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Book Notes: The Jews of South-West England, Bernard Susser

Alex Jacob

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Jews of South-West England, Bernard S?sser (University of Exeter Press, 1993). 264 pp. ?30. Rabbi Dr S?sser, who served as Minister at Plymouth between 1961 and 1981, presents a detailed sociological survey of the four congregations in Devon and Cornwall, which reached their peak around the middle of the last century. The two smaller communities of Falmouth and Penzance had ceased to exist by 1892, while those of Exeter and Plymouth survive, although very gready reduced in size and importance. The work is the result of thorough research over many years; the text is accom? panied by over 1800 footnotes. The author's method is to compile a series of statistical tables - thirty-nine in all - and to analyse and interpret them in order to show how movement into, within and away from the region; the size and structure of the Jewish population; and communal organization changes gradually transformed the situation. In the case of the two Cornish communities the picture that emerges is of an extended family group; the larger numbers at Exeter and Plymouth produced more diverse, but still close-knit, communities. In all cases the loyalty to tradition is marked. The improvement in communications which from 1850 onwards resulted in a nationwide movement towards the larger indus? trial towns led inevitably to the decline of these congregations. Their fate is less surprising, perhaps, than the fact that they ever came into existence. The enter? prise of their founders, who were almost all of foreign birth and who established themselves far from any of their co-religionists in small provincial towns, forming the nucleus of communities dedicated to adherence to their traditions, is remark? able; and we must be grateful to Rabbi S?sser for this record of one aspect of our Anglo-Jewish past. Alex Jacob</page></plain_text>