Marcus Roberts (2004)

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The Jewish community at Portsea, Portsmouth was founded at one of England's principal Naval bases and ports in the 1730s and 1740s and is generally accepted to be one of the earliest Jewish communities established outside of London, if not the earliest. The origins of the community, may well have originated in the commercial activities of pioneer peddlers and hawkers in the town in the 1730s, who traded through the countryside, or aboard ship during the week, only returning to Portsmouth to celebrate the Sabbath together and to settle accounts. The activities of the port and then the Napoleonic War gave great impetus to the community and many were employed as slop sellers and Navy Agents, or supplying watches and jewelry. The community also had special links with the Jamaican Jewish community and a small group of Sephardim were of some significance in the early community. While the community were very Orthodox, there were numerous squabbles, disgraceful scenes and schisms, with breakaway synagogues! For some time the community was the most important Jewish community outside of London and a famous Jewish school was set-up too, Aria College. The community suffered from anti-Semitism and a serious decline in numbers after the Napoleonic Wars, due to the loss of business in the Port. Community numbers rallied by the 1880s as immigrants came in escaping the persecution and hardships of Eastern Europe and almost completely renewed itself and tailoring became very important. The community is noted for several famous figures, including, Lady Magnus (community activist and writer), Marion Hartog (nee Moss), another well-known Jewish woman writer, as well as George Lewis Lyon a journalist and communal worker and community leader Emanuel Emanuel. In the modern era, the community has declined, as have many others.

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