A Survey of the Jewish Institutional History of Liverpool and District

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In order to obtain a perspective of the Jewish history of Liverpool and District, it is desirable to glance at the general history of the locality. Liverpool was granted its charter as far back as the reign of King John, but it is, in reality, an essentially modern city. The Jewish history of the district, so far as an organised entity can be traced, dates from approximately 1750, and this date coincides with the movement towards the city's present status, as one of the greatest of the country.

Through the quiet centuries before the industrial revolution a small scattered population won a poor livelihood from agricultural pursuits and a little fishing ... Its own burgesses described it to Elizabeth as "Her Majesty's poor decayed town." But it was gradually re? quiring some significance as the port of arrival and departure for Ireland, and early in the 16th century, wool was being imported from that country by way of Liverpool, to be sold, spun, and woven at Manchester. By the middle of the 17th century, it had attained the distinction of being referred to as "The prime haven in all the countie." The Irish trade increased, and in the 18th century, another source of temporary profit arose in the African Slave Trade . . . and with the dawn of the industrial era proceeded to prosper . . . When the American planters determined to try to meet the profitable Lancashire demand for cotton they looked to Liverpool ... the port began to grow and prosper.2

It was at this period that the Jewish inhabitants formed themselves into an organised group. This group is believed to have consisted predominantly, if not entirely, of Sephardi Jews of Mediterranean origin, who were on their way to the New World, but, for some reason or other, decided to remain at the frontier town of the Old World, and settle in Liverpool. It probably included also migrants on their way to Ireland who decided at the last moment not to take the voyage?a venture of some discomfort in those days, an element which may well have induced the intending voyagers to America to take a similar course. This would seem to explain the beginnings of Liverpool's first synagogue in Cumberland Street with its associated cemetery. The site adjoins what is now the Head Post Office of Liverpool.

Further confirmatory evidence of the existence of an organised Jewish entity in Liverpool prior to the foundation of the Old Hebrew Congregation is afforded by a peculiar work, copies of which are rare but one of which has come into the hands of the present writer, entitled Sepherah Shelosh "sent to some dispersed, but well-advised Jews now resident at Liverpool, in Lancashire." The author is one J. Willme, and it was published in London, printed for the author in the year 1756. The first letter has the prefatory sentence :?"Directed to the learned Rabbi of the Jewish Synagogue in Liverpool. . ." Too much importance need not be attached to the

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