Richmond & South West London
© Marcus Roberts


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While the Franks, Levy's and Harts were the leading figures in Richmond, there were a number of other Jews living in Richmond during its halcyon years of maximum popularity as a spa town and magnet for high society. These figures were both Sephardi and Ashkenasi often leading figures and officials of their respective congregations. Among the most significant were Henry Isaac, proprietor of the Hambro' synagogue and Isaac Fernandez Nunes warden and treasurer of Bevis Marks synagogue.

The overall impression gained is that the Jewish population in Richmond substantially declined in the latter half of the 18th century closely in tandem with the decline of the wells which fell into disrepute after 1750s and were finally closed in 1780.

It may be asked what the quality of Jewish religious life was in Richmond in the 18th century? The evidence suggests that the leaders of the Jewish community were pious men and met and worshipped informally at Richmond. However it may be noted that removal from main centres of Jewish life to provincial settings must have inevitably removed these communal leaders from the intensity and quality of Jewish existence available in the city and the early Jewish East End. It may also be noted that they would have been constrained in the nature and extent of informal worship by the explicit powerful prohibition against the setting up of new congregations by both Sephardi and Askenazi communities.

Also even with ample money to use to overcome the logistical difficulties of no local supplies of kosher meat or produce, and distance from other communal facilities, the tone of orthodoxy and religious practice must have been inevitably altered - not least because these figures had effectively separated themselves from many of their co-religionists for a larger part of the year.

Additionally the social aspirations and a desire to be accepted into a wider society may have been in tension with the earlier religious background and social culture of the rich Askenazi and Sephardim. There would have been natural pressures and incentives towards greater accommodation and even assimilation with non-Jewish society. It is noted that the Franks, Harts and others even enjoyed very cordial relations with the local clergy - one anti-Semite recorded to his disgust "No less than a coach load of them (Jews) last Thursday assembled at a local clergyman's house to play cards." While the anti-Semite had his reasons to be disgruntled at this unseemly mixing of the faiths, it can only be guessed what the ordinary Jewish congregants at Bevis Marks and the Great synagogues would have made of this warming of inter-faith relations.

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