the former

Sunderland Beth Hamedrash

Sunderland, Tyne & Wear



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Sunderland Beth Hamedrash
The Beth Hamedrash, Mowbray Road

Congregation Data


Sunderland Beth Hamedrash (also spelled Beth Hamedresh)

Formation and Earlier Names:

The founders of the congregation consisted primarily of relatively recent immigrants from Lithuania, in particular the town of Krottingen (today Kretinga), who, although among the poorer members of the community, were generally men of deep religious learning and fiercely attached to their own Orthodox tradition and rituals. A number of these immigrants had, in 1878, formed a Chevra Tehillim, a society for reciting Psalms, and a dispute arose in 1889 over the reciting of certain Psalms in the Sunderland synagogue following the afternoon service on Rosh Hashanah. Prevented from reciting such Psalms by one of the synagogue's honorary officers, the members of the chevra left synagogue and, at the invitation of Wolfe Jacobson, continued the recitation at his home. Wolfe Jacobson offered a room in his home for the holding of regular religious services, which were also supported by the community's Chevra Gemara, a group led by Rev Chatze Cohen which met daily for Talmudic study, thus initiating by 1890 the creation of a breakaway minyan.(iii)

Mr. Jacobson's home soon became too small for the growing number of worshippers and the minyan moved to the home of Charles Gillis. In 1891 the minyan was formally organised, moved to Zion Street and adopted the name Chevra Torah, which encompassed both the Chevra Tillim and the Chevra Gemara. In 1899 it became the Beth Hamedrash.(iv)

For the first decade or more of the congregation's existence the relationship between the Beth Hamedrash (the "Greener shul") and the Sunderland Hebrew Congregation ("Englisher shul") was far from harmonious, with the latter, frequently backed by the Chief Rabbi, endeavouring to undermine the legitimacy of the former in an effort to bring it back into the fold.

Last Address:

Mowbray Road (corner with The Oaks), Sunderland, consecrated on 6 February 1938.(v)

The building was erected in the grounds of what had been Scotland House, to which the congregation's Talmud Torah had relocated in 1933.(vi)

Earlier Addresses:

1891 to 1894 - Zion Street, Sunderland, the congregation's first permanent home.(ix)

December 1894 to 1899 - Villiers Street North, Sunderland, near the docks.(x)

1899 to 1937 - Villiers Street South, Sunderland. This newly constructed building for the re-organised "Beth Hamedrash", with a capacity to seat 200 men and 70 women, was consecrated on 26 November 1899.(xi) In 1919, adjoining ground was acquired and the Beth Hamedrash was rebuilt, the new and extended building being opened in 1921.(xii) However, by the 1930s, the Villiers Road neighbourhood had completely changed and most of the congregation's members had moved to the better residential areas in the southwest of the town. It was time for the Beth Hamedrash to move once again, and Villiers Road building was sold in 1937.(xiii)

1937 to 1938 - Victoria Hall was used for festival services between leaving Villiers Street and the opening of the Mowbray Road synagogue.(xiv)

Final Status:

Due to dwindling numbers, the final service was held in Mowbray Road in April 1985 and the building was sold to the church high school next door, which redeveloped most of the site, except for the mikvah. The Beth Hamedrash was merged into the Sunderland Hebrew Congregation (also since closed), which took the name "Sunderland Hebrew Congregation incorporating the Beth Hamedrash".(xv)


Ashkenazi Orthodox (following Lithuanian tradition, and considered to be more observant than the Sunderland Hebrew Congregation).


The congregation was unaffiliated but under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi from February 1903.(xvi)

Ravs of the Congregation:
(To view a short profile, hold the cursor over the Rav's name.)

Rabbi Shmaryahu Isaac Bloch - from 1894 until 1902(xx)

Rabbi Hirsch Hurwitz - from 1903 until 1910(xxi)

Rev. Elias Warrentz (see also below) - acting minister from 1911 until 1913(xxii)

Rabbi David Rabbinowitz - from 1913 to 1923(xxiii)

Rabbi Moishe Rabbinowitz (son of Rabbi David Rabbinowitz) - from 1923 to 1946(xxiv)

Rabbi Abraham Babad - from 1947 to December 1965(xxv)

Rabbi Shammai Zahn - from 1966 to 1985(xxvi)

(From 1966 until 1981, Rabbi Zahn performed most of the duties of the rav of the Congregation, but was not formally appointed as such until 1981, when he became the communal rav of Sunderland.)

Readers (Chazanim) & Shochets:
(To view a short profile of a reader or shochet whose name appears in blue - hold the cursor over his name.)

Rev. David Applebaum - about 1894/1895(xxx)

Rev. S. Kaplan - from late 1890s about until 1907(xxxi) 

Rev. Saul D. Barnett - in about 1907(xxxii)

Rev. Elias Warrentz - shochet & reader from 1907 until 1945(xxxiii)

Rev. Jacob Kahan - from about 1945 until 1949(xxxiv)

Rev. Beril Lewin - from 1953 until about 1964(xxxv)

Rev. M. Berdugo - from 1966 to 1975(xxxvi)

Lay Officers of the Chevra Torah:


Charles Cohen (Rev Chatze) - elected November 1894(xl)

Herman Cohen - re-elected October 1896(xli)


Charles Gillis - elected November 1894 and re-elected in October 1896(xlii)

Lay Officers of the Beth Hamedrash:

Unless otherwise stated, the data below on lay officers of the Beth Hamedrash has been extracted from Jewish Year Book listings.(xliii)


1899-1902 - Charles Gillis(xliv)

1902-1906 - Herman Cohen

1906-1910 - Emmanuel Gillis

1910-1915 - Charles Gillis

1915-1922 - A. Jaffe

1922-1924 - S. Cohen

1924-1925 - Philip Bergson

1925-1926 - B.M. Joseph

1926-1928 - S. Yaffe

1928-1929 - Joseph Pearlman

1929-1931 - B.M. Joseph

1931-1932 - E. Rabinowitch

1932-1934 - A. Jaffe

1934-1935 - Philip Bergson

1935-1940 - S. Cohen

1940-1945 - no data

1945-1946 - Joseph Railman

1946-1952 - M.A. Cohen

1952-1953 - R.D. Pearlman

1953-1955 - B.A. Cohen

1955-1956 - J.B. Carmel

1955-1957 - C. Gillis


1948-1949 - E.H. Maccoby


1899-1902 - Isaac Levy(xliv)

1902-1903 - Joe Barnet

1903-1904 - Louis Cohen

1904-1905 - M. Gillis

1905-1906 - Emmanuel Gillis

1906-1910 - A. Yaffe

1910-1915 - A. Rostovsky

1915-1923 - David Gillis

1923-1925 - B.M. Joseph

1925-1927 - Lionel Gillis

1927-1928 - M. Robinson

1928-1929 - P. Cohen

1929-1932 - M.A. Cohen

1932-1933 - E. Mincovitch

1933-1934 - S. Cohen

1934-1935 - S. Wicks

1935-1940 - Joseph Pearlman

1940-1945 - no data

1946-1948 - M.L. Pearlman

1948-1950 - Sol Cohen

1950-1953 - L. Gillis

1953-1954 - J.D. Cohen

1954-1955 - B. Pearlman

1955-1956 - C. Pearlman

Hon. Secretaries

1899-1905 - David Gillis(xliv)

1905-1906 - Charles Gillis

1906-1909 - David Gillis

1909-1922 - S. Gillis

1922-1923 - Lionel Gillis

1923-1925 - R. Bloomberg

1925-1931 - Jacob Levy

1931-1932 - L. Pearlman

1932-1935 - M. Pearlman

1935-1937 - G. Gillis

1937-1940 - D. Pearlman

1940-1945 - no data

1945-1946 - Julius Cohen

1946-1949 - R. Bloomberg

1949-1952 - Myer Robinson

1952-1953 - J.D. Cohen

1953-1955 - J.B. Carmel

1955-1957 - J. Frankenthal

1957-1959 - B. Penn

1959-1962 - C. Kolson

1962-1967 - I. Charlton

1969-1984 - Dr. Harold A. Davis

Membership Data:


1903 - c.100 members(xlviii)

1950 - 92 members(xlix)

1951 - 104 members(xlix)

National Reports and Surveys(l)

1977 - 45 male (or household) members (including members of Yeshiva Synagogue)

1983 - 62 male (or household) members (including members of Yeshiva Synagogue)


This Congregation used the cemeteries at Bishopwearmonth (for details, see Sunderland Cemetery Information)

Notes & Sources: In light of the large number of notes, these now appear towards the foot of this page, instead of the foot this box. However, the note can also still be viewed in a pop-up box when the cursor is held over the note number.


Sunderland Beth Hamedresh
The Beth Hamedrash, Villiers Street South, 1899


Bibliography, Online Articles and Other Material
relating to this Congregation


by D Taylor &
H. Davis,2010



Sunderland Institutions associated with the Beth Hamedrash

Educational & Theological

The Talmud Torah (children's religious classes), the importance assigned to which by the community could not be overestimated, was established shortly following the founding of the Chevra Torah and continued to function until about 1959.(lvi)

It initially used the premises of the congregation, but soon found that such accomodation to be inadequate(lvii) and moved in 1903 to a new building in the adjacent Meaburn Street, opened by Councillor N. Richardson,(lviii) who at the time was also president of the Hebrew Congregation.

However, by the 1930s most of the Jewish community had moved away from the Meaburn Street vicinity and on 23 July 1933 the Talmud Torah moved to a new home - the former Scotland House, on the corner of Mowbray Road and The Oaks. The building was to be known as Beth Yecheskel Hacohen, as a memorial to Reb Chatze, having been purchased by one of his sons, Elias Cohen, and presented to the Beth Hamedrash on behalf of himself and two of his sons, Julius and Sebag Cohen, for use as the Talmud Torah.(lix)

Number of pupils: 1903 - 100 children.(lx)

  • Yeshiva established by Rabbi Hurwitz

The first yeshiva in the United Kingdom, established in 1905 by Rabbi Hirsch Hurwitz.(lxi) It was short-lived and closed followed Rabbi Hurwitz's departure from Sunderland in 1911. It would be more than three decades before a yeshiva was again to be established in the town.

Other Institutions & Organisations

Founded by 1924.(lxiv)

  • The Mikvah

The Mikvah (ritual bath) opened at the Mowbray Road premises in 1936. The construction cost had been donated by Philip Bergson, as a gift to the community before his moving to the then British mandate of Palestine.(lxv) In 1985, when the Mowbray Road building was sold, special provision was made for the maintenance of the Mikvah, which had only recently been renovated at the cost of £6,000.(lxvi)



Congregational Records


  • Numerous records of the Jewish Communities in Northeast England (only a sample of which are listed below) are deposited with the Tyne and Wear Archives Service (http://www.legacyarchives.org.uk).  

    CLICK HERE to view a full list of these records (correct to December 2005).


  • Marriages 1904-1984 - Tyne and Wear Archives Service (see above)

  • All marriage records now deposited with Office of Chief Rabbi

Synagogue Records:

  • Minutes 1899-1984 - Tyne and Wear Archives Service (see above)


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) and (ii) Reserved.

  • (iii) History of the Sunderland Jewish Community 1955-1955 by Arnold Levy (1956) ("Levy's History") pp.159-162 and The Sunderland Beth Hamedresh 1889-1999 by Derek Taylor & Harold Davis (2010) ("Taylor-Davis's History") pp.53/4.

  • (iv) Taylor-Davis's History p.53 and Levy's History, p.162.

  • (v) Levy's History, p.206.

  • (vi) Levy's History, p.205.

  • (vii) and (viii) Reserved.

  • (ix) Levy's History p.162 and Taylor-Davis's History p.53.

  • (x) Jewish Chronicle of 5 January 1895, Levy's History p.162 and Taylor-Davis's History p.59.

  • (xi) Levy's History p.164.

  • (xii) Levy's History p.200.

  • (xiii) Levy's History p.204 and Taylor-Davis's History p.63.

  • (xiv) Taylor-Davis's History p.152.

  • (xv) Taylor-Davis's History pp.245/9.

  • (xvi) Levy's History pp.166/8.

  • (xvii) to (xix) Reserved.

  • (xx) Jewish Chronicle of 21 February 1902 reported on Rabbi Bloch's farewell sermon to the congregation, after eight years, having accepted a call to Birmingham - Levy's History p.166.

  • (xxi) Levy's History pp.179 & 198.

  • (xxii) Levy's History pp.188/9.

  • (xxiii) Jewish Chronicle report of 13 September 1913 and Levy's History pp.201/3.Rabbi Rabbinowitz was listed as rav of the congregation from Jewish Year Book 1914.

  • (xxiv) Levy's History pp.201/3 & 225.

  • (xxv) Levy's History pp.206 and Taylor-Davis's History p.223. He was listed as rav of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1947 through 1966.

  • (xxvi) Taylor-Davis's History pp.241 & 252.

  • (xxvii) to (xxix) Reserved.

  • (xxx) The Jewish Chronicle 4 January 1895 (p.20) reported that Rev. Applebaum had conducted services at the opening by the Chevra Torah of its new place of worship in Villiers Street. Service and Scandal by Daniel Appleby (2013)

  • (xxxi) Levy's History. It is uncertain when Rev. Kaplan commenced employment as the congregation's shochet/reader. He was already connected with the community in 1897, when he gave a shiur (lesson) to the Hebrew Congregation (p.112) and jointly (with Rev. Bloch) conducted the consecration of the Beth Hamedresh in 1899 (p.164). In 1902, he was the subject of a dispute with the Hebrew Congregation regarding the granting to him of authorisation from the Chief Rabbi regarding his competence as a shochet (pp.168-177). He resigned in 1907 (p.197).

  • (xxxii) Obituary in the Belfast Jewish Record. Rev. Barnett is listed as the congregation's shochet in Jewish Year Books 1907/8 through 1910, although his listing in the later editions appears to be an error. He is not mentioned in either Levy's History or Taylor-Davis's History.

  • (xxxiii) Appointment - Levy's History p.197; Retirement - Taylor-Davis's History p.187. Rev. Warrentz is a shochet and/or reader of the congregation in Jewish Year Book from 1910 through 1945/6.

  • (xxxiv) Based upon Rev. Kahan's listing as the congregation's reader in Jewish Year Books from 1947 through 1949. Levy's History p.208 refers to the search for his replacement in 1949.

  • (xxxv) Rev. B. Lewin is listed as the congregation's reader in Jewish Year Books 1954 through 1960 and in 1964 (although in the 1954 and 1955 edition his surname is inaccurately given as Lewis). Taylor-Davis's History p.214, refers to Rev. Beril Lewin becoming the congregation's chazan, shochet, teacher and mohel in 1958, but clearly this had taken place some time earlier.

  • (xxxvi) Taylor-Davis's History - Appointment as chazan, shochet and teacher - p.227, Resignation - p.237. Rev. Berdugo is listed as reader of the congregation in Jewish Year Books from 1967 through 1975 (although in the 1967 and 1968 editions his surname is inaccurately given as Berdonga). He was the last paid official of the Beth Hamedresh and left to set up as the town's kosher butcher.

  • (xxxvii) to (xxxix) Reserved.

  • (xl) Elected at Annual General Meeting reported in Jewish Chronicle of 21 December 1894.

  • (xli) "Re-elected" at Annual General Meeting reported in Jewish Chronicle of 30 October 1896.

  • (xlii) Elected at Annual General Meeting reported in Jewish Chronicle of 21 December 1894 and re-elected at Annual General Meeting reported in Jewish Chronicle of 30 October 1896.

  • (xliii) Where a person is first listed in a year book as holding a particular office, it has been assumed that his term of office commenced in the year of publication of the relevant year book and that he continued in office until the commencement of office of his successor, unless the office was vacant. Initially year books corresponded to the Hebrew year, and thus ran roughly from autumn of one year - the year of publication - until autumn of the next year. From 1909, year books were published according to the Gregorian year, being published generally towards the end of the year prior to the year appearing in the title of the year book. For example, if an officer is listed in Jewish Year Books 1949 through 1954, it is assumed that he commenced office in 1948 and continued in office until 1954. However, it should be noted that this is only an assumption and, accordingly, his actual years of office may differ somewhat from those shown here. The year book was not published during World War II. There were no Jewish Year Book listings of officers of this congregation, other than the secretary, subsequent to 1956.

  • (xliv) Elected at the Annual General Meeting held in December 1899 (Levy's History p.164) and listed as holding such office in the Jewish Year Book 1900/01, the first to list the Beth Hamedrash.

  • (xlv) to (xlviii) Reserved.

  • (xlviii) Taylor-Davis's History p.84.

  • (xlix) Taylor-Davis's History p.205.

  • (l) Reports on synagogue membership in the United Kingdom, published by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and which can be viewed on the website of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research. Click HERE for links to the various reports.

  • (li) to (lv) Reserved.

  • (lvi) Based upon its last listing in the Jewish Year Book 1959.

  • (lvii) Jewish Chronicle report of 11 October 1901 and Levy's History p.165.

  • (lviii) Jewish Chronicle report of 7 July 1903 and Levy's History p.166.

  • (lix) Levy's History pp.204/5 and Taylor-Davis's History pp.144/5. Scotland House had been the residence of the late Sir William Allen, M.P. and, together with its gardens, had been purchased from his estate.

  • (lx) Taylor-Davis's History p.84.

  • (lviii) Levy's History p.193.

  • (lxii) and (lxiii) Reserved.

  • (lxiv) Based upon its first listing in the Jewish Year Book 1925. Not to be confused with the Gemiluth Chasodim Society founded in 1896 by members of the Sunderland Hebrew Congregation

  • (lxv) Taylor-Davis's History p.155.

  • (lxvi) Taylor-Davis's History p.248.

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Page created: 10 February 2006
Data significantly expanded: 3 August 2016
Data further significantly expanded and notes added: 19 December 2021
LateLatest revision or update: 10 January 2022

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