North-East England 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: 28 July 2016
Latest revision: 11 December 2016

Papers on North-East England


Published Data

A  -  In 1838 the community was the first provincial congregation to have representation on the Board of Deputies. By 1851 there were two congregations, each firmly established.


Synagogue, Moor Street. Present building erected 1862. Has seat accommodation for 250 persons, 150 gentlemen and 100 ladies. Seat rental from 1.6s. to 6.6s, per annum. Income 1872-3 566 13s.3d., expenditure 553.17s.ld.

School adjoining the synagogue, founded 1862. Under the management of the Committee of the Synagogue. Average number of pupils, 40.

Hebrew Benevolent Society, founded 1869.

Young Men's Hebrew Benevolent Society, founded 1870.

Hebrew Benefit Society. Enrolled according to Act of Parliament. Founded 1864.


1900, Population of 1,000. 1897, 9 marriages, 19 burials.

Synagogue, Moor Street (founded May 1862) reconstructed December 1900. Seatholders, 106. Income 1900, 667, expenditure 681.13s.5d.

Hebrew Board of Guardians (founded June 1869). Object, relief of the Jewish poor. 453 persons were relieved in 1900. [In 1895, 480 men and 20 women.] The annual income and expenditure are about 140.

Hebrew Schools (founded May 1862). 90 scholars.

Beth Hamedrash.

Hebrew Benefit Society. Membership of 50.

Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society. For assisting poor Jewish women. Membership of 80.

Chevra Kadisha Hachnasath Orachim and Chevra Tehillim Societies.

Naturalisation Society.

Branches of the Orphan Aid and Anglo-Jewish Association.

Gemiluth Chasodim Society. The object of this newly formed society is to assist its members with the grant of loans without interest or other charges and to promote habits of industry, providence and self- reliance amongst them. Membership of 90.

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

Board of Deputies returns

  births marriages burials seatholders































Prepared by Aubrey Newman from the material contained in Arnold Levy, History of the Sunderland Jewish Community 1755-1955 (1956)

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

There were certainly two Jewish congregations in Sunderland in the 1830s, the 'Polish' and the 'Israelite'. The former seems to have [been] based upon a largely East European 'Chassidic' group, while the others were Dutch or German. The Polish congregation was originally, perhaps, more active, since it was that group which elected a delegate to the Board of Deputies in 1838, but he never took his seat and Sunderland 'was not in the list' at the election in 1844 for the Chief Rabbi. The 'Polish' congregation was obviously dwindling in numbers and by 1862 its religious properties were purchased by the 'Sunderland Hebrew Congregation'. In the meantime Sunderland had been the centre of a significant disagreement over the eligibility of its deputy to the London Board. The delegate chosen was also apparently a member of the West London [Reform] Synagogue of British Jews, and as such not then eligible to become a member of the Board. Eventually he was compelled to withdraw.

The two congregations were formally united in 1857, and in 1858 appealed for money for a new building. A notice in the Jewish Chronicle, headed 'Appeal to Isralites only', read:

The Jewish Communityof Sunderland at present amounting to 250 souls have for the last ninety years (when their number was much smaller) worshipped in rooms under different congregations and heads. They are now desirous of building a spacious synagogue and uniting the different congregations in one body.

The new building was commenced in 1861 and was consecrated in May 1862. The congregation was in a relatively strong position financially, being responsible for the supply of kosher meat to the community in Hartlepool, and being large enough to require an overflow service at the High Holydays. In addition, the other, neighbouring congregations used the Sunderland cemetery.

The congregation was also notable for the series of teachers and ministers who were prepared to serve the community. Admittedly many of them used Sunderland as a stepping-stone to more prestigious communities, but among those who stayed for four years was the Rev. A. A. Green, who later went to Hampstead, but who managed during his stay to bring a new lease of life to many of the local institutions, such as the Jewish Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society, and the formation of English classes to help remove the practical disabilities of foreign-born Jews.

During the 1880s the community began a series of developments which were to be of the greatest importance. In company with many such communities it received a number of immigrants from Russian Poland, including many from the little town of Krottingen. In the early summer of 1889 there was a devastating fire in that town which resulted in nearly 2,000 being rendered homeless. Many in Sunderland did their best to help, but an appeal had to be made to Anglo-Jewry as a whole to help, and in the meantime there was a further influx of 'greeners' from Krottingen to Sunderland. The town's Jewish population grew, but so also did the strains on it. There were reports for example of the strain being placed on the Board of Guardians; in 1893 the Board found itself in a very difficult position and it was also agreed to press for the establishment of a Federation of the Boards all over the country to regulate the 'casuals' travelling from town to town. As a consequence however of the growth in the number of new immigrants splits developed between them and the other longer-established members of the congregation, splits which became evident in differences in religious practice and which led in the 1880s to the establishment of several 'chevras' or brotherhoods. Their early history is obscure, but in 1897 it was agreed to establish a proper building to house the Beth Hamedrash, Cheder, and Mikvah. The new building was consecrated in November 1899 and had seating capacity for 200 men and 70 women. The two congregations did not always see eye to eye; the older body had for example tried in 1895 to suspend the holding of services away from the main congregation, while during the years after 1901 there is continual evidence of discord. Nonetheless when in 1904 the new congregation wished to become a member of the Board of Deputies its secretary reported to the Board:

Our congregation was established in 1888; the reasons of our having formed ourselves in a separate Congregation were:
1. That the other Congregation had not enough accommodation for the whole of the Jewish Community in Sunderland.
2. That in our opinion the other Congregation was not conducted in such an orthodox manner as we desired and it became essential in the interest of peace to form ourselves in a separate Congregation where we could conduct our services in the manner most sacred to us and we now have over 100 members and we have built a suitable place of Worship ....
All other institutions such as Board of Guardians, Chevra Kadisha and other charitable institutions, are worked under the auspices of both Congregations and supported by the whole community.

Further notes prepared by L. Olsover

Among the activities in Sunderland not mentioned in the Year Book was the creation of a local branch of the Chovevei Zion, fostered by the visits of the Kamnitzer Robbe, Reb Chaim Maccoby, and Col. E. W. Goldsmidt. When the English Zionist Federation was founded in 1899 a local branch was established in Sunderland, with a membership of between sixty to eighty members and a subscription of ld. a week. The members of the Sunderland community also played a significant part in the life of the outside community. Apart from the Jonassohns who were prominent coal mine owners another member was Isidor Isaacs, legal adviser for a time to the Durham Miners Association and Newman Richardson who was the first Orthodox Jew to be elected to the Town Council.

Conference Paper on North-East England by L. Olsover

Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain - List of Contents

Sunderland Jewish Community home page

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