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The Jewish Congregation of Portsmouth (1766-1842)

Rev. I. S. Meisels

<plain_text><page sequence="1">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH (1766-1842). By the Rev. I. S. MEISELS. (Paper read before the Jeiuish Historical Society of England, March 18, 1907.) Though the greater part by far of the " Minute Book of the Portsmouth Hebrew Congregation "?upon the contents of which my paper is almost exclusively based?refers to matters purely financial, and as such has no interest, not even a local one, for the Jews of the present day, there is enough, more than a mere residuum, that will repay a study, close and diligent. Indeed, if it be too much to say that a person is all the better, it may safely be asserted that one is all the wiser, for the perusal and examination of a document at once so old and instructive, and almost unique of its kind. For it should not be forgotten that whilst the date of the earliest entry in the Minute Book is Sunday the 17th of Tebeth ?140 years ago, that is?when some of the largest and most flourishing provincial congregations of the present day had scarcely come into existence, that of the latest entry is Sunday, the second of the Intermediate Days of Tabernacles ^j^' ^na^ *s ^ years since, when there were in the whole of London no more than seven large synagogues altogether, viz. four in the City?the Spanish and Portuguese, the Great, the Hambro', and the New?and three in the West End?the Maiden Lane, the Hay market (St. Alban's or Western), and the Reform, which was then on the point of being opened. This and much more to the same effect should be borne in mind by in</page><page sequence="2">112 THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. any one wishing to form a true and just estimate of the value of a record, such as is the one lying before me now. If I were asked to say what constitutes the most striking feature of the Minute Book, I should have no hesitation in declaring it to be the desire of the congregation (1) to perform the duty, taking the word in its widest and most comprehensive sense, devolving upon it as such; (2) to preserve the name of Jew pure and unsullied; and (3) to prevent, as far as possible, a "Chillul Hashem" ("a profanation of the Name of God "). This is the pivot round which everything else turns; this the trait that strikes one as the most characteristic of the entire Book. Not that there is nothing else in it of interest, of even absorbing interest, to Jews, and at times also to non-Jews; but that the feature I have here indicated would seem to be the leading and most dis? tinctive one, that gives tone to almost everything else that is contained in the Book. The congregation of Portsmouth was Jewish in the best and truest acceptation of the term; and though this description would apply more or less to almost every congregation of the time, it has yet a special significance in this connection, because, unlike many another, though equally important, community, the congregation of Portsmouth insisted upon its members living in strict accordance with Jewish law, for any open violation of which a fixed fine had to be paid, and refusal to do so was followed by deprivation of membership and of the benefits attaching to it. There are instances in abundance of both the one and the other? of the imposition of the fine and of the refusal to pay it; but, without exception, it was the congregation that gained the victory, so that either the fine was paid at once, without any demur, as far as we know, on the part of those incurring it, or, if they really objected to paying it, it was for a time only, for they soon found the arm of the congregation too strong to be resisted for any lengthened period. The following few examples, out of many others, will help to explain my meaning :? Min. Bk. p. 91 : In the year 5566 (1806) two persons (whose Hebrew names are given) paid a fine of 9s. 9d. (= 39 threepences) each, for breaking the Sabbath, by going by boat thereon, besides doing the penance imposed upon them by the Chief Rabbi, the Rev. Solomon Hirschel.</page><page sequence="3">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. 113 Ibid.: In the year 5567 (1807) another person (whose Hebrew name is given) paid a fine of ??4, 17s. 6d. (=^39 half-crowns) for going, two or three times, on Sabbath, on the royal yacht, or on a man-of-war (it is not clear which is meant, as the Hebrew, "the king's ship," might mean either), besides having to do the penance imposed upon him by the Chief Rabbi. Ibid. p. 86: In the year 5570 (1810) a third person (whose Hebrew name is given) was fined &lt;?4, 17s. 6d. ( = 39 half-crowns) for publicly breaking the Sabbath by going on a boat thereon, and the fine was duly paid. Ibid. p. 91 : Two years before, 5568 (1808), a person (whose Hebrew name is given), for having, whilst in Plymouth, eaten forbidden food, had to pay a fine of 13s. 6d., as well as thrice, publicly, to confess his sin in the Synagogue?viz. on Monday, Thursday, and Monday? before the Scroll of the Law was returned to the Holy Ark. The Sabbath and the dietary laws, however, were by no means the only religious institutions to which importance was attached. The Synagogue and its service also received considerable and marked attention at the hands of the Executive. Indeed the con? gregation must have been, in many respects, an exemplary one, other? wise it would scarcely have laid down and insisted upon the observance of rules which, candour compels me to admit, are not invariably in force even in some of what are called '' strictly orthodox Synagogues." For instance, it was forbidden (Min. Bk. pp. 7 and 9) not only to talk, or to leave one's seat, or to have one's children at his side (ibid. p. 63, children had to be at special seats under the charge of the School? master) during prayers, or during the reading of the Law, but when a person was putting on or taking off the Tephillin (phylacteries), he had to remove his coat in the hall, and not in the Synagogue itself. Certain articles of dress, even (ibid. pp. 9 and 95), such, e.g., as a coloured handkerchief, or boots?" with stiefel, which are called boots," as the Min. Bk. quaintly has it?even these were not allowed to be worn in the synagogue on Sabbaths and holy days. In short, nothing was to be done in the House of God that, in the words of the Min. Bk. (pp. 247 and 251) could cause a "Chillul Hashem" ("a profanation of the Name of God"). The following resolution, one of the very few to be found in the Min. Bk. in English, and taken verbatim from it, gives in a nutshell, VOL. VI. H</page><page sequence="4">114 THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. as it were, the substance of these several laws on " Decorum in the Synagogue" :? Min. Bk. pp. 214-215, copy: "At a meeting convened this 28th day of September 5594 (1834) of the elders and congregation, we, the undersigned, have, in order to secure due and proper decorum in our Synagogue, upon all and every occasion, and not to allow any talking or irregularity of behaviour, either on the part of our own persons, or others, that the interruptions, which have been but too frequent, may (not?) recur, it is hereby fully resolved and determined that all persons shall avoid making any noise or interruption of any sort whatsoever, especi? ally that of seconding or accompanying the Header in singing at the time he, or they, ought not; and it is further desired that all persons shall not leave their seats unless of actual necessity; and that the children be not allowed to run about or slam the doors, or to (sic) be permitted to make any noises whatsoever; and that any person or persons offending shall be liable to such fine as the elders may think fit and deem proper, subject to an appeal to the vestry. " (Signed) M. Solomon. (Signed) Geo. Levy. Nor was this?the violation, that is, of what might be considered as the purely religious precepts of Judaism?the only, or even the most frequent, occasion of fines. One of the most striking " Takkanoth" (laws) in the Min. Bk. is that (p. 3, Nos. 7 and 8) forbidding, under a penalty, members of the community to go to law to the ordinary courts of justice for the settlement of their disputes, without the knowledge and consent of the Executive of the congregation. Min. Bk. p. 3, Law 7 (Translation) : " Should a dispute arise between our members, they must not dare to go to the non-Jewish tribunal, but it is to be settled by our congregation. If it be a hard matter, however, then they should bring it before R. Tewele Hac-cohen, Philip Barnard. I. Joseph. Sam1'. Joseph. I. Myers. Joseph Moses. D. Lazarus. S. Simpson. Michael Emanuel. S. Moses. Y. Yoell. Isaac Moses."</page><page sequence="5">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. 115 Chief Rabbi of the Great Synagogue in London, or before (any one) who shall be Chief Rabbi of that Synagogue (in the future) until the arrival of our Redeemer, and according to the judgment that he shall give they shall do. Thus will there be peace amongst us." Ibid. Law 8 (Translation) : " The man, however, who shall do pre? sumptuously, and shall not hearken unto the Chief Rabbi, but shall go to the non-Jewish tribunal, and without our knowledge obtain either a copy (?) of a writ, or a warrant, from the Mayor, him the Executive of our congregation shall be empowered to fine 39 sixpences (19s. 6d., corresponding to the 39 strokes of the punishment of flagellation). This is done for the good of our congregation, and that there should be peace in our midst." There is no end of examples of men being fined for infringing this law, and of the cases thus mentioned there is actually one, in which the then Mayor of Portsmouth (Min. Bk. p. 21, bottom)?the circumstances under which it was done are not stated?returned the costs of the summons. Now, though the name of the mayor is not given in the Min. Bk., the date (the Hebrew date, of course, as usual) is, viz. Sunday the 13th of Iyar 5534, corresponding to 1774, when we know the Mayor of Portsmouth was William Carter, Esq., elected September 29, 1773. (Cf. W. H. Saunders, " Annals of Portsmouth," p. 276 : Hamilton, Adams &amp; Co., London, 1880). It is, however, due to the congregation to say that more than once when a fine had been imposed, as soon as the offender had agreed to pay it, it was ready and willing, if not to remit it altogether, at any rate to reduce it. What it aimed at and cared for most seems to have been the acknowledgment of a submission to its authority, and when that had taken place it was content with the payment of a minimum of the original fine. (Cf Min. Bk. pp. 25, 27, and 49, all bottom; and pp. 244 and 247, middle and bottom.) The paid staff of the congregation consisted as a rule of three officials, Reader and Shochet (in one), Hebrew master, and Beadle ; but, as often as not, there were two Hebrew masters, one for boys and another for girls, occasionally even an assistant-master as well, called " Behelfer" (from the German behelfen, to put up with, etc., which, however, is used only reflexively), and sometimes two Beadles</page><page sequence="6">116 THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. even, a first and second, or, as we should say, a senior and junior Beadle. The Secretaryship, which seems always to have been a paid office, was, with scarcely an exception, held variously by one of the three (or four) officials just named. At least one of these paid officials of the congrega? tion deserves a passing notice at our hands?I mean the gentleman called in English Mr. Lazarus, but in Hebrew Alexander Susman, son of Eliezer Lazi, of Hamburg, and for this reason :? He is the only one out of the salaried officers, twenty-one in all, who served the congregation during the period, seventy-six years (1766 1841), covered by the Minute Book, about whom I have so far been enabled to obtain any further information beyond that given in the Minute Book, some of which, as will be seen, is not altogether without interest even at this distance of time. This Mr. Lazarus, who acted as Shochet and Secretary to the congregation for some nine or ten years?from Adar 5574 (1814) to Marcheshvan 5583 (1822)?was the fourth son of the Rev. Eleazer Lazi b. Joseph, of Berlin, Chief Rabbi of the three united congregations of Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbeck. Just a month after his father's death, the 1st of Shebat 5574 (1814), Mr. Lazarus was engaged in London for the congregation of Portsmouth by its then Parnass (President), Mr. Eliezer (Lazarus) Franklin, brother of Mr. Abraham Franklin, and therefore paternal uncle of Mr. Ellis A. Franklin, the son of the latter gentleman. Mr. Lazarus being short of money, though his travelling expenses were paid by the congregation, Mr. Eliezer Franklin kindly lent him on its behalf ?5, which sum he duly repaid. Strange as it may seem, it is yet a fact that, with an annual income at no time exceeding ?700, but very often considerably less than that, the congregation somehow contrived to do what one seldom hears now of a comparatively small provincial community doing, viz. it granted pensions to the widows of some of its certainly not overpaid officials. It is thus that we read (Min. Bk. p. 82) that, in the year 5558 (1798), the widow of a former Beadle was granted an annuity of ??4; (ibid. p. 247), in the year 5580 (1819) the widow of Mr. Sander (Zellwill), Beadle, Secretary, and Teacher, an annuity of ?15; and (ibid. p. 248), in the following year, 5580 (1820), again, the widow of a</page><page sequence="7">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. 117 former Beadle, Mr. Joshua, an annuity of ??22, as well as a free residence. In addition to this the congregation, in its individual as well as corporate capacity, besides helping its own poor, assisted?under the circumstances it may be said liberally?the poor Jews of the Holy Land. From 1814 to 1833?within a period, that is, of nineteen years?the very respectable sum of ?86 odd was contributed by the Jewish community in aid of our poor co-religionists in Palestine. The money, it would seem, was remitted by hand or by letter to the Chief Rabbi (in this case the Rev. Solomon Hirschel), and by him delivered over to the Gabbayim (Overseers,) in London of a Society established for the purpose of collecting such funds, and of forwarding them to the proper quarter for distribution (Min. Bk. pp. 187 and 307). It is interesting to note that the first of the items thus contributed (?18) was paid over to the Chief Rabbi, the Rev. Solomon Hirschel, on the New Moon of Adar 5574 (1814), by the already-mentioned Par nass (President) of the Portsmouth Hebrew congregation, Mr. Eliezer (Lazarus) Franklin, who at the same time gave a gratuity of ?2 to the Shaliach (agent) from the Holy Land (Min. Bk. p. 187). Nor was the congregation's charity confined to its own co-religionists. For, imbued with that patriotism which has been one of the distinctive features of Israel in all its habitations, in biblical as in post-biblical times (cf. Jer. xxix. 7, and "Ethics of the Fathers," iii. 22), the Jews of Ports? mouth did their best in behalf of their destitute non-Jewish countrymen, both at home and abroad. It is thus with more than passing interest, with something like pride, that one reads the following entries in the Minute Book, referring, it is true, to two events totally different from one another, but both not without some historical importance even at this distant period of time :? Min. Bk. p. 177 (Translation) : "At a meeting held in the vestry on the eve of Wednesday the 15th of Shevat 5572 (1812), it was agreed that on each guinea paid as seat-rental there shall be imposed a tax that shall yield (in the aggregate) the sum of ?30, to be given to the Mayor or Governor of the borough (the Hebrew expression used in the original can mean either) for the benefit of the widows and orphans of the men lost in the wreck of the three men-of-war?St. George, Defence, and Hero."</page><page sequence="8">118 THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. Note.?These ships were stranded on the coast of Jutland on Dec. 24, 1811, when Admiral Reynold and all the crews, about 2000 persons in all, except 18 seamen, perished (" Book of Dates," p. 873). Min. Bk. p. 425 (Verbatim Copy). Committee Room, Lloyd's Coffee House, 13th Sept. 1811. Gentlemen,?I am directed by the Committee to acknowledge the receipt of ?20, 3s. 6d., being the amount of a Collection made at the Synagogue at Portsmouth towards the relief of the British Prisoners in France. The Committee also direct me to return their thanks to you and the other Contributors for the humane attention paid to the suffering of our unfortunate Countrymen Prisoners in France.?I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, your obedient servant, For Thos. Ferguson, Secretary. Messrs. Barnard and Lazarus, Elders. Nor is this all, by any means. For, Jewish to the very core as the congregation was, it fostered and cherished some of what might be termed the social institutions of our religion in a way that cannot but evoke our admiration. Here are some laws which show at a glance the spirit that pervaded the community :? Min. Bk. p. 12, Law 33 : "If a seat-holder in the Synagogue met with an accident within a certain distance of Portsmouth, and could not afford the expense of returning to the town, it was the duty of the Overseer to assist him to do so, at the cost of the Chevra (Benevolent Society)." Ibid. p. 271, Law 67 : "In case of illness, even if not dangerous, members of the community, drawn by lot, had to watch at the bedside of the patient, or, at least, to pay another to do so." Ibid. p. 61, Law 52: "When a death occurred, Jews, drawn by lot, had to dig the grave, or to get some other Jewish person to do so in their stead." The next Law on the subject, No. 76, p. 280 in the Minute Book? a translation of which, in English, I shall give in full?will be best</page><page sequence="9">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. 119 understood by a reference to the practice of body-snatching then prevalent in the country (cf. Chambers' " Book of Days," vol. i. pp. 251-52, February 12). The law legalising dissection (2nd &amp; 3rd William IV. c. 75) was not passed till 1832 (August 1), and then only on account of the horrible murders commited at Edinburgh by Burke (and his associate Hare), who, condemned for murdering an old woman and selling her body to the anatomists, suffered, in 1828, the last penalty of the law, bequeath? ing to the English language a new verb, " to burke." From the year 1800 until the said alteration of the law in 1832, the body-snatchers, or " Resurrectionists," as they were called, were almost the only sources of the supply of subjects for dissection. In reply to the following question of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, appointed to investi? gate the matter, " Does the state of the law actually prevent the teachers of anatomy from obtaining the body of any person, which, in consequence of some peculiarity of structure, they may be particularly desirous of procuring?" the celebrated English surgeon, Sir Astley Cooper (b. 1768, d. 1841), stated: "The law does not prevent our obtaining the body of an individual, if we think proper, for there is no person, let his situation in life be what it may, whom, if we were disposed to dissect, I could not obtain." Under these circumstances, the Law (to which I have already referred), dated September 16, 5587 (1826)?six years, that is, before any action was taken in the matter by the Government?appears quite natural, and is only what one would have expected of a Jewish congrega? tion, such as that of Portsmouth then was. Min. Bk. p. 280, No. 76 (Translation) : " At a meeting of the Parnas sim (Wardens) and all the members of the congregation, held on September 16, 5587 (1826), it was resolved to make the following Law, which was absolutely necessary, viz.: ' That henceforth, should a death take place (God forbid), then, after the interment, the acting Gabbay of the Tikkun Beth-Chayim (the Overseer of the Burial Society) shall take great care to send to the burial-ground two men to keep a most careful watch that the body be not disinterred by thieves (body-snatchers or Resurrectionists). Such watch to continue for two weeks, or less, if the acting Gabbay deem it so right; and this is the way it is to be carried out. The names of all Jewish males, of sixteen years (of age) and upwards, be they who or what they may, members, or seat-holders, or strangers, single or married,</page><page sequence="10">120 THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. shall be put into an urn, and whenever a death takes place the Gabbay of the Tikkun Beth-Chayim shall draw two such names out of it, and at once inform the bearers of the same thereof. Now, it is to be a perpetual law that such two persons shall go out (to the burial-ground) and there keep watch, together with the non-Jewish (caretaker) resident thereon. Should they, whose names have thus been drawn, be unable to go them? selves, they may send (another) Jew as a substitute for them. Before, however, they themselves or their substitutes go out to watch they must go to the above-named Gabbay, so that he must know for sure that they are going out. The cost of such a substitute is not to exceed 3s. 6d. for one or 7s. Od. for two. Should a person, however, no matter who, whose name has been drawn as a watcher, refuse to act so himself, or to place a substitute, he is liable to a penalty of 10s. 6d., to be paid without any mitigation whatever.' "This law shall remain in force always : (1) because it is made in order that nothing untoward shall (God forbid) occur ; and (2) because it is likewise a law that belongs to the precept of benevolence. " As a reward for this, God will greatly increase His loving-kindness to us, and grant us long life, and make us worthy of beholding the coming of the Messiah speedily in our days, when the prophecy of Isaiah (xxv. 8) will be fulfilled : ' The Lord God will destroy death for ever, and will wipe away tears from all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take from off all the earth : for the Lord hath spoken it.7 Amen, and may such be His will." So far I have shown the bright side of the picture. Yet my paper, imperfect as it already is, would be considerably more so were I not also to touch upon some of its dark sides. There was, e.g., an unfor? tunate schism in the community, the exact origin of which is still shrouded in mystery, lasting for something like twenty-four years? from 5526 (1766), the date of the first entry in the Minute Book, to 5549 (1789), when no more is heard of it (cf. Min. Bk. pp. 8b, 13, 67 (bottom), 69, and 119). To the credit of the two opposing parties be it said that, during a great part, if not the whole, of that time, there was in force a modus vivendi, a kind of truce or mutual agreement; the two congregations?the old and new, as they were called?somehow contriving to live at peace with one another. Yet, even within the old congrega? tion itself (and it is with its affairs alone that I am concerned) there</page><page sequence="11">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. 121 was not always that amity and concord amongst its members that one likes to associate with and longs to see in a body of men knit together by the ties of religion and race. Some of them had recourse to the civil courts of the land for the settlement of their private disputes?a proceeding which, as we have seen, the laws of the congregation were especially framed and intended to prevent. For this unsatisfactory state of things, however, some excuse may be found, and allowance made, in the difficulty always experienced in arriv? ing at an agreement with people of a heterogeneous character. For though many, perhaps most, of the Jewish inhabitants of Portsmouth were natives of Germany, they did not all come from the same town, or even the same part of the country. Some, again, were not Germans at all, but Dutch. There must have been several (though we are not expressly told so) who were born in England, or who belonged to some other parts of the Continent of Europe. Notwithstanding these personal differences, however?indeed, as a kind of set-off against their preval? ence?the members of the congregation were agreed and united in their attachment to the Synagogue, and to everything conducive to its interests. Indeed, no sacrifice would seem to have been too great where its welfare was concerned. Men, and women, too, vied with one another in their contributions to its support. As soon as it was known and felt that there was need of something, it was at once forthcoming, and in abund? ance too. It is thus that one reads and records with pleasure that (Min. Bk. pp. 35 and 38) " on Sunday, the 8th of Ellul 5529 (1769), fifteen members of the Chevrath Nashim (Ladies Society) voted some fourteen pounds odd for the purchase of a Sepher Torah (Scroll of the Law) and two candle? sticks, besides presenting to the Synagogue one curtain, one table-cover, two coverings for the Sepher Torah, and one embroidered mantle for use on Sabbath" : that (ibid. p. 175) "on Sunday the 9th of Marcheshvan 5572 (1812) the same Society contributed the handsome sum of &lt;?70 " : and that (ibid. pp. 39-40) " on Sabbath, during the Middle Days of Passover, in the following year, 5573 (1813), eighty-two ladies of the congregation (their own and their husbands' names are given in full) gave to the Synagogue a new curtain of crimson velvet, as well as a gold crown, gold lace, and fringes"; and the entry concludes thus: "All these ladies contributed to the best of their ability, according to the blessing wherewith the</page><page sequence="12">122 THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. Lord blessed them. May they, as their reward, be deemed worthy of giving an offering to our Temple, speedily, in our days. Amen." As for the men, it is enough to say that (1) their gifts to the Synagogue, amongst others, including one from the " Bachurim," the young men of Amsterdam, between the years 5529-5546 (1769-1786), almost fill both sides of a pretty closely filled folio page of the Minute Book (pp. 37-38); that (2) (ibid. pp. 92-93) on Sunday, the 3rd of Ellul 5566 (1806) some forty-two members of the congregation (their names are duly given, as usual), including two (Jewish) medical men, Dr. Goldston Meyer and Dr. Gessly (?), subscribed, amongst themselves, the sum of ?85 odd in aid of the fund for rebuilding the Synagogue, to be re-opened the following year, 5567 (1807)?a Synagogue, by the way (and it is the only one, too), used to this day by the Jews of Portsmouth ; and that (3) (ibid. p. 87) when, on the New Moon of Iyar 5560 (1800), the congregation found it necessary to purchase an additional piece of ground, some 60 cubits in size, near its cemetery, but had no funds for the purpose, the members of the Executive, eight in number, at once, without any noise or flourish of trumpets, advanced the money, on the spot, as it were, without, of course, charging any interest; and the loan it is but right to add, was repaid in less than seven months' time, on Sunday, Marcheshvan 21st, 5561 (1801). Nor was it only in their lifetime that the members of the congrega? tion did what they could to further its interests, but in their death they did not forget to benefit it. We thus find, to mention them chronologically (ibid. p. 145), that (1) on Sunday, the 21st of Marcheshvan 5561 (1801), the congregation re? ceived a bequest of ?10 from one Jacob b. Simon, a Portuguese; (ibid. p. 159) that (2) on Sunday, the first day of the New Moon of Marcheshvan 5568 (1808), another (bequest), consisting of the respectable sum of ?45, from Joseph b. Jacob, the Sephardi (Spaniard); (ibid. p. 174) and that (3) on Friday, the 24th (27th?) of Shebat 5572 (1812), a third (bequest) of ?15 from Rebecca, daughter of Abraham, was paid over by her son, Jehuda b. Jacob, " in order to have a perpetual lamp burning in the Synagogue, in her memory, during the twelve months after her death, and also to have her name mentioned on all occasions when Yizkour (the Memorial Service for the Dead) is recited." There are yet two other benefactions, which, though in no wise con</page><page sequence="13">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. 123 nected with the foregoing, are nevertheless worthy of special mention on their own account, as well as for the light they throw upon the place held by the Portsmouth Hebrew congregation in the esteem of its co-religionists abroad, and of some leading Christians at home. The first of these (ibid. pp. 101 and 103) is a donation of 400 Dutch guilders (about ?36 in English money) received in the year 1773 from the Executive of the congregation of Surnami in aid of the fund for rebuilding the Synagogue. Now, "Surnami," as such is, as far as I have been able to ascertain, simply non-existent. I shall not, however, I think, be charged with rash conjecture if I say that it stands for Surinam (Dutch Guiana). (Cf. as to Surinam, Lindo's " History of the Jews of Spain," &amp;c, Appendix vii. pp. 381-383, which contains a copy of the " Privileges granted by the British Government to the Jews resident there on August 7th, 1665," and the documents on the same subject published in recent years by the Jewish Historical Societies of England and America.) The second is a donation of ?20 to the Synagogue, in the year 1835, from the two Members of Parliament for the county (of Southampton?) whose names the Minute Book (p. 315) does not give. From an examina? tion of the records, however, I find that they were John Bonham Carter, Esq., of Ditcham, county Southampton, and Sir Francis Thornhill Baring, of Belgrave Square, county Middlesex. (Cf. "Annals of Portsmouth," &amp;c. by W. H. Saunders, Pt. ii. p. 356, 1705-1874.) In regard to this dona? tion, the following correspondence, which speaks for itself, and requires no comment on my part, took place between the Secretary of the congrega? tion and the then Chief Rabbi, the Rev. Solomon Hirschel :? Translation of Copy of Hebrew Letter (Min. Bk. p. 315). Portsmouth, Sunday, Sivan 24th, 5595 (1835). To the Rev. Solomon, Chief Rabbi of London and the Country. I am desired by the Wardens of our congregation to ask you for a reply to the following question : Two Members of Parliament in this county have made a present of ?20 to the Synagogue here, and we wish to know whether this fact may be (mentioned and) inscribed on the Board in the Synagogue. Hoping that you are quite well.?I am, your obedient servant, (Signed) Chayim, Secretary to the Congregation. P.S.?Kindly address your reply to the acting Warden (of the month), Mr. Michael b. Samuel.</page><page sequence="14">124 THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. Verbatim Copy of Reply from the Rev. S. Hirschel (Min. Bk. p. 315). London, June 2Qth, 5595 (1835). To the Parnassim (Wardens), &amp;c, of the Synagogue at Portsmouth. Gentlemen,?I beg to refer you to my letter of yesterday in Hebrew, and I think it necessary to address you again on the same subject in English in order that I may be properly understood respecting the propriety of inscribing the names of certain donors on the tablet in your Synagogue. I always had a great objection to put names in English in a place of worship, but under? standing that you have a precedent that it had been done on a former occasion in your congregation, I wish and earnestly request that the same may be done in the present instance, in placing the names of those liberal gentle? men who have kindly made a charitable offering to your Synagogue, but I beg to observe that in future care must be taken not to inscribe any name which expresses a name inconsonent (sic) with our faith.? I am, gentlemen, your friend and well-wisher, S. Hirschell. P.S.?The day after the question was put to me, I was informed by Mr. Moses Hart that many years ago a name of a gentleman had been placed on your tablet, of course in English. And the congregation had its troubles too, as indeed what congrega? tion has not. Of these two are known?one personal, the other financial. The first?which is not, indeed could not be, mentioned in the Minute Book, as it happened in 1758, seven years before the date of the first entry in it (ibid. pp. 7b top and 9b)?occurred on Friday the 2nd of the First Adar 5518 (1758), 148 years ago, and is of this description: ? Eleven members, old and young, of the congregation, whose Hebrew names are given in full, lost their lives by drowning?under what circumstances, is not stated. In memory of that disaster, to this day, four times a year, when the Memorial Service for the Dead is recited, these eleven names are also mentioned. The second trouble is of quite a different kind, and I mention it all the more readily as affording another instance of the generosity shown by the congregation towards its officials; a generosity which, one is pleased to be able to say, forms to this day a feature of the conduct of its members in general. Ibid. p. 236: On the First Day of the New Year, 5578 (1818), there was stolen out of the house of Mr. Sander, Beadle and Secretary of</page><page sequence="15">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. 125 the congregation?a gentleman who, if we may judge from the nature and style of his entries in the Minute Book, must have been a person of exceptional worth?the sum of ?260, belonging to the congregation, as well as some ?25 of his own money. The thief (a Jew, one regrets to have to say), found in London, was brought back to Portsmouth for trial, and being found guilty, was sentenced to seven years' transportation. A sum of ?243 odd, found on him, the congregation succeeeded in recovering. From this, however, had to be deducted the costs incurred by the congregation in prosecuting him, which costs, including the reward offered and paid, amounted to about ?100 in all, so that out of its ?260 the congregation received only a little over a half, about ?143 odd. If the loss to the congregation was great, that to its Secretary must have been, proportionately, still greater, for the sum of ?25 probably repre? sented the savings of a lifetime. Mr. Sander, therefore, on Sunday the 9th of Marcheshvan following, when the next Annual Balance-sheet was presented, applied to the congregation for the return to him of the amount of his loss, and the meeting, to its credit be it said, resolved to comply with his request to refund the money to him in twenty-five monthly instalments of ?1 each, in addition, of course, to his ordinary salary. In the Talmud (Baba Metzia, 83a) we read of a somewhat remotely analogous instance of liberality on the part of employer to employed, which it may not be out of place to give here. I say " somewhat remotely analogous," because there, as will be seen, the deed is marred by the circumstance that, as it was the result of a lawsuit, it was com? pulsory and not voluntary. Some carriers, we are told, broke a cask of wine of their employer's, and he, holding them to blame, seized their cloaks by way of indemnify? ing himself for his loss. The men then went to Rav and told him what their employer had done. " You must give them back their cloaks," said Rav to him. "But is that the law?" '' Yes, because the Bible says (Prov. ii. 20), 'That thou mayest walk in the way of the good.'" He accordingly returned them their cloaks. The men, however, were far from satisfied yet. ''For," said they, "we are poor, and having worked hard all day long, are hungry, and have nothing to eat."</page><page sequence="16">126 THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. ** You must pay them their hire." "Is that also the law?" ''Yes, because, the Bible tells us in the above-quoted verse, 'and keep the paths of the righteous,' words which can but mean (as Rashi already observes), that, when the well-being of our fellow-creature is concerned, we are to do more than the law requires?follow a line of conduct that goes beyond its strict letter." During the reading of the Law on the Day of Atonement in the Temple the High Priest?the Mishna (Yoma 7, ? 1) tells us?said to the assembled people, " Here, in this Book of the Law, is written more than I have read to you." Comparing small with great things, I may, with perfect truth too, apply the words to myself, to my position here this evening. For though I am about to conclude my paper, I have far from finished reading all that could have been read, and had prepared to read, had time per? mitted. I have been compelled to omit much that could not but have proved of some interest. For instance, there is in the Minute Book (p. 9b): (1) The copy of a Hebrew letter dated the 17th of Tebeth 5526 (1766), from the two Par nassim (Wardens) and two Gabbayim (Overseers) of the Great (Duke's Place) Synagogue in London, who were then, respectively, according to their Hebrew signatures, Naphtali Franks, Naphtali Herz b. Joseph, Joel b. Joel Ha-levi, Aaron Goldsmid, the last-named of whom had, according to Picciotto (" Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History," p. 249) established himself in England only a year before. (2) Then there is a copy of another letter (ibid. p. 9a), also in Hebrew, dated three days later, the 20th of Tebeth 5526 (1766), from the then Chief Rabbi, the Rev. David Tewele Schiff, both of these letters referring to the connection then existing between the congregation of Portsmouth and the Great Synagogue in London and its Chief Rabbi; and there are also other matters, more than merely touched upon in the Minute Book, which, were they known, would receive, as they certainly deserve, attention. One thing, however, I cannot pass over altogether in silence, and that is the language in which the entries in the Minute Book are written. A great many are in fairly good Hebrew or German, the language evidently depending upon the capability, or taste, or liking of each indi? vidual writer. Some of them, however, are neither the one nor the other,</page><page sequence="17">THE JEWISH CONGREGATION OF PORTSMOUTH. 127 but a jargon, and that of a very special kind, too. They are not, that is to say, as is generally the case, a mixture of German and Hebrew words, both more or less corrupt?of which, indeed, the Minute Book has instances in abundance?but sometimes entire English sentences, but mostly words, very often to be recognised as such with the utmost difficulty, used indiscriminately together with German words, and all written in Hebrew, J?disch, cursive characters. At the suggestion of a friend, some appendices, in J?disch, as well as in English, containing, in alphabetical order, lists of the names of all persons and places, as also of all the jargon words? of everything, almost, of interest occurring in the Minute Book?have been prepared, and are at the service of any one wishing to inspect them. On more than one occasion (ibid. pp. 200-201) the Synagogue of the old Hebrew congregation of Portsmouth is spoken of by the writer in the Minute Book as " the Great Synagogue." At first I could not quite see how the description could apply to the Synagogue as it then was. When I had, however, proceeded further with the matter, and observed how the sacred edifice, as well as the community to which it belonged, were conducted, the principles on which they were founded, and which prompted the congregation on some of the most momentous occasions in its life: when I noticed all that, I came to the conclusion (and I think that from what you have heard this evening, you will not disagree with me) that the term "Great," as applied to the Synagogue and congrega? tion I have here been considering, far from being a vain boast, had every justification in fact.</page></plain_text>