Photo of Shul by Catherine Yass (2000)

Hebrew - Congregation of Jacob
The Congregation of Jacob Synagogue
cheva yisroel
Chevra Yisroel & Bicur Cholim & Stetziver Synagogue
351-353 Commercial Road, London, E1 2PS
Tel: 020 7790 2874
- Fax: 0871 661 6774
Over 100 years of service to our community - Founded 5663-1903
Using modern technology to bring old tradition to your home

Photo (Left): Catherine Yass (2000) - Image (Right): Shul Pinkas (1903)

Image by Shul Pinkas (1903) Beis Hay

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East London Advertiser - 17th July 2003

Hundreds turn out to help celebrate synagogue's 100th Birthday

Britain's Chief Rabbi leads special service attended by religious and community VIPs
Chief Rabbi
By Mike Brooke - Photos: John Rifkin
Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks:
Comming home.

A Bishop joined the Chief Rabbi, a police chief and leaders of the Catholic, Muslim and Hindu communities to celebrate the 100th birthday of one of the East End's oldest synagogues.

The Congregation of Jacob marked its centenary with a service led by Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks at the packed synagogue in Commercial Road, Stepney.

Outside the shul

Among guests were the Anglican Bishop of Stepney, the Right Rev Stephen Oliver, the Roman Catholic priest of Stepney's St Mary and St Michael, Father Francis van Son, police commander Mark Simmonds, Tower Hamlets' Muslim deputy mayor Manir Uddin, who also chairs the Council of Mosques, and Bethnal Green and Bow MP Oona King.

Pictured left to right are: Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Rev Stephen oliver, Federation of Synagogues president Alan Finlay, Congregation of Jacob synagogue warden David Brandes and Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks.

The East End's once thriving Jewish Population of 250,000 has dwindled to 3,000 today - yet this house dedicated to Jacob who took his people down into Egypt to escape famine, still pulls in the worshippers each Sabbath and high holy day.

The synagogue was on the brink of closure just 20 years ago, with the demise of the Jewish presence east of the Aldgate Pump.

Now there appears to be a renaissance as younger Jews begin the return to Docklands, cradle of the Jewish community 100 years ago.

The Chief Rabbi recalled his days growing up in Stepney, where his grandparents ran the famous Franklin's wine merchants in Commercial Road.

"Coming here is like coming home, because most of my early childhood was spent in the Commercial Road," Dr Sacks told the packed congregation: You have kept this synagogue more than alive, you have been renewed and preserved something that is unique.

"May your future be no less distinguished than your past."

It is no ordinary synagogue, although looking plain from the outside , sandwiched in the middle of a parade of shops. Step inside and you enter a fusion of two worlds, one disappeared, the other reborn.

The gallery that encircles three sides is reached by a seperate entrance to the main portico, but is rarely used nowadays by women who still have to remain seperate from men in worship.

Now they sit behind their menfolk, separated only by a curtain partition.

In the summer, light floods the congregation through the glass roof, a feature imported from eastern Europe along with the wall paining above the ark that was crafted by a member of the congregation.

The community holds special memories from its day a poor imigrants straight off the ships in the London Docks just south of the Commercial Road.

David Russell, their 25-year-old vice chairman, said: "Remembering the poverty and challenges we faced as immigrants gives us a clearer understanding of the life new immigrants face today," he told the packed iisles.

"The issues are the same and the opposition no different than 100 years ago. Cultivating such empathy is more important today, with the crescendo of protest against asylum seekers."

The Congregation of Jacob was founded by Morris Koenigsberg and Abraham Schwalbe in 1903, in the front room of the Koenigsberg family home in Commercial Road a few doors along, for the immigrants newly arrived from Poland, Lithuania and Russia, just one of the 150 synagogues dotted around in every East End neibourhood from Whitechapel to Hackney.

Today, there remain only four left that are still in use, the other being in Fieldgate Street and Nelson Street, Whitechapel, and at Sandy's Row, Spitalfields.

All content on this site is copyright - 2003-2011 - Michael Gold and The Congregation of Jacob

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