Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, Nos. 3-4 / Winter 1997-98
Lottery to Fund Survey of UK Jewish Monuments
England's Heritage Lottery Funds Survey of Jewish Monuments
by Sharman Kadish
England's Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded the Jewish Memorial Council £146,300 (US $240,000) to undertake a survey of historic Jewish buildings to be directed by ISJM board member Sharman Kadish. Dr. Kadish, co-founder of the Working Party on Jewish Monuments says: "It will be the first survey of synagogues, cemeteries and other Jewish buildings in the UK and Ireland." Dr. Kadish has been involved with Jewish heritage preservation for ten years and is author or editor of several books, most recently Building Jerusalem: Jewish Architecture in Britain (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1996). She filed this report for JHR.
Jews in Britain, unlike those in Continental Europe, have enjoyed 300 years of continuous settlement. A unique physical legacy of Jewish landmarks, both sacred and secular, survives: synagogues, burial grounds, mikvot (ritual bathhouses) and social architecture. Much of the architectural heritage of British Jewry has been lost through wartime bombing, demographic shift and urban renewal, and that which remains is vulnerable to vandalism and decay. In comparison with those of Christian denominations, Jewish buildings remain under-represented on the Statutory National Monuments List.
The Jewish Built Heritage in the UK & Ireland is the first comprehensive survey of Jewish monuments and sites ever undertaken in Britain, and the recognition which it has already received from official sources indicates that the 'heritage industry' has at last woken up to the reality of a multi-cultural society.
The survey is being co-ordinated by the author under the auspices of the Jewish Memorial Council, London, a registered charity. It will cover extant Jewish monuments and sites in Britain and Ireland which date from before World War II. Building types will include synagogues, burial grounds, ritual bathhouses (mikvot), a handful of rare archaeological sites, and other buildings of Jewish interest, such as schools, hospitals and soup kitchens. Research will also focus on architects who designed for the Jewish community.
A computerized database is being created for the project and fieldwork. It will include photography and measured drawings and will be carried out by graduate students of several departments of architecture and building conservation. Project partners already include Oxford Brookes and Leicester De Montfort Universities, and further participants are being sought. The output of the survey, both physical and digital, will be stored at the National Monuments Record in Swindon, and it is hoped that a major publication based on the project will appear in due course.
In addition to scholarly research, the survey aims to promote preservation on a practical level through the listing (landmarking) of the most important sites, raising public awareness and knowledge about the Jewish architectural heritage and encouraging Jewish cultural tourism in Britain. In 1995 the Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage attracted seed funding totaling £6,000 thanks to the generosity of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Indeed, the Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage was the only recipient of the RIBA Historical Research Trust award for 1995.
In 1997 a successful bid was made on behalf of the Survey by the Jewish Memorial Council, London (a registered charity) for support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Heritage Lottery Fund was one of several funds set up to distribute on a charitable basis monies raised by the British Government through the recently instituted National Lottery. To date, £146,300 has been awarded for the Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage. Match funding partners are now being sought given that:
* The Heritage Lottery Fund has pledged funding up to 75% of the total cost of the project.
* The Republic of Ireland lies outside the geo-political remit of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
* The Heritage Lottery Fund cannot sponsor publications.
Liverpool, England. Old Hebrew Congregation. Princes Road (1874). One of the many splendid Jewish buildings to be surveyed. Photo: Abe Magid, 1991.
The Jewish Built Heritage in Ireland
The Survey is seeking sponsorship for its research and field work in the Republic of Ireland.
The Medieval Annals of Inishfallon record the visit of five Jews to the High King at Limerick, but no settled community reached Ireland before the expulsion from mainland Britain in 1290. However, following the expulsion from Spain in 1492, Jews apparently arrived in the southern Irish seaports, and there are references to Sephardic Jews in Ireland from the 1500s. Jews were not officially allowed to reside in Britain itself until the Readmission under Oliver Cromwell in 1656.
The major concentration of Jews in Ireland has always been in Dublin. The first official synagogue was established there by Portuguese Marranos in about 1660. The burial ground at Ballybough dates back to 1718 making it the oldest in the entire Isles outside London. A second Dublin burial ground was opened at Dolphin's Barn in 1898. Dublin also boasts the only extant purpose-built Victorian Synagogue in Ireland, at Adelaide Road. It was designed in 1892 by a local architect, J.J. O'Callaghan, in Romanesque style, and the only functioning mikveh left in the whole of Ireland was added in 1915. The complex is now under threat of redundancy since the Jewish community has largely moved from the city to the suburbs. The building is entirely unprotected as there is no effective landmarking system in the Republic.
Cork had a Jewish burial ground in 1725 but no traces of it remain. A later burial ground (1885) does survive, and there is a tiny abandoned cemetery in Limerick (1902). A community at Waterford was never large enough to purchase a burying place let alone build a synagogue.
The Jewish community in Ireland, which was augmented by immigration from eastern Europe in the 1881-1914 period and also by Ireland's status as a neutral power during the Second World War, has declined from a peak of 3,000 to an estimated 1,200 today. Farsighted members of the Dublin community have taken admirable steps to preserve their material culture with the opening in 1984 of the Irish Jewish Museum. It is housed in a former turn-of-the-century chevrah synagogue in the primarily immigrant neighborhood of Portobello. Nevertheless, help in the form of a professional survey of the disappearing Irish Jewish heritage is urgently needed. $5000 would go a long way towards documenting the Jewish Built Heritage in Ireland.
For further information please contact: Dr. Sharman Kadish, Project Co-ordinator, Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage, Jewish Memorial Council, 25 Enford Street, London W1H 2DD UK, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 0044-171-706-1710
[Table of Contents] [Top of Article] [Next Article]
Contact the Editor of Jewish Heritage Report