16 April 2023

Synagogues around the World:
Patrick Comerford’s personal tour

1, ‘Synagogues around the World’ with Patrick Comerford in Milton Keynes

‘Synagogues around the World’

Patrick Comerford

Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue,
Giffard Park, Milton Keynes,
3 pm, Sunday 16 April 2023

2, Yehuda Amichai, ‘Poem Without an End’

Yehuda Amichai’s ‘Poem Without an End,’ translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch, is quoted by Simon Schama in his Belonging, the Story of the Jews, 1492-1900 (Penguin, 2017):

Poem Without an End (שיר אינסופי)

Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
is me.
Inside me
my heart.
Inside my heart
a museum.
Inside the museum
a synagogue,
inside it
inside me
my heart,
inside my heart
a museum.

3, Personal Introduction:

I was born beside the principal synagogue in Dublin, on Rathfarnham Road, Terenure, many of my grandfather’s family lived in the Clanbrassil Street area, known as Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem, and they are mentioned in Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and I grew up knowing intimately many of the synagogues in that part of Dublin.

For many years now, I have visited and blogged about synagogues in almost 20 countries, visiting about 138 synagogues and Jewish sites and the sites of former synagogues, including 33 in Ireland, 41 in England.

Since I moved here over a year ago, I have had interesting opportunities to renew contact with distant family members who are part of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community at Bevis Marks, and I have been visiting synagogues throughout England, especially in the East End.

Outside these islands, I have many favourites in Greece, Venice, Prague, Kraków and Cordoba, but I’ve also visited synagogues in Albania, Austria, China, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey.

Charlotte and I are just back from Prague, where once again I visited the Jewish quarter, and you may ask later whether we went in search of the Golem.

4, Dublin: four synagogues in the part:

Crane Lane Synagogue, off Dame Street; Marlborough Green Synagogue; Stafford Street Synagogue; Saint Mary’s Abbey Synagogue; – and Ballybough Cemetery.

5, Dublin: Little Jerusalem:

Saint Kevin’s Parade Synagogue; Oakfield Place Synagogue ; Lennox Street Synagogue; the Chevrah Tehillim Synagogue, Lombard Street West; The Beth Hamedresh Hagadol Synagogue, Walworth Road, and the Irish Jewish Museum; and Camden Street Synagogue.

These are the synagogues and the streets of Chaim Herzog and Max Levitas.

6, Dublin: some more modern synagogues:

The Dublin Hebrew Congregation, Adelaide Road; United Hebrew Congregation, Greenville Hall Synagogue, South Circular Road; The Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue, Leicester Avenue, Rathgar; and Terenure Synagogue, Rathfarnham Road.

7, Inside the Irish Jewish Museum:

How the Beth Hamedresh Hagadol Synagogue on Walworth Road became the Irish Jewish Museum.

8, Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue, Rathgar:

The Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue, Leicester Avenue, Rathgar, is now Dublin’s oldest working synagogue. The foundation stone was laid in 1952. The first members included Dr Bethel Solomons (1885-1965), the Master of the Rotunda Hospital and a former Irish rugby international (1908-1910), who became the congregation’s first president; Abraham Jacob (Con) Leventhal (1896-1979), a friend of Samuel Beckett, and who interviewed James Joyce in Paris on the day of the publication of Ulysses; and Dr Ernst Schreyer, a prominent lawyer in Germany before World War II, who taught German at TCD.

This was the childhood shul of Rabbi Jackie Tabick, the first Irish-born female rabbi, who was born in Dublin in 1948 and ordained in 1975.

9, Chabad House, Rathmines:

The Chabad House and Deli 613, Upper Rathmines Road, opened in time for Pesach this year, just days after it was announced that the site of Terenure Synagogue is to be sold.

10, 5 Synagogues in Cork:

A lost Sephardic synagogue on Kemp Street; Cork Hebrew Congregation, South Terrace Synagogue; Cork Hebrew Congregation, 15 Union Quay; The Remnant of Israel, 24 South Terrace; Munster Jewish Community, ‘a community without a shul.’

The earliest Jewish presence in Cork was in Jewish Youghal, where a Sephardic Jew was elected Mayor in the late 16th century

11, More provincial synagogues in Ireland:

There were synagogues in L/Derry, Limerick, where there were once two on the one street, Waterford, where the former synagogue on Manor Street is now a takeaway shop named ‘Babylon’, and perhaps in Wexford.

Ireland’s smallest synagogue may be the Beth El synagogue, Rainsford Lordge, Bunclody, Co Wexford.

12, The seven synagogues of Prague:

Charlotte and I were back in Prague last week. Tourists and visitors are told that Prague has six synagogues: The ‘Old-New’ Synagogue, home of the Golem; the High Synagogue; the Maisel Synagogue; the Klausen Synagogue; the Spanish Synagogue; and the Pinkas Synagogue.

But last week I found a seventh: the Jubilee or Jerusalem Synagogue.

13, A favourite in Prague: the Spanish Synagogue:

There is an interesting museum in the Spanish Synagogue. Why did it survive? What are its links with Franz Kafka?

14, The synagogues of Greece (1), Corfu:

The Nuova or New Synagogue, Corfu’s only surviving synagogue.

15, Synagogues of Greece (2), Thessaloniki:

The Monasterioton Synagogue, on Syngrou Street is the only surviving, working synagogue in the city once known as the ‘Mother of Israel’.

16, Synagogues of Greece (3), Jewish Rhodes:

The Kahal Shalom Synagogue and the Seahorse Fountain.

17, A Greek favourite: Etz Hayyim in Chania:

The Etz Hayyim Synagogue (18 June 2018)

I have also searched for the sites of the mediaeval synagogues in Iraklion and Rethymnon.

18, Italy (1), Padua, Bologna and Rome:

The Italian Synagogue and the ghetto, Padua; the synagogue on Via Mario Finzi, Padua; and the Great Synagogue of Rome.

19, Italy (2), the Synagogues of Venice:

The Scuola Spagnola; the Scuola Grande Tedesca; the Scola Levantina; the Scuola Canton; the Scuola Italiana; the Beit Chabad, the New Ghetto; as well as the old and new Jewish cemeteries on the Lido, and visiting Giudecca: was this the original home of the Jews of Venice?

20,A favourite in Venice:

The Scuola Spagnola.

21, Germany:

The The New Synagogue, Oranienburger strasse, and the Alten (Old) Synagogue.

22, Hungary:

Hungary’s synagogues are of interest to everyone interested in Irish literature because James Joyce says the family of Leopold Bloom is originally from Hungary, and more particularly from Szombathely.

Earlier this year, Charlotte and I visited the Great Synagogue, Dohany Street, Budapest; and the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park.;
23, Austria:

I have visited the Stadttempel or City Synagogue, Seitenstettengasse, in Vienna, the Jewish Museum with the site of the mediaeval Or-Sarua Synagogue, and seen exhibits from the Sephardic prayer house, the former ‘Turkish Temple’ or Sephardic Synagogue; the former Montefiore Prayer House (Bethaus Montefiore), and the Holocaust Memorial.

24, Albania:

Albania has a unique record from World War II.

The remains of the fifth-century synagogue of Onchesmos have been preserved in Saranda

25, Morocco:

Morocco has a unique record among Muslim-majority countries in North Africa and the Middle East, and Tangier has its own Rue Synagogue.

In Tangier, I have visited the Synagogue Rebbi Akiva on Rue Synagogue, originally built in the mid-19th century, and the Moshe Nahon Synagogue.

26, Seven synagogues in Kraków:

Many of us have visited Auschwitz. But there is a vivid Jewish history in Kraków, where I have visited seven surviving synagogues: the Old Synagogue, the Remu'h Synagogue, the Wolf Popper Synagogue, the High Synagogue or Synagoga Wysoka on Jozefa Street, the Isaak Jakubowicz (now home to the Chabad community in Kraków) and the Kupa Synagogue, both on Kupa Street, and the Tempel Synagogue on Miodowa Street.

I have twice had to cancel visits to Warsaw, where I had planned to visit the site of the Great Synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis in 1943, and the Nożyk Synagogue, the only surviving pre-war synagogue in Warsaw.

27, Porto, Portugal (1):

The story of the revival of Jewish life in Portugal among the descendants of crypto-Jewish or converso families is one of the amazing stories of European Jewry in the 20th century.

The Kadoorie Mekor Haim (‘Spring of Life’) Synagogue in Porto is one of the largest synagogues in western Europe.

28, Porto, Portugal (2):

In Porto, I have also visited the site of the first synagogue in Porto at Igreja dos Grilos, the site of the 14th century synagogue at Rua do Comércio do Porto, and the site of the synagogue at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Vitória.

29, Bratislava, Slovakia:

The places I have visited in Slovakia include the site of the mediaeval synagogue on Uršulínska Street, the Synagogue at Heydukova ulica 11, the tomb of Chatham Moser, the Jewish Museum on Židovská Street, and the Holocaust Memorial and the site of the former Neolog Synagogue.

30, Some Jewish sites in Spain:

The places to visit in Spain include the site of old synagogue at the Church of Sant Jaume on Calle Ferran, Barcelona; the synagogue and Sephardic heritage centre on Plaza de Judería, Málaga; the former synagogue at the Church of Santa María la Blanca and the Jewish Interpretive Centre, Ximenez de Enisco in Seville, and the lost synagogues of Valencia.

31, A Spanish favourite, Córdoba:

Perhaps the most striking place to visit in Spain is the synagogue built by Simon Majeb in 1315 in Córdoba.

32, Mediaeval and early modern London:

Walking around the streets of London, it is still possible to see the sites associated with mediaeval Jewish life, before the great expulsion, and some of the early synagogues when Jewish life returned to England after the mid-17th century.

These include: the site in Old Jewry of the Great Synagogue of London until 1271; the earlier site of a synagogue at Threadneedle Street, built in 1231;
And then, later, we have:

The site of the former Creechurch Lane Synagogue; the Bevis Marks Synagogue; the site of the former Great Synagogue, Duke’s Lane; the former Hambro’ Synagogue; and the former New Synagogue, Leadenhall Street.

33, A London favourite:

There are many reasons why I feel a strong affinity with the Bevis Marks Synagogue.

34, The East End, a miscellany (1):

Where is the real East End?

The site of the former Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue, Whitechapel; the former Brick Lane Synagogue; Sandy’s Row Synagogue; and the East London Central Synagogue, also known as Nelson Street Synagogue, founded as the Nelson Street Sfardish Synagogue.

35, The East End, a miscellany (2):

Others include:

the former Artillery Lane Synagogue, near Liverpool Street Station; and the former Gun Street Synagogue, near Spitalfields.

the Princelet Street Synagogue;

on Hanbury Street there was: the Spital Square Poltava Synagogue, and other synagogues on Heneage Street; the Konin Synagogue, at No 48; the Glory of Israel and Sons of Klatsk Synagogue, No 50½; the Poltava Synagogue, No 50½; the Brethren of Suwalki Synagogue, No 56; the Hanbury Street Synagogue, No 60; the Lovers of Peace Synagogue; and the Voice of Jacob Synagogue, both at Nos 183/185.

the Kehillas Ya’akov, Commercial Road, Stepney.

There are so many more, many of them known to your parents or grandparents, or even to you yourself.

36, Outside London (1):

The Cambridge Synagogue and Jewish Student Centre; the Oxford Jewish Centre; site of mediaeval synagogue in Oxford; and the Oxford Centre for Hebrew Jewish Studies.

37, Outside London (2):

Post-stroke hospital treatment and follow-up rest also provided opportunities to continue my searches in York and Sheffield.

In York, these visits have included Clifford’s Tower and the site of the massacre of 1190; the mediaeval and modern synagogues of York; and the mediaeval Jewish cemetery at Jewbury.

The synagogues I have searched for in Sheffield include Sheffield Hebrew Congregation, or the Great Synagogue, Figtree Lane; Sheffield Hebrew Congregation, or the Great Synagogue, North Church Street; Sheffield Central Synagogue, Campo Lane; Sheffield Hebrew Congregation, Wilson Road, Ecclesall; United Synagogue, Sheffield, Psalter Lane; and Sheffield and District Reform Jewish Congregation (19 August 2022)

I have also visited synagogues and Jewish sites in Peterborough, Cornwall, the mediaeval synagogue in Sheep Street, Northampton; and the present Northampton Hebrew Congregation on Overstone Road.

38, And another favourite:

I have been warmly welcomed here in Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue.

And I have also looked for the sites used during World War II by the Wolverton United Synagogue Membership Group, or the Haversham Jewish Community in New Bradwell and Haversham.

39, Some missing synagogues:

I could said more about Helsinki Synagogue and Finland's Jewish community; the Jewish community of Hong Kong; synagogue sites I have visited in Malta, or the synagogues I missed out on visiting, including the last surviving synagogue in Yangon in Myanmar.

Before I began blogging, there were synagogues from Alexandria to the Cape, in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel and the Middle East, in Bucharest, Paris and other parts of Belfast. And I still have not given Jewish Belfast, Jewish Birmingham or Jewish Birmingham the visits I know will be very interesting.

40, Conclusions:

Any Questions?

Why do I do this?

Is this a continuing project?

41 Why this continues:

42, Closing image:

43, Making links:

Finding links to the places we have discussed this afternoon.

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