In celebration of Rosh Hashana, we are looking at a history of one of London’s most famous and historic places of worship – the Bevis Marks Synagogue.
Built in 1701 by London’s historic Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi community, the synagogue is a Grade I listed building and holds the record for being the only synagogue in Europe which has held regular services for over 300 years. Located in the City of London, the Bevis Marks Synagogue is the oldest Jewish place of worship in the UK, having been built on early Jewish migrants by a Quaker man named Joseph Avis for a total sum of £2,650. Legend has it that Avis refused to collect his full fee for the building, due to his strong belief that it was wrong to profit from building a house of God.
For over a century, the Bevis Marks synagogue was the centre of the Anglo-Jewish world and was a clearing house for a variety of Jewish community and individual problems throughout the British Empire. These ranged from taxes in Caribbean island colonies, to the aiding of Jewish refugees looking to avoid forced conversions and religious persecution elsewhere in Europe. In April of 1992, the synagogue was badly damaged by an IRA bomb which was targeting the Baltic Exchange – which today is the site of London’s famous ‘Gherkin’ building.
Bevis Marks synagogue has a wide variety of character features which are unique to the site. These include the ark which houses the Torah Scrolls which is built in the renaissance-style. In addition, there are seven large brass candelabras – the biggest of which represents the holy day of the Sabbath. Split into a separate men’s and women’s gallery, the women’s area is supported by twelve columns, each of which represents one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Here at Robert Irving Burns, we have significant experience throughout the Central London area, both in the City of London where the synagogue is located and in our core West End area. We hope that all our Jewish friends and employees have a joyful Rosh Hashana. Shana Tova and happy new year from everyone here at RIB and we hope you enjoyed learning about the fascinating history of this religious institution.