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The nineteenth-century constitution of the Sunderland congregation

Bernard Susser

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 40, 2005 The nineteenth-century constitution of the Sunderland congregation* BERNARD SÜSSER By around the year 1825 some 6000 to 8000 Jews had settled in English provincial towns. Liverpool and Birmingham was home to perhaps the bulk of them, while the rest were to be found mostly in small communities of up to 250 souls in sea ports. The majority of such communities included considerable well-anglicized native-born elements. British-born Jews had, in the main, forsaken lowly occupations such as old-clothes dealing and peddling for the more middle-class occupations of shopkeeping, small-scale manufacturing, doctoring and dentistry. In dress and speech they were indistinguishable from the general public, and to an increasing extent they participated in the social, political and even, in the case of the substantial number who converted, religious life of the country.1 Our knowledge of one of these communities, that of Sunderland, in the early 1820s, has been enlarged by the discovery of a manuscript book of Regulations relating to the Congregation of Adath Jeshurun, a poetical name for Israel (Deuteronomy 32:15). The designation was not unique. Bristol congregation founded in about 1750 was similarly named, as was one in Cologne.2 The book measures 9% inches by 7'A inches and contains 216 pages of which 190 are blank. At the Hebrew end of the book, reading from right to left, are the Regulations written in a blend of Germanic Yiddish and Hebrew, in square Hebrew characters. These take up twenty-four leaves written on the left-hand side of each two-page spread only. The title page is in Hebrew and is dated 1823 (although Regulation 30 refers to founder members in 1821). The book was used again in 1845 and 1846 when deci sions of'the old established Congregation of Israelites' were recorded in English at the back, using both sides of two leaves. It was probably at this time that the outside cover was adorned with tooled gold lettering which reads 'Rules and Regulations of the Sunderland Synagogue'. * This paper, written in 1969, is here published for the first time. 1 For an overview see Cecil Roth, History of the Jem in England (Oxford 1949) 239. 2 The Regulations were found among the effects of the