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THE RISE OF PROVINCIAL JEWRY
The Early Communities - Section 3 - (Exeter to Ipswich)
The Exeter communal records are relatively abundant, and I shall attempt here only to sum up the main features in its record up to the close of the eighteenth century, leaving fuller treatment for another occasion and probably another hand. The earliest settler here in modern times seems to have been an Italian snuff-merchant, Gabriel Treves, who arrived some time before 1735. He was followed over from Italy by his nephew, Joseph Ottolenghi, who became converted to Christianity. The uncle did not treat the apostate with as much kindliness as the latter optimistically expected, and the consequence was a spate of polemical publications (Bibl. B4. 10 and 11, B5. 9). It does not appear from these that there was any sort of organised Jewish life at Exeter at this time. Nevertheless, in an address given in 1853, on the occasion of the rededication of the Synagogue, it was stated that the congregation had been founded in 1728; that an inscription dating to this period could still be deciphered in the burial-ground; and that a place of worship had been dedicated about 1734. It is hardly worth while in this connection to call attention to Lemuel Hart of Devon (brother of a Moses Hart of London) who died in 1747 (Will: O.C.C., Potter 72) but who clearly was not a Jew.(i) In The Hampshire repository, vol: ii, there is recorded the death on November 20th 1799, at Portsmouth, of 'Mr. Ezekiel, an eminent Jew, who resided at Exeter 50 years, where he founded a Synagogue.' He is obviously identical with Ezekiel ben Abraham of Exeter, who in 1795 figured among the subscribers to the work Midrash Phineas, and, if already resident at Portsmouth in that year, must have been at Exeter as early as 1745. His son, presumably, was Ezekiel Abraham Ezekiel of Exeter (1757-1806), the eminent miniature painter and engraver, and his grandson Solomon (Hebraice Isaac!) Ezekiel (1781-1867), the conscientious champion of Judaism at Penzance.
Ezekiel ben Abraham Ezekiel, or Ezekiel Abraham Ezekiel, seems to have been known generally, and confusingly, as Abraham Ezekiel. He was a goldsmith by profession (as were also Moses Mordecai Hart, who registered his mark at the local Assay Office in 1788, and Jacob Nathan, who followed suit in 1833.) Early Exeter clockmakers include Samuel Jonas, 1783; Moses Hart, 1828; and H. Cohen, 1835, in addition to this same E. A. Ezekiel, 1794). In 1760 he was granted the administration of the goods of Mordecai Solomon, of the same place, deceased, as creditor; he died in 1806 and his widow died at the age of 70 in the same year.(ii) Abraham Ezekiel and his brother Benjamin together with Samuel Jonas, were mainly responsible for the consecration in 1763-4 of the synagogue, still standing in Synagogue Place, Mary Arches Street. The cemetery (perhaps not the first) in Magdalen Street, adjoining Bull Meadow, was acquired in 1807, the earliest decipherable tombstone in it being of that year: but there is evidence that it was in use earlier. Here is the grave of Moses Horvitz Levi, 1754-1837, Minister of the congregation for twelve years, and of Solomon Aarons, who died in 1864 at the age of 102. Local directories, registers of voters and newspaper-cuttings, assembled by Mr. Wilfred Samuel and the Rev. M. Adler, provide ample further information about the community and its members: and it is on record that at the time of the invasion scare of 1798 the Jews were admitted to the local volunteers. In 1808, L. Cohen of Exeter published an appeal to his brethren for religious loyalty and in 1825 A New System of Astronomy(iii), and in 1837 Alexander Alexander, of the same city, optician to William IV and his consort (Voice of Jacob, iv. 229) published Observations on the Preservation of Sight. The community was said to comprise in 1842 about thirty families or 175 souls, the officers being A. Cohen and B. Jonas, and the Minister the Rev. Samuel Hoffnung. Thanks to the liberality of his children, the Synagogue, rebuilt and enlarged in 1836 (when the opportunity was taken to remove the Ark to the East wall) and again overhauled in 1853, was restored a generation ago. The original community was officially dissolved in 1889, though occasional services are still held. The most important records and some interesting pieces of old silver are distributed between the Mocatta Library and the Jewish Museum, London.
According to the Jewish Chronicle article of 1842, followed as usual by Margoliouth, the Falmouth congregation was established about 1740 by Alexander Moses (Margoliouth calls him Moses Alexander). Alexander Moses was known to the outside world as Henry Moses, and among his co-religionists as Alexander, or Zander, Falmouth, and in the Records of my Family, by Israel Solomon (New York 1887) there is an account of how he used to set up Jewish pedlars in trade on condition that they would return to Falmouth for the Sabbath to attend service. Though he apparently began his activity in the first half of the eighteenth century, it was only in 1766 (according to the Falmouth and Penryn Directory and Guide of 1864) that a Synagogue was established in Hamblyn's Court, subsequently known as Dunstan's or Jeffery's Court, on the site of the present gas-works. A Cornish oven, formerly in this building and perhaps used for baking the Matzoth on Passover, is preserved in the Falmouth Museum. In 1808, a permanent structure was erected in Smithwick (or Parram) Hill, then known as Fish Street Hill, 'being an excellent and convenient building for the performance of their ancient religious worship.' ('A new Jewish synagogue was opened in Falmouth on Friday', we read in the Royal Cornwall Gazette of August 16th 1808, 'and consecrated with great pomp.'). A Burial ground, adjacent to the Congregational cemetery, was presented to the community later on by Lord Dunstanville, on the high road to Penzance.(i)
Among the early members of the community may be mentioned Wolf Benjamin and Jacob Wolfe, active in Masonic work from about 1789 (and possibly Barnet Falcke, c. 1811)(ii); Isaac Polack, letters of administration over whose property were granted to his daughter in 1794; Barnet Levy, one of those set up in business by Zander Falmouth: and Israel Solomon, of Ehrenbreitstein in Germany, grandfather of the chronicler. According to a family record in a Hebrew Pentateuch now in the Mocatta Library, London, Henry Harris settled in Falmouth in 1800, after spending five years in Penzance; in 1821 he returned to Truro, and later to London. The Falmouth Directory appended to Tratham's work of 1815, referred to above, includes the following unmistakeable names:- G. Abrahams, Bullion Office, Church Street; L. Joseph, Bullion Merchant, High Street; A. Joseph, Broker etc., Church Street; L. Jacobs, watchmaker, Market Strand; S, Solomon, Broker (Bullion Office) Market Street; and K. Solomon (perhaps wife of the former), milliner and haberdasher, Market Street. The President of the community at this period was Lyon Joseph, the first person in this list, and the 'Steward' was Samuel Harris. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Zander Falmouth's grandson, Jacob Jacob, was the mainstay of the community, being succeeded after his death in 1852 by one of his sons. In 1842, the community comprised some fourteen families, Jacob Jacob being President, Henry Harris, Treasurer, and Joseph Rintell, Minister: and in 1847 there were nine subscribing members, three additional seat-holders, and a total Jewish population of fifty. In the second half of the century, the congregation was kept in being solely through the devotion of the Jacob family (for details of them see J.C. 15.iv.1903). The last Minister whose name is on record is N. Lipman, subsequently Chief Shochet in London, who must have officiated there in the eighteen-sixties. The original census returns of 1851 inform us that 'since the breaking-up of the foreign packet establishment here the congregation has decreased with the inhabitants generally.'
After 1880, the community fell into complete decadence. In 1892, the synagogue was in a deplorable condition, and the Chief Rabbi was pressing the Trustees (A. L. Emanuel, Simeon Solomon Harris and Samuel Jacob) to sell it and devote the proceeds to keeping the burial ground in repair. Nevertheless, the Synagogue still stands, being used as a carpenter's shop. The Ten Commandments from the interior are now in the Jewish Museum, London. A scroll of the Law was transferred to the Hampstead Synagogue, London, with an antique pair of Bells (now likewise in the Jewish Museum), and other appurtenances to the Parkhurst Prison. The last interment of a member of the original community in the House of Life took place in 1913 - the first for fifty-three years.
The Glasgow community is now fourth in order of size in the United Kingdom, but surprisingly little is known about its earliest days, and that little is hopelessly self-contradictory. My earliest Glasgow Jew is Isaac Cohen, hatter, admitted a Gild Brother and Burgess of the city in 1812 (J.C. 30.viii.1840). According to the current accounts, he must have lived in virtual solitude, for the Jewish Encyclopaedia gives the date of the foundation of the community as 'about 1830,' and Robert Reid, in Glasgow Past and Present (1884) speaks of the first Synagogue as having been opened in Post Office Court about 1840. On the other hand, The Jewish Year Book of 1904 gives the information that part of the Necropolis was set aside for Jewish burials in 1830, and that in 1834 worship was conducted in a private house in High Street - the precursor apparently of the Conventicle in Post Office Court referred to above. The Voice of Jacob of 19.viii.1842 indicates that in 1840 the lease of the room formerly used for worship had expired, a new temporary synagogue holding about 150 persons being now consecrated. Probably, however, there was some sort of Jewish organisation in the city as early as 1826 - four years before the earliest date hitherto suggested - as we know that one M. Michael was authorised to practise here as Shochet in 1826, and Solomon Sternburgh a little later in the same year.
All authorities have hitherto overlooked an exceptionally detailed account of the origins of the community to which my attention was drawn by Dr. R. N. Salaman, in The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845), vi. 238-9. The passage is of such importance and interest that it must be quoted in full(i):
We are carried a stage further by two articles on the Ghetto in Glasgow, which appeared in the local Evening Citizen of 12th February and 1st March, 1894. From these it appears that the 'first settler' in the city and organiser of the community, of which he was still President in 1850, was the David Davis or Davies referred to. He was seconded by Wolf Levy and Henry Price (both furriers), - Lesser, and - Levy, a travelling stationer; and then, in 1829, by S. J. Rubinstein (grandfather of Harold Rubinstein, the dramatist): it was here, and not in London, that he received the remarkable Hebrew letter from Mordecai Aaron Ginsberg, his teacher, a translation of which appears in my Anglo-Jewish Letters. The first synagogue was established in two rooms in High Street, in a house occupied by Moses Lisenheim, a few doors from the Glasgow Cross: this was anterior to the place of worship in Post Office Court, in Trongate, which in turn was superseded by those in Anderson's College (George Street) and then Howard Street, which was in occupation up to 1852. In the earliest days of the community's history, a rival conventicle was maintained by a furniture dealer in the Candleriggs, Jonas Michael, who had quarrelled with Davis and whose large family enabled him almost to maintain a minyan of his own. This was responsible for the fact that he had his third son, Michael, trained as shochet; but the young man died shortly after and was the second person buried in the Jewish plot in the Necropolis.
The Jewish Encyclopaedia specifically denies that there was more than a single congregation in Glasgow until 1881. However, at the time of the Chief Rabbinate election of 1844 there were two - the 'Old' and the 'New' - both of which were sufficiently well-established to exercise their votes and to pay for the privilege. It was at this time indeed the only provincial community, other than Liverpool, which had more than one Synagogue; though this was not one of those instances in which numbers signify strength.(ii)
Gloucester is one of the few old market-town communities that has left any documentary record. In the Mocatta Library, London, was the manuscript of its regulations, or Takkanoth, drawn up in Yiddish about the year 1800 and of considerable interest: unfortunately, I failed to take note when the opportunity was open to me of the names of the signatories or of the exact date. It is certain, however, that the community was already relatively old-established at this period. There can be no doubt that the Jewish settlement dates well back into the previous century. Hyam Barnett, a silversmith, was reported on his death in the Spring of 1815 (G.M. i. 376) to have been 'well known during near forty years for the extent of his dealings throughout this county, Hereford, Monmouth and South Wales' - i.e. since about 1775.(i) Still earlier was another member of the community about this time--Israel (in Hebrew, Isaiah) Abrahams, who died in December 1821. His family was subsequently asserted to have been resident in the city since the close of the seventeenth century, and he himself had entered into possession of his house in Southgate Street in 1765. He was a dealer, travelling jeweller and moneychanger - the last being a thriving occupation in the then busy port. But he acted also as factotum to the community, among his other functions being that of baking the Matzoth: he was succeeded in these capacities by his son, Michael Abrahams. Henry Jacobs of "The Little Dust Pan," Westgate Street, was another local stalwart. The Jewish centre at this time was Eastgate Street, and the Synagogue was in Mercy Place, opposite the Infirmary. The cemetery was in Organ's Passage, or Gardner's Lane, off Barton Street, the first interment there being that of the child Uri or Pheis (called Phillip) Levi, who died in the autumn of 1784. The cemetery served also for persons from Ross, Stroud, and elsewhere. Phillip Levi was perhaps a brother or son of Abraham b. Sampson Levy of Gloucester, who was admitted a member of the Great Synagogue in 1801 (in which year he adopted his father-in-law's name of Annesley).
The community was flourishing at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In the Gloucester Public Library, there is preserved a Hebrew Calendar for 1811-2 'for the use of Jews attending the Gloucester Synagogue,' written by Israel Abrahams' father. Hyam Barnett, who has been referred to above, and who subscribed to S. I. Cohen's Elements of Faith in 1815, was the father of Barnett Barnett (1787-1817) of Hereford, whose daughter, Frances Barnett (1809-1892) was for many years Headmistress of the Jews' Free School.(ii) A shochet, A. Levy, was authorised to practise at Gloucester in 1830 - apparently an established resident, for he signed the Chief Rabbi's register: 'The particulars concerning Gloucester I and my father abide by.'
But the community must have already been on the highroad to decay: its members said that it was owing to the influx of the Quakers, with their superior business ability. When the then Chief Rabbi visited the city in July 1871, the independent existence of the congregation was already ended, the few remaining members having affiliated themselves to the Cheltenham synagogue. The last survivor was Miss Amelia Abrahams, daughter of Israel Abrahams and Sarah his wife, who was born in 1792, and died in 1886, at the ripe old age of ninety-five, in the house in Southgate Street which her father had acquired in 1765.(iii)
There was a subsidiary Jewish group at Ross (Herefordshire), consisting mainly of members of the Levy family - Isaac (b. Kalonymus) Levy (1782-1842) and Esther (b. Isaiah) his wife (1784-1861), with Coleman Levy, silversmith, probably his son (1817-1876) and Josephine, the latter's wife (1809-1876). At Ross lived also Simha Castro (1758-1837) and another person, the name on whose tombstone is now illegible, but who (it is recorded) 'after many years spent in active industry returned to Ross, where he was no less distinguished by his great benevolence than he had formerly been by his integrity and punctuality in London: died 11th March 1831 corresponding to 5597 aged 86.' From the Hereford Journal of March 15th 1837 (cf. also G.M., 1837, p. 556), it appears that this worthy's name was Moses Fernandez, late of New Ormond Street, London, his age being given, however, as 87. The epitaph seems to imply that he had been born in Ross, in 1750 or 1751.
Hull is not generally included among the older Anglo-Jewish communities*, and the Jewish Year Book long gave the date of the foundation of the Old Hebrew Synagogue as 1826. But, when Mordecai Moses, of Lincoln, died in 1810, his remains were buried (according to the obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine) in the burial ground of Hull. This information justifies us in assuming that the foundation of the community dates back to the eighteenth century, though not (as Margoliouth would have us believe) to its beginning. The historical account in the earlier issues of The Jewish Year Book states that in 1904 the community was 'over a century' old. First, a former Catholic Chapel ruined in the riots of 1780 was used as Synagogue. One may assume that its leading member was Michael Levy, watchmaker, who was registered at Hull in 1770. Another person who followed the same craft was Moses Symons (1822): we may mention too Morris Goldsmid, late of Kingston-upon-Hull, merchant, who failed in 1783. It may be added that Ellis Davidson, a pioneer of art-teaching in schools, who died in 1878, was born in Hull in 1828, giving us the name of a fourth local family. Finally, Phineas Abrahams, silversmith and jeweller (later of Leeds) figures in the directory of 1822 as in business at 22 Paradise Place. David Jacobs, later of Charleston, S.C., was born in Hull in 1825.
A rival place of worship was established at an early date by one Joseph Lyon on a site now occupied by Prince's Dock. The two congregations amalgamated in 1826, when the Old Hebrew Congregation's Synagogue in Robinson Road was constructed, foundation stones being laid by S. Meyer on behalf of the senior component of the united body and by Israel Jacobs (father of Bethel Jacobs, a son-in-law of Joseph Lyon) on behalf of the junior. The Minister in 1859, Mr. Symons, perhaps identical with the local watchmaker of that name, was said (J.C. 14.x1859) to have served the community between forty and fifty years.
According to The Jewish Chronicle account, followed as usual by Margoliouth, a congregation was formed at Ipswich 'upwards of a century' before 1840, a room being hired in St. Clement's for the purpose of divine worship. It is possible that the year indicated is not far from the correct one. The evidence is based on what we know of the life of the remarkable centenarian, Sarah Lyon, who was painted at the age of 101 by Constable in 1804, lived for another four years and is buried in the local cemetery. The biographical account in The Jewish Chronicle of June 19th 1896, informs us that she had a son and daughter who both lived to be upwards of ninety years old, all of them being resident in St. Peter's parish. That Sarah Lyon removed to Ipswich in extreme old age is improbable, and it is highly likely that she was resident there in the first half of the eighteenth century. The earliest specific mention of an Ipswich Jew in modern times however is in connexion with the conversion of Lord George Gordon, who, passing through the old Suffolk town, presumably about 1785, is said to have been attracted by a Hebrew inscription outside the house of Isaac Titterman, Sarah Lyon's son, who was designated as 'Rev.' and was probably the Shochet of the community. (His portrait, said to be an early production of Constable, is still extant in Sydney, New South Wales).
About 1790, the munificence and energy of Simon Hyam and Lazarus Levy led to the erection of 'a neat and commodious synagogue' in Rope Lane. The foundation stone, we learn from Clark's History of Ipswich, 1830, pp. 319-320, was laid on August 18th 1795 and the building held no more than one hundred persons. This was followed as a matter of course by the acquisition of a cemetery, the title-deeds of which are published in Transactions, vol. ii. It was acquired on a 999 year lease on September 27th 1796 by Simon Hyam and his son Hyam(i), Lazarus Levi, Israel Abraham, Joseph Levi, and Ansell Ansell(ii), all of Ipswich, artificers, and Levi Alexander and Samuel Levi of Colchester, 'Trustees for and on behalf of the Society or Meetings of Jews at Ipswich.' In 1841, only Israel Abraham, Joseph Levi(iii) and Hyam Hyams were surviving of the original trustees (or rather, responsible members of the community); they were now reinforced by Harris Isaacs, the Minister, Samuel Samuel, Michael Levi, Moss Moses, Lawrence Hyam, Abraham Asher Levi, Moses Samuel, Moses Hyam, Wolf Samuel, Isaac Levi the elder, Isaac Levi the younger, Lewis Samuel, Samuel Samuel the younger, Mier Levi, Simon Hyman, David Ansell and Philip Moses. There were thus upwards of twenty responsible adult males now attached to the congregation, though according to the Jewish Chronicle article referred to above only five families were actually left in the town in this year. Those tombstone inscriptions legible in 1894 were published by Gollancz in his article in Transactions, vol. II: though he does not refer to Margoliouth's spiteful tale, that the cemetery contains also the last resting-place of some pigeons whose post-mortem conduct had caused them to be regarded as the recipients of transmigrant souls.(iv) Another episode in the early history of the Ipswich Jews which should be placed again on record is the riot against them, on the suspicion of Jacobin proclivities, at the time of the French Revolution. Yet the community was regarded with sympathy, if it is true that the market-day was changed from Saturday for their convenience. In 1806, George Levy, watchmaker, of Ipswich was married at Sunderland to Dinah, daughter of Hart Samuel of that town, where no community apparently existed as yet. The baptism of Hyam Burn Isaacs, son of Isaac Isaacs of Ipswich (where the latter's father too had resided) at the age of 16 in 1810, attracted much attention and even led to legal proceedings.(v) In 1830, the community was reckoned to comprise not more than fifty souls. In 1849, Harris Isaacs, Hazan and Shochet since 1817, determined to go to settle in Palestine, and was given letters of commendation from Sir Moses Montefiore and others, as well as a flattering complimentary address from the Mayor and Corporation. In the end, however, he changed his mind and remained, continuing to occupy his former post and to maintain a school at which (he advertised) a thorough Jewish education, could be obtained. The Warden of the community at this time was a certain S. Samuel: in 1854, the presiding officer was Moses Levy. By now, the dispersal of the community had already made considerable progress, and its members were scattered far and wide. Thus, for example, there are buried in Jamaica, Isaac Morris (b. 1815), who had long officiated at the Jewish burials in the island, and David Morris (b. 1824), presumably his brother, both natives of the Suffolk county-town. In the second half of the nineteenth century, there was a rapid decline. When Sir Hermann Gollancz visited Ipswich in the eighteen-nineties, the synagogue had disappeared, and only one or two Jewish families survived. In 1917, when the present writer was stationed there with the Royal Sussex Regiment, services for the troops were held under private auspices, but none of the former community then remained. The burial-ground was under the care of a non-Jewish shopkeeper, who had formerly been in the employment of the last local Jewish family and took over the charge from them as a pious duty. It is now nominally supervised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.(vi)
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