Hastings and St Leonards
Dr Michael Jolles (Copyright) - Trail devised and edited with additional material M. Roberts.


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There were also Jewish hotels. At St Leonards, Jewish hotels are listed in Halpern's 'Commercial Directory of the Jews of United Kingdom' in 1894, as being at Messrs. Jay at 69, Jacobs at 61 and Hyman at 92 Warrior Square respectively and A.S. Hyamson at 39 Magdalen Road, St Leonards and in Hasting, there was A.I. Joseph, 12 Roberston Terrace, Stone & Joseph at 19 Devonshire Road and C.A. Schawabe at the Albany Hotel, 7-9 Robertson Terrace, which was a large hotel.

Early visitors to Hastings include novelist Grace Aguilar, who came (c. 1820) as a delicate child for health reasons; here she collected shells. Sarah, Disraeli's sister, stayed briefly at or near Hastings, following her father's death (1848). Many came for a change of air and to convalesce: Chief Rabbi Adler was one (1877). Some eminent visitors or residents who spent their final days or died in the town included: Jeanette Salomons (died 1867), the wife of Alderman David Salomons, first Jewish Lord Mayor of London; Johann Loewenthal (1876), chess champion (a considerable proportion of champions at Hastings international chess tournaments were Jewish); Edward Jessel (1883), brother of Sir George Jessel, Master of the Rolls and the first Jew in England to hold ministerial office; Flora Goldsmid (1904), daughter of Frederick Goldsmid, MP; novelist Friederica Rott (1909), daughter of the noted scholar Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch; Miriam Levy Bensusan (1926), widow of a feather merchant, mother-in-law of artist Lucien Pissarro, lived at 49 Marina Street. The earliest death of a Jew in Hastings was that of a tobacco merchant, Nathaniel Jonas, a Londoner, who died at 32 Eversfield Place, St Leonards, on 5 November 1861. Jane Jones (born in King's Lynn in 1803) died in 1863 at Hastings; her father, Aaron Jones, was born in North Carolina in 1768!

In November 1885, a significant event took place. A Jewish congregation was formed in Hastings and St Leonards. The president was Rev. Philipp Bender, the existence of this congregation has been almost entirely ignored.

Rev. Bender (1832-1901), a distinguished headmaster, born in Germany, served at Hull (from 1851) and Dublin (1863-1881), where he was considered the perfect candidate for the post of Regius professor in Hebrew at Trinity College Dublin; he was not appointed because he was ineligible, as a Jew. In 1881 he moved to St. Leonards, where he established Beaufort College, St. John's Road, and became the keystone of the local Jewish community. As principal there (1881-1895), he prepared Jewish students for a commercial or professional future. A synagogue was also established there for students and local Jewish visitors.

In October 1881, High Holyday services (conducted by Abraham Ornstien) were held at the Josephs's at 12 Robertson Terrace. Services were then held at Beaufort College until 1895. The first bar mitzvah of Ernest Levi took place there in April 1882. By 1894 there were about fifty attending High Holyday services. Bender's pupils included: civil servant and historian Albert Hyamson OBE; Frederick George Aflalo, the founder of the British Sea Anglers' Society (1893), and author of over 40 books, and British vice-consul at Basle; and Marcus Samuel MP (1873-1942). Rev. Bender retired in 1895 and died in Hove in 1901. Bender's son Alfred became a rabbi at Cape Town and a professor at its university; he was regarded as Chief Rabbi of the Cape.

From 1895 services were mainly conducted by, Mr Abraham Abrahams (c1841-1907), at 'Strathclyde', his wife's boarding house at 51 Warrior Square. He tutored at least one bar mitzvah student.

Services were also led there by guests such as Rev. Bronkhorst (1895), Rev. S. Rapaport of Port Elizabeth (1896), Rev. B. J. Salomons from Montefiore College, Ramsgate (1904), and the Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler who stayed there in 1897 and 1904.

In 1898, the services were held at Saxon Hall, London Road, St Leonards. In 1903, Joseph Roberts of Pietersburg, Transvaal, visited 'Strathclyde' and donated to the Jews of Hastings and St Leonards their first Torah scroll. It was dedicated at the Royal Saxon Assembly Rooms with the service conducted by Rev. B. Schewzik and H. L. Friedlander. Mr Abrahams became the custodian of the sefer torah. Until that point, the congregation had to borrow a Torah from neighbouring congregations. From about 1886, Daniel Smith of 50 Cambridge Road, Hastings, provided services as a kosher butcher.

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