© Marcus Roberts (2004 & 2008 & 2012)


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Montefiori's tryst with Ramsgate came when he passed through the town for his honeymoon on 28 June, 1812. He was so taken with the place that he decided to settle there; and most crucially to use his vast resources to build a Jewish community around the synagogue that he was to build.

In 1822, Moses Montefiori made his home, with his wife, at East Cliffe Lodge, a grand Gothic villa over-looking the sea on the edge of town. He was finally able to buy the property in 1831.

He went on to build a splendid synagogue, in 1833, an imitation of his ancestral synagogue in Leghorn in Italy. The synagogue followed the Sephardi tradition and it had the unique feature that it was to be provided free of charge to congregants. The synagogue was welcoming to both Sephardim and Ashkenazim. It may be recalled that Lady Judith was Ashkenazi by origin and that Sir Moses set something of a trend for leading Sephardim to marry prominent Ashkenazim, such as the match of Manuel Castello with Elizabeth (Lizzie) Magnus from Chatham in 1855.

Sir Moses and his wife enjoyed a long and affectionate marriage residing at Ramsgate. When Judith Montefiori passed away at Rosh Hashanah in 1862, Moses was grief stricken. Her last words were a New Year's blessing for her husband. While he debated sending her remains to Jerusalem, he decided against the plan and she was interred at the spot they had decided together by the side of the synagogue. He ultimately built a mausoleum for her, by the synagogue, in imitation of the tomb of Rachel between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Then, he resolved in 1863, to set up a religious foundation in her name - the 'Judith Montefiori College' - to be used as a yeshiva for rabbinical students. It was to consist of ten houses and gardens to house ten Jewish scholars, under the direction of one of the ten, as Principal or Rosh Yeshiva. The buildings were to be 'in the shape of a Theological College in Jerusalem'.

The college was finally launched in 1869, on the seventh anniversary of Lady Judith's death. The college was under the direction of his trusted personal secretary, Dr. Loewe, who had been made one of the trustees of the estate in 1867, on the death of Benjamin Cohen. Dr Loewe had already been the first Principal of Jew's College in London (1855-8) and was an exceptional Orientalist. Initially three rabbis were appointed as 'collegiates'. Their job was to give sermons or discourses on the Sabbath and important occasions and to give additional lectures in the week on other subjects. All the lectures were open to the public.

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