, London, convened on 6 July 1975 by the Jewish Historical Society of England
(Reproduced here with Prof. Newman's kind consent)

Paper first published on JCR-UK: 23 September 2016
Latest revision: 11 December 2016

Hull (Yorkshire)

Published Data

A  -  There was organised Jewish life here from the beginning of the nineteenth century, but there had been an early schism, and this was not healed until 1826. The community had, with a tiny nucleus of full members (9 in 1845), to receive a large number of Jewish exiles from Central and Eastern Europe. In 1851 40 attended services on 'Census Sabbath', and there was an estimated population of 200.


Synagogue, Robinson Row Has seat accommodation for 210 persons, 120 gentlemen's seats, 90 ladies' seats Seat rental from 1 .6s to 7,10s per annum.

Hebrew Schools [boys' school and girls' school]

Jewish soup kitchen, Lower Union Street Founded 1872. Object, to provide food on Sabbaths and Holydays to poor Jews arriving from Continental ports.


Jewish population, 2000.     1900, 15 marriages, 31 deaths.

Synagogue, Robinson Row (founded 1826) seat- holders, 200.

Central Synagogue, School Street (founded 1886) seatholders 90.

Hebrew Girls School Osborn Street (founded 1873) Number of pupils 180. The school is under Government inspection.

Ladies' Hebrew Benevolent Society (Founded 1861) To grant relief to necessitous persons of the Jewish faith and to Jewish married women during sickness and confinement. There is a Dorcas meeting in connection with the above society.

"Malbish Aroomim" Clothing Fund. (established 1880) To purchase and distribute clothing to poor men and boys and to the school children.

"Chevra Kadisha" Society (established 1890) To visit the sick and superintend funerals

Hebrew Board of Guardians (established 1880). Object - the relief of resident and casual poor Number of persons relieved:- Resident poor 646, casual poor 1000 at an expenditure of about 250.

"Meshivas Nephesh" Benefit Society, since entitled "Jacob Alper Society" (established Hebrew Boys' Evening School.

"Gemilous Chassodim" Philanthropic Society (established 1848)

"Sons of Israel" (established 1871)

Hull Hebrew Literary and Debating Society (established 1895) Founded for the purpose of promoting the intellectual and social welfare of the Jewish community in Hull. During the winter papers are read and discussions are held, and musical re-unions are arranged.

Hull Hebrew Self-help Friendly Society (founded 1889) Enrolled according to Act of Parliament.

Jewish Girls' Club (founded 1900)

The City Club, Wright Street (founded 1901)

Hull Hebrew Recreation Club, 100 members

[A - Primarily from The Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), by Cecil Roth]
[a - The Jewish Directory for 1874, by Asher I. Myers]
[b - Jewish Year Book]


Board of Deputies returns

  births marriages funerals seatholders

Hull Hebrew Congregation (Robinson Row)


13 (11 m.)





























Hull Central Synagogue











by Israel Finstein

(For the Community's early history, see "Hull" in Cecil Roth's "The Rise of Provincial Jewry", 1950)

In 1826 a new synagogue was built in Robinson Row. This event followed the amalgamation of the two congregations which since 1780 and 1812 had had their own synagogues in Posterngate and Parade Row respectively By 1837 there were about 35 resident Jewish families in Hull. It was, next to London, the main port of entry from the Continent. The steamboat facilitated and encouraged immigration. Most arrivals at Hull were on their way to other cities in England or, via Liverpool, to America.

The rate of entry increased in and around 1848, and the burden on congregational funds of relief for impoverished Jews, including local settlers as well as transmigrants, was considerable. The synagogue was greatly enlarged in 1852. There were now seats for 200 men and 80 women, more than double the accommodation of 1826. The synagogue now had 82 members, about one quarter of whom were 'privileged members'. By 1870, when the Synagogue had 112 members, about 550 Jewish souls lived in Hull.

The two outstanding lay leaders in the generation before 1870 were George Alexander, silversmith, and Bethel Jacobs, jeweller. They represented the established anglicised old order, and controlled with a firm hand the fractious local community In 1854 Alexander's granddaughter married Solomon Cohen of Sheffield, a clothier, who later combined a prominent position in the Hull Synagogue with service on the Town Council.

Bethel Jacobs was the most notable lay figure in the local Jewish community in the nineteenth century. He is a classic example of the educated middle-class English Jew of mid-Victorian England. He was Town Councillor, President of the Literary and Philosophical Society and of the Mechanics' Institute, a frequent local lecturer to Christian audiences on Jewish themes, philanthropist, and devout Jew. In the latter part of the century notable personalities included John Symons and Henry Feldman. Symons was the son of a Portsmouth silversmith who died in 1823, and whose widow continued the business which John developed. He held numerous municipal offices, and was an acknowledged spokesman for the local Jewish community and at the same time a prolific lecturer on the history of Hull. Feldman was a woollen merchant, who, in 1907, became the first Jewish Mayor of the City.

The multi-purpose minister until 1850 was Samuel Simon, who had been attached to the Parade Row synagogue. During the second half of the century the successive ministers were Philipp Bender, Ephraim Cohen, Henry David Marks, Elkan Epstein, Abraham Jacobs, Abraham Elzas, David Fay, and Israel Levy. The most noteworthy of these were Bender who, after eleven years, left for Dublin in 1862; Elzas, who died in his prime in 1880; Fay, who later achieved fame as minister of the Central Synagogue in London; and Levy, son of the well-known Dayan, Aaron Levy.

By 1852, 40 boys and girls were being taught in the Jewish school attached to the synagogue. By the end of the century there were treble that number of boys alone; a separate girls' school was founded in 1863, and by the end of the century had 200 pupils.

In the 126 Jewish marriages in Hull between 1838 and 1870, fifty of the bridegrooms were jewellers and twenty-one tailors; between 1880 and 1900 the proportions between these two trades were in reverse, with the ratio of tailors much greater than that of jewellers had ever been. This reflected the immigration in these decades. The proportion of small shop-keepers in traditional Jewish trades steadily grew from the middle of the century.

In 1848 there was created under the auspices of the synagogue a 'Philanthropic Society' for the distribution of relief. In 1849 the Meshivas Nepesh Society - essentially a Friendly Society - was founded, and in 1861 were founded a Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society and a fund (initiated by Simeon Moseley) for the relief of needy dependents of deceased members of the synagogue. Two years later a Jewish Soup Kitchen was opened. The Hull Jewish Board of Guardians was instituted in 1880 largely through the enterprise of J. L. Jacobs, the solicitor son of Bethal Jacobs. The Board took over some of the functions of the above bodies.

In 1874 a small synagogue was opened in School Street. It was founded by and for foreign Jews. The influx of Easten European Jews after 1880 imposed ever greater burdens on the institutions of Robinson Row. There were strains between old and new. There had been a regular pattern of intermittent discord for decades. Personal differences were accentuated by diverging attitudes of Jewish tradition. The development of the group of 1874 however did little to relieve the pressures within the old  synagogue. The need for a new building was obvious.

By 1900 there were about 1500 Jews resident in Hull. A kind of geographical division had also arisen. The older and more affluent had in increasing numbers moved beyond the old areas. As Porter Street, Anlaby Road, and Beverley Roadbecame fashionable, Jews followed the pattern. Robinson Row was in the heart of the old city. The outward movement had begun in 1870 and by 1900 the older Jewish quarters were occupied mainly by the more recent arrivals. In the event, the old congregation divided into tewo at the end ofthe century. In 1902 there came into being the Hull Old Hebrew Congregation in Osbourne Street and the Hull Western Synagogue in Linnaeus Street, Each, with some justice, claimed to be the heir of the congregation founded in 1826.

The Western Synagogue of which B.S. Jacobs, the archtect son of Bethel Jacobs, and Feldman were the principal members, was nearer to the anglicised elements both in spirit and location. The School Street Congregation, eventually merged into the Central Synagogue in Cogan Street and, after destruction by bombing in the second World War, in Park Street.

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