A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10, Hackney. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1995.
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Jews were among the Londoners who bought property in Hackney, (fn. 1) the first recorded purchase by a Jew being that of a house in Homerton by Isaac Alvares, a jeweller, in 1674. Jacob Alvares alias Alvaro da Fonseca, not known to have been a relation, left Clapton in 1716 and soon acquired the estate between Mare Street and London Fields which his descendants held for nearly a century. (fn. 2) Moses Silva and Jacob Cohen were already in Mare Street, as was Benjamin Mendes da Costa from 1727 until he moved to Homerton near his brother Jacob and Gabriel Lopes Pinheiro. Fonseca, Pinheiro, and the da Costas convinced the magistrates in 1733 that they had been rated more highly than 'other gentlemen in as good or better circumstances'. (fn. 3) They and others were Sephardim mostly of Iberian origin, who were elected to parish and manorial offices from which they often paid to be excused. Benjamin Mendes da Costa and Jacob de Moses Franco were among the first members of the Jewish Board of Deputies in 1760, (fn. 4) when every member of the London Mahammed had a house in Hackney. The Francos' lessee Israel Levin Salomons between 1779 and 1781 spent lavishly on a building which in 1799 formed a 'chapel or private synagogue' at Clapton House. (fn. 5)
In 1786 land east of Grove Street (later Lauriston Road) was sold to Leon Gompertz and other Ashkenazim acting for the Germans' Hambro synagogue, one of whose overseers was Israel Salomons. The land, including buildings and once part of that occupied by Sarah Tyssen (d. 1779), widow of Samuel, (fn. 6) was used for burials by 1788 (fn. 7) and until the closure of the Hambro synagogue in Great St. Helen's (Lond.) in 1892. (fn. 8) The disused ground survived in 1990.
Stamford Hill (fn. 9) claimed eminent Jewish residents from the time of the Italian-born Moses Vita Montefiore (d. 1789), who was there by 1763. (fn. 10) His son Joseph (d. 1804) married Rachel Mocatta and his grandson Abraham Montefiore (d. 1824) married Henrietta, whose father the financier Nathan Meyer Rothschild (d. 1836) (fn. 11) lived from 1818 to 1835 near the later Colberg Place. The Montefiores' property, a little farther south, was to be turned by Abraham's grandson Claude Montefiore into Montefiore House school. (fn. 12) With the spread of building, such distinguished families moved away: in 1842 there were few of the wealthy Jews who had once settled in Hackney. (fn. 13)
Increasing immigration from London had by c. 1880 brought perhaps 5,000 Jews to Hackney, Dalston, and neighbouring parts of Islington. (fn. 14) Thence the more prosperous tended to move farther north to Stamford Hill, Highbury, and Stoke Newington, while southern Hackney received an overspill from Stepney and Bethnal Green. (fn. 15) In 1895 Hackney synagogue served a district 'thickly populated by the better class of Jewish working man', and in 1902 settlement in Dalston or Canonbury was 'among the first steps upwards of the Whitechapel Jew'. (fn. 16) Attendances on the first day in Passover week, 1903, totalled 1,274. (fn. 17) Moving from London to Dalston and Stoke Newington was encouraged by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Co. (fn. 18)
Bolstered by arrivals from Russia and Poland, from central Europe, from parts of London cleared for rehousing or by bombing, and finally by survivors of the east European holocaust, North London's Jewry may have reached 40,000 by 1929, 50,000 by 1938, and 100,000 by 1950. A recognition that the area was seen as likely to become more important than London's East End was the transfer of the New Synagogue to Stamford Hill in 1915. (fn. 19) Both the rector of Hackney and the vicar of St. Thomas's, Stamford Hill, claimed in 1931 that any moneyed residents were likely to be Jews. (fn. 20)
A statement that Hackney in the early 1950s had the largest and densest Jewish population in the country assumed that Hackney included Stoke Newington's Woodberry Down estate. (fn. 21) Two estates in Amhurst Road alone, however, contained 1,500 to 2,000 working-class Jews, while half of the boys at Hackney Downs school were Jewish. Some families prospered and, as before, moved away, with the result that less than a third of the school's boys were Jewish by 1972, many newcomers being Afro-Caribbean immigrants. (fn. 22)
Remarkable growth took place at Stamford Hill, partly in consequence of the establishment in 1926 of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, most of whose constituents were affiliated to the Adath Yisroel Synagogue, in Stoke Newington. (fn. 23) Schools and other institutions followed (fn. 24) and, after the Second World War, ultra-orthodox Hassidic or Chassidic sects, which had little save some practical educational contact with the older, declining, synagogues. In 1977 c. 2,500 strictly observant families, of whom over half were Chassidim proper, attended c. 35 conventicles, either a shtibl (little room) or beth hamedrash (house of study), within Stamford Hill's 'square mile of piety'. Chassidic groups, deriving their names from places in eastern Europe, had multiplied through secession, the main ones being the Belzer, themselves divided, the Gerer, the Satmarer, the Bobover, the Vishnitzer, and the Lubavitcher. Rapid progress was claimed by the American-based Lubavitch movement, (fn. 25) also known as Chabad, which administered its own schools and many activities from its Foundation at no. 107 Stamford Hill. (fn. 26) In 1991 the area remained distinctively Jewish, with schools, study centres, specialized shops, and residents in traditional clothes, which had been tested for acceptability in the Shaatnez research laboratory. (fn. 27)
The earliest public services were those of Dalston synagogue (below), which later moved west, in 1874. A minyan or small group, sometimes claimed as a forerunner of Hackney synagogue, had worshipped in Hackney Road East, Bethnal Green, in 1862 but failed to find permanent accommodation. (fn. 28)
Dalston Sysnagogue, for those too far from North London syn. in Barnsbury, began 1874 at Colvestone Ho., Ridley Rd. Synagogue opened in Birkbeck Rd. in 1874 but moved 1876 to a new iron bldg. at no. 120 Mildmay Rd., Islington, while keeping old name. (fn. 29)
Hackney Synagogue began 1881 at no. 43 Darnley Rd., moved 1885 to Dalston's vacated premises in Mildmay Rd. and back to Hackney 1892 as South Hackney synagogue in Devonshire (from 1938 Brenthouse) Rd. (fn. 30) Constituent of Utd. Syn. from 1897, with 352 seat-holders 1910; renamed Hackney 1936. (fn. 31) Red-brick building, designed by Delissa Joseph, consecrated 1897 and again after enlargement 1936, seated c. 1,000 1991. (fn. 32)
Stoke Newington Synagogue began 1887 at no. 23 Alvington Crescent as New Dalston syn., which was opposed by Dalston. Moved 1888 to Birkbeck Rd. and belonged by 1896 to Fed. of Syn. (fn. 33) New bldg., renamed, opened 1903 on site of Limes in Shacklewell Lane as constituent of Utd. Syn., with 434 seat-holders 1910. Amalgamated with Dalston syn. 1967 and closed c. 1976. (fn. 34) Ornate bldg. of red brick with stone dressings, designed by Lewis Solomon. (fn. 35) Served as mosque 1990. (fn. 36)
Montague Road Beth Hamedrash began 1902. Belonged to Fed. of Syn., reg. 1919 at no. 62 and again 1934 and 1935. Syn. had 200 members 1918 and closed between 1980 and 1985. (fn. 37) Octagonal bldg., with red-brick façade, used by Dalston Community Centre Project 1992.
West Hackney Synagogue began 1903 as Wellington Rd. syn. at no. 23A, formerly Shacklewell Baptist chapel. Belonged 1939 to Fed. of Syn. (when rd. renamed Shacklewell Rd.), reg. again 1950 at no. 233A Amhurst Road and soon renamed; (fn. 38) 'typical Fed. syn.' 1975, (fn. 39) an affiliated member 1990. (fn. 40)
Yavneh Synagogue began 1904, presumably as North-East Lond. Beth Hamedrash recorded first at no. 47 Victoria Pk. Rd. and reg. 1909 as unnamed beth hamedrash at no. 25 St. Thomas's (later Ainsworth) Rd. As South Hackney syn. 1930 and North-East Lond. Beth Hamedrash 1939 it belonged to Fed. of Syn. and as Yavneh, reg. 1966, it was a constituent member 1990, (fn. 41) when the stuccoed bldg., once St. Thos.'s hall, survived.
The New Synagogue, one of Lond.'s three 18th-cent. Ashkenazi syn., was re-erected 1915 in Egerton Rd., Stamford Hill. (fn. 42) Ample premises served several organizations 1930 but advance of Chassidim left it 'only as a residuary legatee' of Utd. Syn. 1977, a constituent member in 1990. (fn. 43) Bldg. in Grt. St. Helen's since 1838 was reproduced in red brick with bold stone dressings by Ernest M. Joseph, with addition of tetrastyle Doric portico, and connected by loggia to contemporary sch. (fn. 44)
Dalston Talmud Torah, (fn. 45) founded 1909, was at no. 62 Montague Rd. 1918-19, at no. 141 Amhurst Rd. 1920, and in addition at no. 187 by 1930. Dalston Fed. syn. and Talmud Torah were reg. at no. 213 Amhurst Rd. 1935 and were at nos. 213 and 215 by 1939 and until c. 1975. (fn. 46)
Stamford Hill Beth Hamedrash may have been congregation at no. 35 Clapton Common 1914 (fn. 47) and reg. at no. 26 Grove Lane (from 1938 Lampard Grove) 1918 and 1936. (fn. 48) Belonged to Fed. of Syn. 1930, when it included Stamford Hill Talmud Torah at no. 116 Stamford Hill; moved to no. 50 Clapton Common after 1960.
Sandringham Road Synagogue reg. 1917-41 at no. 1 as a beth hamedrash. (fn. 49) Belonged to Fed. of Syn. and also known as Schiff's Beth Hamedrash 1930, 1939.
Clapton Federation Synagogue or Sha'are Shomayim began 1919 and was reg. 1932 at no. 47 Lea Bridge Rd. (fn. 50) Constituent member of Fed. of Syn. and its 'cathedral synagogue' 1975. (fn. 51) Brick bldg., with polychrome façade decorated in mosaic, in use 1991.
North London Progressive Synagogue began 1921 for Liberal Jews in Stoke Newington. Moved 1928 to Belfast Rd. and later to Montefiore Ho., to no. 30 Amhurst Pk., and to no. 100 Amhurst Pk., where, after reconstruction 1961, it remained in 1991. (fn. 52)
Springfield Synagogue begun 1929, was reg. 1937 at no. 202 Upper Clapton Road. (fn. 53) Belonged 1939 to Fed. of Syn., an affiliated member 1991.
Knightland Road Synagogue was reg. in 1931. (fn. 54) As Succath Sholom, belonged 1939 to Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations. As Knightland Rd. syn. of the Law of Truth Talmudical college, it remained at no. 50 in 1991.
Persian and Bokharan Jews, akin to the Sephardim in ritual, were in Stamford Hill before the Second World War. (fn. 55) The first were at no. 5A East Bank by 1945, although registered only in 1955 and 1966, and remained there in 1991. (fn. 56) The second registered rooms at no. 7 Amhurst Park in 1957. (fn. 57)
Early synagogues of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, besides Knightland Rd. (above), were: Central Hackney in former Richmond Rd. Wes. chapel 1925-58; (fn. 58) Kehillath Jacob, no. 81 Cazenove Rd., 1930; Beth Israel, no. 51 Upper Clapton Rd., reg. 1931; Chabad, no. 158 Amhurst Rd., reg. 1931, (fn. 59) Northfields, nos. 109-11, Stamford Hill, also used by Yeshivah or Yisroel, made way for Lubavitch (below); Amhurst Pk., no. 93 Amhurst Pk. 1931, reg. at no. 36 1953, at no. 86 1960; (fn. 60) Amhurst Pk. and North Fields served Jewish Secondary Schs. Movement; Biala, no. 10 St. Mark's Rise 1931, 1960; Beth Joseph, no. 22 Dunsmure Rd. 1940, (fn. 61) 1960.
A beth hamedrash was registered from 1919 until 1941 at no. 62 Colvestone Crescent and another at no. 144 Amhurst Road. (fn. 62) Other synagogues were: Chevra Ahavas Torah, reg. at no. 34 Sandringham Rd. 1930-64; Rossens, reg. at no. 8 Dunsmure Rd. 1932-41, Congregation of Jacob, reg. at no. 81 Cazenove Rd. 1939-54; Beth Israel (Trisker), reg. at no. 111 Cazenove Rd. 1942-72; Ohel Yisrael Beth Hamedrash (later Northwold Rd. syn.), reg. at no. 116 Brooke Rd. from 1943; Voydislav syn. at no. 8 Leweston Pl. from 1945 to 1954. (fn. 63) South Hackney Talmud Torah at no. 76 King Edward's Rd. from c. 1920 may have been succeeded by a study circle reg. at no. 6 1939-54 and then at no. 11. (fn. 64)
Most of the groups established since the Second World War belonged to the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, whose associated schools had their own synagogues: Yesodey Hatorah at nos. 2-4 Amhurst Park from 1950 and the Lubavitch foundation, from its establishment in 1959, in Cazenove Road. Lubavitch soon moved to Stamford Hill, where a synagogue registered at nos. 109-11 in 1959 was replaced by one at nos. 113-15 in 1968; another was registered at no. 126 in 1967. (fn. 65) The Agudah Youth movement had a beth hamedrash at no. 93 Stamford Hill in 1960, registered in 1965. (fn. 66)
Many of the Union's congregations were small and occupied converted rooms: Dameshek Eliezer, no. 121 Clapton Common 1952 (fn. 67) until 1960 or later; Beth Levy syn., no. 48 Alkham Rd. 1954 until 1980 or later; Northwold Rd. syn., 1955 until 1985 or later; (fn. 68) Beth Hamedrash Torath Chaim, no. 36 Bergholt Crescent from 1955, although reg. there only 1981-6 until it reg. Torah Chaim Liege syn. at no. 145 Upper Clapton Rd; (fn. 69) Ahavet Israel syn., no. 97 Stamford Hill 1956-60, no. 2 Colberg Pl. 1975 (fn. 70) and, as Ahavat Israel D'Chasidey Vishnitz, no. 89 Stamford Hill from 1976; Beth Hamedrash D'Chasidey Gur, no. 95 Stamford Hill by 1959 and reg. at no. 2 Lampard Grove 1965, 1980; Beth Hamedrash Yeshivas D'Chasidey Gur, nos. 4-6 Lampard Grove from 1984; (fn. 71) Beth Hamedrash D'Chasidey Belz, in Bethune Rd., Stoke Newington, by 1959, had recently formed two groups in 1977 (fn. 72) and reg. one at no. 2 Leweston Pl. 1978-82, then probably moving to no. 96 Clapton Common; (fn. 73) Mesifta syn., at no. 84 Cazenove Rd. by 1960, reg. at nos. 82-4 from 1968; Kehillath Chassidim syn., at no. 82 in 1960, reg. at no. 85 from 1971; (fn. 74) Beth Israel (Trisker) syn., at no. 111 Cazenove Rd. by 1960, reg. at no. 146 Osbaldeston Rd. by 1980; (fn. 75) Beth Hamedrash Yetiv Lev, no. 86 Cazenove Rd. 1962; (fn. 76) Beth Hamedrash Ohel Naphtoli, at no. 5 Darenth Rd. by 1964, reg. nos. 3-5 1968-80, until reg. of Ohel Naphtoli and Ohel Moshe syn. of Bobor at no. 67 Egerton Rd.; Ohel Moshe Beth Hamedrash, reg. at no. 202 Upper Clapton Rd. in 1982. (fn. 77)
Among more recent conventicles of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, each one a beth hamedrash in converted rooms, were: Ohel Shmuel Shalom, no. 37 Craven Walk by 1975, reg. 1983; (fn. 78) Tchechenover, established c. 1896, no. 38 Ickburgh Rd. until 1985 or later; Atereth Zvi, replacing Dameshek Eliezer, no. 121 Clapton Common until 1980 or later; Birketh Yehuda (Halaser), no. 47 Moundfield Rd. 1975; (fn. 79) Beis Nadvorna, no. 45 Darenth Rd. from 1984; (fn. 80) D'Chasidey Sanz-Klausenberg, no. 42 Craven Walk by 1985; D'Chasidey Square, no. 22 Dunsmure Rd. (formerly Beth Joseph); Imrey Chaim D'Chasidey Vishnitz-Monsey, no. 121 Clapton Common 1990.
A Sephardi Eastern Jewry synagogue, established in 1955, was at no. 13 Amhurst Park in 1960 and registered as Ohel David at Gan Eden hall, no. 140 Stamford Hill, in 1972. It may have been the one registered at no. 7 Stamford Hill from 1956 to 1958 (fn. 81) and was renamed Jacob Benjamin Elias synagogue at no. 140 c. 1980.
Diure Shir synagogue was registered in 1970 at no. 50 Clapton Common, (fn. 82) where the Federation's Stamford Hill Beth Hamedrash moved after 1985. Jews from Aden were at no. 117 Clapton Common c. 1979 to c. 1985 (fn. 83) and at no. 127 in 1992.