London Advertiser - 17th July 2003
Hundreds turn out to help celebrate synagogue's
Chief Rabbi leads special service attended by religious
and community VIPs
Mike Brooke - Photos: John Rifkin
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks:
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.
Congregation of Jacob marked its centenary with a service led by
Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks at the packed synagogue in Commercial
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.
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
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.
synagogue was on the brink of closure just 20 years ago, with the
demise of the Jewish presence east of the Aldgate Pump.
there appears to be a renaissance as younger Jews begin the return
to Docklands, cradle of the Jewish community 100 years ago.
Chief Rabbi recalled his days growing up in Stepney, where his grandparents
ran the famous Franklin's wine merchants in Commercial Road.
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.
your future be no less distinguished than your past."
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.
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.
they sit behind their menfolk, separated only by a curtain partition.
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.
community holds special memories from its day a poor imigrants straight
off the ships in the London Docks just south of the Commercial Road.
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.
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."
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
there remain only four left that are still in use, the other being
in Fieldgate Street and Nelson Street, Whitechapel, and at Sandy's