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PLYMOUTH:

Seaport in the county of Devon, England; one of the principal ports of that country. A few Jewish families were living there in 1740. Among the synagogue deeds is a lease of a garden, dated 1752, the signature to which is witnessed by one Jac. Myer Sherrenbek; it evidently refers to the old burial-ground near the Citadel. In 1762 the mayor and commonalty leased to Samuel Chapman a plot of ground for ninety-nine years; and one Chapman executed a deed of trust reciting that the lease had been acquired by him at the sole expense "of the said J. J. Sherrenbek and Gumpert MichaelEmdon, elders of the Synagogue of the Jews." In the same year £300 was raised on mortgage "to complete the buildings, edifices, and erections now building thereon, and which is designed for a Jewish synagogue or place of worship for those professing the Jewish religion." In 1786 this lease was surrendered, and a new one was entered into with five leading Protestant citizens, who held the same in trust for one A. Joseph. Eleven years later another lease was granted to the following three Jewish holders: Henry Hart, Joseph Joseph, and Samuel Hart; and in 1834 the freehold of the synagogue was transferred to other trustees. In 1868 a new burial-ground, adjoining the Christian cemetery, was acquired; and in 1873 the congregation purchased the ground on which the synagogue house now stands.

One of the most prominent of Plymouth Jews was the late Jacob Nathan, who left a considerable sum of money to Jewish and Christian local charities. Among his bequests was one of £13,000 (£65,000) to found and maintain a Jewish school for the poor. This school was established in 1869, and has an average attendance of fifteen scholars. Solomon Alexander Hart, R.A., a native of Plymouth, bequeathed £1,000 to the congregation, and one of his masterpieces, "The Execution of Lady Jane Grey," to the corporation. It is one of the chief adornments of the municipal chamber.

The synagogue in Catherine street retains its ancient features—a latticed women's gallery, a beautifully carved wooden Ark, antique silver sets of bells, and old brasswork. It has a membership of 70. There are, besides the Jacob Nathan Day School, two Jewish charities, the Ladies' Hebrew Benevolent Society and the Sick Visiting Society. There are also several Jewish social institutions. The Jews of Plymouth number about 300 in a total population of 107,500. Except for two families, the present (1905) Jewish community comprises recent settlers.

Bibliography:
  • Jewish Year Book, 1904.
J. I. H.
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