Wartime move to Hove

Memories of Montefiore Road Hove Minyan

I was born at Westcliff-on-Sea on 7th August 1914 – three days after World War One broke out.

My father was Aaron Samuels, Silk Merchant, born in Kovno (Lithuania) and my mother Bella was born in Falmouth. She was the daughter of Rabbi Nochum Lipman – who was shochet to that community, and his wife Bala. He later became Rosh Hashochetim of Great Britain for 44 years

In those days wherever Jews established a business (usually in a town linked to a trade – Falmouth was a fishing town) and there enough to make a minyan then a shochet was employed and a shul or stiebel set up. Thus a community was formed in Falmouth (and Penzance etc) and up to a about 20 years ago the shul still existed but alas was used as a furniture store. The cemetery still exists.

Within a few days of being born my parents decided for safety reasons to move to Hove. We occupied the second house down on the left hand side when turning into Montefiore Road from Old Shoreham Road (at the time of this document it is a guest house)

Soon after settling in Hove my father decided that on account of the influx of co-religionists into the area – some of whom could not walk to Middle Street Synagogue – that a minyan should be set up in Hove. He consulted with Rabbi Lipman and it was decided that he should start a minyan at his home

A custom built Aron Hakodesh (Ark) was made in the shape of a bookcase and, with the help of Rabbi Lipman, three Sifrei Torah were purchased – why three? One for Shabbat, two would be needed for Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh and the third in case Rosh Chodesh Chanucah fell on Shabbat

The “Samuels” Sifrei Torah were probably written in 1913 or possibly earlier

The minyan was held in our front room on every Shabbat and, on Yom Tov, my father hired the hall in the church opposite our house (now a Mission). The hall was on the first floor and the seats built around the wall. These were light brown tongued and grooved boards

Members were encouraged to shnodder for the Yeshiva Etz Chaim – this being my father’s favourite charity – but for Maftir and Haphtorah a bottle of brandy – Martell or Hennessy was expected. After every service my mother prepared a kiddush

About 1916 my sister Dulcie took up dancing and my mother took her to have lessons that were given in a Gymnasium – now Hove Hebrew Congregation – in Holland Road and I went along with them. The entrance to the building was through a side door and against the inside wall stood a brown upright piano

My parents returned to London about 1918/19 and although there was a gap between the closure of the minyan and the opening of Hove Hebrew Congregation I am of the opinion that my father with his foresight had planted an acorn that grew into the Hove congregation – incidentally the whole ark area and interior was designed by a member of my family, Mr Glass.

Some history of the three Seforim

The first was about four foot tall and extremely heavy. Two men had to do Hagbah when the the sedrah was Bereshit or Zos Habracha. Unusually there were no Etz Chaim but carved satin wood was used inset with ivory elephants and the entire scroll was lined end to end with continuous purple Chinese silk. This sefer was presented to Finchley United Synagogue when my father was warden in about 1937 – with the proviso that it was used every Shabbat Mevorachim and first day Yom Tov – otherwise on account of its size and weight it would be left unused and eventually become possal.

The second medium sized sefer was presented after 1950 to an Israeli charity (possibly JNF?) for use on a kibbutz and a plaque placed on the roller with my father’s name. A proviso was made that a record should be kept in Israel as where the sefer was – ie which kibbutz or moshav – but when my father went to Israel soon after the donation nobody had heard of him or the whereabouts of the sefer!

The third, very small, sefer was portable and in its own Aron Hakodesh and has a very interesting history. At the behest of my cousin-in-law Salmond Levin LLB – then President of the United Synagogue – my father presented the sefer to the Jewish Free School in Camden Town for the use of the early morning minyan run by the students.

Norman Samuels, July 1993

Presented by Steven Samuels

Launch of Shalom Sussex project

Heritage Lottery Fund awards £10,000 to the Shalom Sussex Project at Strike a Light to mark First World War Centenary

Today, Strike a Light – Arts & Heritage CIC, in partnership with the Centre for German-Jewish Studies, Jewish Care and the Jewish Historical Society of England received £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a project, Shalom Sussex – The Jewish Community in WWI.

Awarded through HLF’s First World War: then and now programme, the project will focus on the contribution Jewish people in Sussex made during the First World War – both on the home-front and abroad on the battlefield.  We are also lucky to have further financial support from both Jewish Care and the Sussex Record Society, making £11,500 in total.

To mark the end of the Centenary of the First World War, between March 2019-March 2020, this project will enable people in Sussex to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of the Jewish people who lived locally during and post the First World War to collect these hidden histories.  Jewish people have been in Sussex since the 1700s, and the contribution in WWI made by Jews to the area has been significant.

Volunteers will collect photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, letters and photos of keepsakes, as well as family tales passed down to help them build a clear picture of what life was really like, with support from project partners, specialist academics, local authority employees and archivists, as well as young people, older groups, participants and project staff.

We will uncover hidden yet significant histories, exploring Jewish lives between 1914-1918, both locally and the contribution on the front too. We will chronicle family experiences, cultural traditions and religious memories, whilst also researching military service through archival publications such as the British Jewry book of Honour to ensure that these stories are not lost for future generations.

This project will provide an insight into Jewish life in Sussex at key moment in history, giving those interested in this heritage access to a greater number of and collated sources, for personal and social exploration. It is hoped that through a series of activities and events, increasing items of rare material will be added, expanding opportunities to celebrate Judaism during this time.

We will explore developments during this time including internment, women in domestic and military life including nursing, military experiences and keeping kosher during a particular time of hardship. We will look further into lives such as Florence Oppenheimer, who trained as a nurse (later to be a celebrated Jewish cook) at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in 1914, receiving a citation from Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War during the First World War, Capt. Joseph Friend of the Sussex Yeomanry, Leonard George Marks who although born in London served with the Royal Sussex Regiment and killed in France, as well as children’s lives and school days too.

The main focus of our project will be the creation of a community history website to collect new archive material, as well as to share this heritage publicly. In keeping with Jewish tradition, this site will enable visitors to respect ancestors so that their passing can be commemorated. We will explore the Jewish Chronicle archive, Jewish Care archives, local conscription and hospital documents as well as synagogue records including those at Middle Street Synagogue, Brighton.

“Gateways to the First World War are delighted to be working again to support a Strike a Light community heritage project and we look forward to finding out what is to be revealed about the Jewish community local to Brighton during the FWW years. I’m sure this will be a fascinating project, especially as it is focusing on an area that is little researched.”  Dr Sam Carroll – Gateways to the First World War

A wider, digital audience will be reached through our project blog and social media presence extending the project legacy for another seven years, for future researchers, relatives and the local community to benefit. With help from professionals, the information gathered will be digitally recorded to enable people to access and contribute information.  The archive will allow the public to discuss, contribute, share and research information about the Jewish community in Sussex during and post-World War I.

Commenting on the award, Shalom Sussex Project Manager Nicola Benge said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and pleased we can at last research and remember the wider Jewish community in Sussex at the time of the First World War as well as the contribution of Jewish people to the war effort local; through nursing, soldiers and the impact on the lives of this minority group a hundred years ago”.

For further information, images and interviews, please contact:

Nicola Benge, Project Manager – Shalom Sussex