the former

Penzance Jewish Congregation

& Jewish Community

Penzance, Cornwall




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congregations throughout the British Isles and Gibraltar, both past and present.

Town of Penzance

Penzance, a port on the south coast of Cornwall in southwest England, has a population of about 20,000.

It was a municipal borough until 1974, when it was merged with neighbouring localities to form the local government (non-metropolitan) district of Penwith within the county of Cornwall. In April 2009, the district of Penwith and all other local government districts in Cornwall were abolished, and Cornwall became a unitary authority.

The rear of the Star Inn, showing the former synagogue's windows
©Frank Dabba Smith

The Penzance Jewish Community

Jews began settling in Penzance from at least the 1720s(ii) and the first recorded burial in the Jewish cemetery was in 1741. The earliest known synagogue in Penzance dates from the 1760s.(iv) The congregation had ceased to exist by the beginning of the twentieth century.

The principal works covering the community is The Lost Jews of Cornwall (2000), edited by Keith Perace and Helen Fry with Geoffrey Simmons as consultant (which we refer to here as "The Lost Jews"), which was largely republished and enhanced in 2013 as The Jews of Cornwall, A History, Tradition and Settlement to 1913 by Keith Pearce.

Congregation Data


Penzance Jewish Congregation


1 New Street (rear of the Star Inn 119 Market Street), Penzance TR18 2LD.(v)

The first purpose-built synagogue was constructed on this site in 1768.(vi)
In 1807 the synagogue was totally rebuilt(vii) and in 1837 the synagogue was expanded by the addition two dwelling-houses, no.1 and no. 2 New Street.(x).

Following closure of the synagogue, it was purchased in 1906 by the Plymouth Brethren for use as a meeting house for prayer. Subsequently, it was acquired by a brewery company and incorporated into the adjoining Star Inn.(xi)

On 7 February 1974, the Star Inn, including the former synagogue at the rear, was designated a Grade II Listed Building (number 1143981) (most recent amendment 21 July 2015). View description on Historic England website.


Congregation founded about 1750.


Community dissolved by early 1900's and the synagogue was sold in 1906.(xii)


Ashkenazi Orthodox


The congregation was an unaffiliated congregation under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi.

(To view a short profile of a minister whose name appears in blue, hold the cursor over his name.)

As regards those listed below with an asterisk*, there is some doubt as to whether, or the extent to which, they served as a minister of the congregation.

"Rabbi" Asher Hart* - spiritual leader from c.1720 until c.1740.(xvi)

"Rabbi" Abraham Hart (Solomon Lazarus) - spiritual leader mid-1700s.(xvii)

Rev. Aaron Selig* - reader in about 1808.(xviii)

Rev. Moses* - reader in about 1808.(xix)

Rev. Moses Levi or Rev. Moses Isaac* - reader about 1810.(xx)

Rev. Hirsch* - reader about 1810.(xxiii)

Rev. Philip Samuel (Rev. Feival)* - reader from about 1810 until about 1811.(xxiv)

Rev. Barnet Asher Simmons (first term) - minister from 1811 until 1854 (not continuous).(xxv) 

Rev. Elthanan Joseph Mortara - reader from October 1813 until July 1814.(xxvi)

Rev. Hyman Selig - reader from 1815 until about 1816.(xxvii)

Rev. Abraham Joseph - reader in 1817.(xxx)

Rev. Moses Levi - reader from 1817 until about 1820.(xxxi)

Rev. Hart Symons - reader from 1820 until about 1826.(xxxii)

Rev. Myer Stadthagen - minister 1827 until 1829. (xxxiii)

Rev. Solomon Cohen - minister from 1854 until 1857.(xxxiv)

Rev. Barnet Asher Simmons (second term) - minister from 1857 until 1859.(xxxv)

Rev. Hyman Greenberg - minister/reader from 1859 until 1861.(xxxvii)

Rev. A. Lupshutz - minister/reader from 1861 until 1862.(xxxviii)

Rev. Marcus Spiro (or Spero) - minister/reader from 1863 until April 1866.(xxxix)

Rev. M. Rittenberg - minister/reader from 1866 until about 1868.(xl)

Rev. Isaac Bischofswerder - minister from about 1868 until 1886 with occasional duties post mid 1890s.(xli)

Rev. Isaac Aryeh Rubinstein - minister from 1886 until 1887.(xlii)

Rev. Michael Leinkram - minister from 1887 until mid-1890s.(xliii)

Presidents of the Congregation:

It is not possible to compile a full list of the congregation's presidents or other lay officers. However, the following are persons known to have served as president of the congregation:

Lemon Hart (Asher Laemle ben Eleazar) (1768-1845), a grandson of "Rabbi" Abraham Hart (a founder of the Penzance Jewish community), had already, for some time, been considered the communal leader when, in 1808, he became the first president of the congregation from the opening of its new New Street synagogue. He served until 1811, when he left for London, although he remained intimately involved in Penzance affairs and supporting the congregation.(xlvii) (See below regarding his business career.) 

Hyman Woolf (Hayim ben Benyamin), also known as Elias Magnus, the brother-in-law of Lemon Hart (married to his sister Eddle), served as president (or life gabbai) from 1811 until 1819, having previously served as treasurer.(xlviii)

Lemon Woolf (1783-1848), the son of Hyman Woolf, was president in 1843.(xlix)

Morris Hart Harris was president from an unknown date until 1850, when he left the town.(l)

Thereafter, from 1850 until 1887, Henry Joseph (1806-1881) and Henry Levin (1798-1877) alternated as president, with brief periods when the office was held by Benjamin Aaron Selig or Israel Oppenheimer.(li)

David Bischofswerder, son of Rev. Isaac Bischofswerder, was president from 1887, probably until dissolution congregation.(lii)

Membership Data:


1845 - 11 ba'alai batim (Chief Rabbi's Questionnaire)

1845 - 30 appropriated seats, 51 individual members (C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry)

Number of Seatholders - Board of Deputies Returns











Registration District:

Cornwall, since 1 May 2007(lv) - Link to Register Office website


Search the All-UK Database

The records in the database associated with Penzance include:

  • Census:

    • Extracts for Penzance from: 1851 Census (35 records)

  • 1851 Anglo Jewry Database - includes also Hayle (7 miles to the northeast) (as of the 2016 update):

    • Individuals in the "1851" database who were living in:
      Penzance during the 1780s (1 record), 1790s (2 records), 1810s (12 records); 1820s (27 records), 1830s (27 records), 1840s (40 records), 1850s (41 records), 1860s (19 records), 1870s (11 records), 1880s (10 records), 1900s (1 record) and 1910s (1 record); and
      Hayle during the 1810s (1 record); 1830s (5 records) and 1840s (8 records).

  • UK Jewish Communal Leaders Database - Penzance records:

    • JCR-UK Listings and others (records of 30 individuals - as of the March 2024 update).


Online Articles and Other Material
relating to the Penzance Jewish Community


on Third Party Websites

Notable Jewish Connections with Penzance

  • Lemon Hart (1768-1845), initially known as Lehman Hart, was born in Penzance. He was a distiller and a leading member of the Penzance community (see above regarding his communal activity) who gave his name to one of the world's most respected brands of rum. In the mid-1700s, it is believed that his grandfather Abraham Hart had begun importing and trading in rums sourced from the Caribbean and his father, Lazarus Hart, continuing the family business, which Lemon took over in 1790 and successfully expanded. In 1811, he moved to London, where he continued to head the family business. He died in Brighton and was buried in the Brady Street Cemetery, Whitechapel.(lvi)


Penzance Jewish Cemetery Information

Penzance Jewish cemeteries:

  • Penzance Old Jewish Cemetery, off Leskinnick Terrace, Penzance TR18 2HB (accessed by way of a passageway between 19 and 20 Leskinnick Terrace). This Georgian cemetery, dating from at least the 1740's, has some 50 identifiable headstones. The last burial of a member of the Penzance Congregation was in 1900, although members of the family of the last rabbi, Isaac Bischofswerder, continued to be buried here until 1911. There have been two subsequent burials, in 1964 and 1998, long after the local Jewish community ceased to exist. Restoration work, partly funded by a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund, commenced in 2015 and a ceremony of rededication of the restored cemetery took place on 18 May 2016. The cemetery is one of the disused cemeteries administered by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and is maintained by Penzance Town Council
    The boundary walls with the remains of the Bet Torah and 14 monuments at the cemetery is a Grade II Listed Building, listed on 23 February 2004 (most recent amendment 1 October 2010) (number 1392260). See Historic England Listing & Description.

    Articles and other material on JCR-UK:

    • Tombstone Inscriptions at Penzance Jewish Cemetery, transcribed by Rabbi Dr. Bernard Susser, with a number of photographs (a section of Rabbi Susser's "Jewish Tombstone Inscriptions in S. W. England - Studies in Anglo-Jewish History No. 3", which includes an Introduction that also makes reference to Penzance).

  • Paul Cemetery, Paul, near Penzance. One of three municipal cemeteries in which the Cornish authorities have allotted to Kehillat Kernow special areas specifically for Jewish burials.

(For additional information, see also IAJGS Cemetery Project - Penzance)


Falmouth Jewish Population Data





14 families

(Jewish Chronicle 18 Marh 1842)


9 heads of family
(50 individuals)

(Jewish Chronicle 23 July 1847)


3 families

(Jewish Directory for 1874 by A. Myers)


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) Reserved.

  • (ii) The Lost Jews, p. 95.

  • (iii) Reserved.

  • (iv) The Lost Jews, p. 95.

  • (v) Penzance Synagogue - a Brief History.

  • (vi) The Lost Jews, p. 75.

  • (vii) Penzance Synagogue - a Brief History. 

  • (viii) and (ix) Reserved.

  • (x) The Lost Jews, p. 90.

  • (xi) Penzance Synagogue - a Brief History.  and The Lost Jews, p. 90.

  • (xii) The Lost Jews, pp. 85, 194.

  • (xiii) to (xv) Reserved.

  • (xvi) The Lost Jews, pp. 169, 222.

  • (xvii) The Lost Jews, pp.169, 222/225.

  • (xviii) The Lost Jews, p.169.

  • (xix) The Lost Jews, pp.75, 194/5.

  • (xx) The Lost Jews, pp.169.

  • (xxi) and (xxii) Reserved.

  • (xxiii) The Lost Jews, p.169.

  • (xxiv) The Lost Jews, p.170.

  • (xxv) The Lost Jews, pp.171/81, 195. There were several breaks in Rev. Simmons's incumbency, during which periods a number of other gentlemen were employed as reader/minister but all of short duration. The reasons for such breaks are unclear, some may have been the result of dissatisfaction or communal disputes and others due to Rev. Simmons's ill health. In addition, on occasions, his son in law, Rev Joseph Rintel, acted as locum.

  • (xxvi) The Lost Jews, pp.173, 195.

  • (xxvii) The Lost Jews, pp.173, 195.

  • (xxviii) and (xxix) Reserved.

  • (xxx) The Lost Jews, pp.173, 195.

  • (xxxi) The Lost Jews, p.195.

  • (xxxii) The Lost Jews, pp.175, 195.

  • (xxxiii) The Jews of Plymouth by Helen Fry, p.44 and Jolles's Encyclopaedia of Chazanim, etc.

  • (xxxiv) The Lost Jews, p.195.

  • (xxxv) The Lost Jews, pp.179/81, 195.

  • (xxxvi) Reserved.

  • (xxxvii) The Lost Jews, pp.183/4, 195.

  • (xxxviii) The Lost Jews, pp.184, 195.

  • (xxxix) The Lost Jews, pp.184, 195.

  • (xl) The Lost Jews, pp.184, 195.

  • (xli) The Lost Jews, pp.184/189, 195.

  • (xlii) The Lost Jews, pp.189/190, 195.

  • (xliii) The Lost Jews, pp.190/193, 195.

  • (xliv) to (xlvi) Reserved.

  • (xlvii) The Lost Jews, pp.87/88, 231.

  • (xlviii) The Lost Jews, pp.78/87, 231.

  • (xlix) The Lost Jews, p.80. There are no extant communal records between 1829 and 1843.

  • (l) The Lost Jews, p.84.

  • (li) The Lost Jews, p.84. In the Jewish Directory for 1874, Henry Joseph is listed as president and hon. secretary. B.A. Selig emigrated to Australia in 1854.

  • (lii) The Lost Jews, p.85.

  • (liii) to (liv) Reserved.

  • (lv) Previous Registration District: Penzance - from 1 July 1837 to 1 May 2007. All registers would now be held by the current office.

  • (lvi) The Lost Jews, pp.72/3 and Lemon Hart Rum website.

Jewish Congregations in Cornwall

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Page created: 21 May 2004
Page significantly expanded and notes first added: 12 November 2023
Page most recently amended: 2 April 2024

Research and formatting by David Shulman

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