Kosher History; A Plaque Is Being Unveiled on Monday by a Freeman of the City Solicitor Rex Makin to Mark the Site of Liverpool's First Synagogue. He Tells Greg O'Keeffe Why It Is So Important
Byline: Greg O'Keeffe
I AM currently the only living Jewish Freeman of the City and only the third person ever to have the honour.
My predecessors were men like Benn Wolfe Levy and Lord Cohen of Birkenhead who was one of the founding fathers of the NHS. It makes me very proud and humbled to be unveiling this plaque and to be in that distinguished group.
My wife is a local historian so we were able to discover a lot of interesting background detail about Liverpool's Jewish community.
The first mention of a Synagogue in Liverpool was in 1753 on the site which is now the Metquarter. This was used until about 1775.
The second Synagogue was in Turton Court, the third in Frederick Street, the fourth (the first purpose built one)was in Seel Street. This was opened in 1807.
It has now been commemorated by a plaque on thewall of the BT premises.
Liverpool's first Jewish settlers were hawkers who eventually opened shops in the area of the Old Custom's House.
The first recorded Jewish birth is in 1765.
In the 1790 directory, 19 householders were Jewish. Their occupations were 'broker, bookseller, silversmith, bead merchant, itinerant dealer, hardware man, whole sale watch maker and slop seller.' In 1798 Jews were among the founders of the Athenaeum. Living on the main route of immigration, Liverpool was the main artery for Canada, the United States and was a major staging post for refugees from poverty and persecution in Russia, Austria and Romania.
In the early 19th century most Jews, like the general population, were illiterate and extremely poor, but a few were affluent. The community was a role model for charitable and educational institutions in the provinces.
In 1819 Elias Joseph left pounds 400 in his will to be used for educating Hebrew children in the borough.
He was the first of many worthies who created The Philanthropic Society, the Jewish Ladies Benevolent Society, the Liverpool Hebrew Provident Society, the Hebrew Free Loan Society and the Liverpool Jewish Board of Guardians. In many ways it was an early model of the welfare state.
In the 19th century 5,000 Jews remained in Liverpool where they created in Brownlow Hill and Islington the equivalent of London's East End.
In 1780 there were approximately 100 Jews in Liverpool and as the city expanded as a port of international standing in the late 18th century and early 19th century, further Jewish immigrants were attracted from Germany and Holland.
Some existing Anglo-Jews came from the South of England. By 1810 there were nearly 400 Jews here and nearly 1,000 by 1825. Between 1875 and 1914 they increased from around 3,000 to about 11,000. …