5: ‘You say Sabbato, I say Shabbes!’: when Ashkenazim were a minority of a minority

Podcast Five: ‘You say Sabbato, I say Shabbes!’
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Address: Opposite the door to St. Katherine Cree church, at the corner of Leadenhall Street and Creechurch Lane, London EC3, looking across the road at the blue plaque which reads “On this site stood Tylers’ and Bricklayers’ Hall 1538-1883".

Directions from the previous stop: Facing the Royal Exchange, take the road which passes to its right: Cornhill. Walk eastwards for almost half a mile, crossing - on the left side of the road - Finch Lane and Gracechurch Street (A10). The road becomes Leadenhall Street after you’ve crossed Gracechurch Street. Keep walking east, crossing – again on the left side of the road – St. Mary Axe, until you reach Creechurch Lane.

5 - The New Synagogue, Bricklayers Hall,

Entrance to The New Synagogue, Bricklayers Hall, Leadenhall Street, 1811

From its foundation in 1761, during the first few months of the reign of George III, through to 1837 when the young Queen Victoria had just come to the throne, this was the site of the New Synagogue. The community moved in 1838 to a grand, purpose-built shul in Great St. Helen’s just off Bishopsgate, a five minute walk away. The New had 185 baalai batim (heads of household) in 1845, and 266 seat-holders. In 1870 the New Synagogue was one of the five founder communities of the United Synagogue. In 1911 the New Synagogue moved to a new building in Egerton Road, Stamford Hill, where it reached its peak of over 1,000 members in the 1950s and 1960s. The New Synagogue premises were sold to Bobov Chasidim in 1987 although the original United Synagogue community continued to meet there until very recently.
This etching of the exterior of the New Synagogue here, was published in 1811 in the European Magazine, which was produced in London between 1782 and 1826. The door to the left of the picture is the entrance to the synagogue and in the shadows can be seen a man wearing a hat and what might be the clerical collar of a rabbi. Note also the inhabited birdcage over the entranceway, perhaps positioned to serenade worshippers as they entered.

(© The Trustees of the British Museum. This image is copyright of the British Museum and is used under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0): https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

The trial of Ibraham Israel alias Jonas, 8th April 1730, available online through the Proceedings of the Old Bailey

“Ibraham Israel, alias Jonas, of St. Peter's Poor [near Old Broad Street in the City of London], was indicted for feloniously stealing eight Silver Spoons, five Silver Forks, two Silver Canisters, one Diamond Ring, Value 250 l. [£250] a pair of Diamond Ear-Rings, Value 90 l. [£90] three Diamond Buckles, and other Goods, in the Dwelling house of John Mendez de Costa, the 4th of March last.
“Mr. Mendez de Costa depos'd, That he having been Abroad [out of the house], when he came Home, upon enquiry, found that the Prisoner, who had gone out with him behind the Coach, had been at Home, and was gone; upon which, going to the Scriptore [writing room?], found that the Things mentioned in the Indictment were missing; that he sent after him divers Ways, to Dover, Harwich, &c. and that the Prisoner was taken at Canterbury, viewing the Cathedral.
“John Pisin depos'd, That he being sent in pursuit of the Prisoner, found him in Canterbury, with the Diamond Ring, and other Things in his Pocket, and that upon his being apprehended, he confess'd he had taken them out of the Scriptore; that he found the Spoons and Forks, at a Goldsmiths at Canterbury , where he had offer'd them to sale.
“Christopher Simpkins depos'd, That the Prisoner brought 2 Silver Canisters to him to sell, asking 4s. an Ounce for them, and he stopp'd them. The Goods were produc'd in Court, and own'd by the Prosecutor, and the Prisoner having nothing to say in his Defence, the Jury found him guilty of the Indictment.
“[Sentenced to] Death.”

Extracts from the ‘Ordinary’s Account’, by the chaplain or ‘ordinary’ of Newgate Gaol ‘Of the Behaviour, Confession, and dying Words of the Malefactors, who were executed at Tyburn, on Tuesday the 12th, of this Instant May, 1730’, available online through the Proceedings of the Old Bailey


“Abraham Israel, alias Jonas, was an obstinate and irreclaimable Jew: I endeavour'd to perswade him to believe in Christ as the only Saviour of Sinners, by shewing that Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messias, as being the only Person, in whom all the Prophecies of the old Testament concerning the Messias were fulfill'd, in respect he was the Seed of the Woman, who bruis'd the Head of the Serpent, i. e. who destroy'd the Kingdom of Satan… [etc.] But whatever could be said on this Subject, he appear'd still Inflexible, and gave a general Answer, that he would acknowledge none of these things, and that there had been abundance of wise Men of their Nation, who represented the Scripture in another View.
“Abraham Israel, alias Jonas, 22 Years of Age, born at Presburg [Bratislava], in Hungary, of Jewish Parents, who, he said, gave him Education in their Way, and design'd him for a Rabbi. They sent him to a Jewish School or College, at Prague, in Bohemia, and after he had been there for some Time, he left it without Consent of his Father and came to England, where he serv'd some of the topping Jewish Families, in Station of Jewish Butcher or Cook . He own'd that they were very Kind to him, and that he got Abundance of Money, and that it was nothing but a Temptation of the D[evi]l prompted him to rob his Master. He said that he had liv'd up to the Rules of his Religion in many Respects, although he had been guilty of several Failings. He said his Father was a very rich Man at Presburg, and that he had good Relations of his own Nation there[…] He own'd the Justice of his Sentence, according to Law, and died an obstinate Jewish Infidel.”

Both sources © Old Bailey Online, The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913, https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/