6: Diamonds and disputes: the meaning of ‘community’

Podcast Six: Diamonds and disputes
00:00 / 04:10

Address: The courtyard opposite Fenchurch Street railway station, London EC3M 4PB.

Directions from the previous stop: Cross Leadenhall Street so you are over the road from the church (please note that the nearest pedestrian crossing is to the east, towards Aldgate Pump). At 50 Leadenhall Street, diagonally opposite St. Katharine Cree, go through the passageway underneath the buildings called ‘Fenchurch Buildings’. This leads into a courtyard then through another under-building passageway, then a side road leading into Fenchurch Street, almost opposite a pub called ‘The East India Arms’. Turn right down Fenchurch Street then, crossing the road, left down Fenchurch Place to the courtyard outside Fenchurch Street railway station. Looking towards the station, a little back from Fenchurch Place (the road in front of the station), in the no-longer-extant Magpie Alley, is where the Hambro Synagogue was situated for almost 170 years between 1725 and 1893.

Judith-Levy-ne-Hart.jpg

Judith Hart-Levy (1706-1803) in 1790, benefactress to the Great Synagogue in 1787 of £4,000, the major gift funding its rebuilding. The new building was completed in 1790.

Image: Judith Levy (née Hart) published by Alexander Hogg, after Unknown artist etching, published 1803 NPG D21653 © National Portrait Gallery, London, used under a Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Extract from 'The Sabbath Question in Sudminster' by Israel Zangwill, taken from 'Ghetto Comedies', published 1907, and is taken from Gutenberg.org

In this short story, a newcomer called Simeon Samuels disrupts the Shabbat-observant marine store-owners of Sudbury, an English port, by opening his shop on the Sabbath. Here, Solomon Barzinsky has asked the rabbi to sermonise against Samuels.

“'You touched his heart so,' shrieked Solomon Barzinsky an hour later to the Reverend Elkan Gabriel, 'that he went straight from Shool (synagogue) to his shop.' Solomon had rushed out the first thing after breakfast, risking the digestion of his Sabbath fish, to call upon the unsuccessful minister.

'That is not my fault,' said the preacher, crestfallen.

'Yes, it is—if you had only stuck to my text. But no! You must set yourself up over all our heads.'

'You told me to get in Simeon, and I obeyed.'

'Yes, you got him in. But what did you call him? The Holy Temple! A fine thing, upon my soul!'    

'It was only an—an—analogy,' stammered the poor minister.

'An apology! Oh, so you apologized to him, too! Better and better.'

'No, no, I mean a comparison.'

'A comparison! You never compared me to the Holy Temple. And I'm Solomon—Solomon who built it.'

'Solomon was wise,' murmured the minister.

'Oh, and I'm silly. If I were you, Mr. Gabriel, I'd remember my place and who I owed it to. But for me, Rochinsky would have stood in your shoes——'

'Rochinsky is lucky.'

'Oh, indeed! So this is your gratitude. Very well. Either Simeon Samuels shuts up shop or you do. That's final. Don't forget you were only elected for three years.' And the little man flung out.

The Parnass, meeting his minister later in the street, took a similar view.

'You really must preach again next Sabbath,' he said. 'The congregation is terribly wrought up. There may even be a riot. If Simeon Samuels keeps open next Sabbath, I can't answer that they won't go and break his windows.'

'Then they will break the Sabbath.'

'Oh, they may wait till the Sabbath is out.'

'They'll be too busy opening their own shops.'

'Don't argue. You must preach his shop shut.'

'Very well,' said the Reverend Gabriel sullenly.”

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