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Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey seems as unlikely a place for a Jewish community as one might encounter in England. The Isle was (and still is to some extent) remote and isolated. Yet the Island supported a community for about a century. What is more the community while small made its mark on the place. The community became an accepted part of the character of the place not only is a street in Sheerness named after a Jew but also it produced one of the town's, literally, most sung celebrities.
The community is thought to have arisen as an off-shoot of the Chatham community. A slacking of trade in Chatham seems to have lead to some of that community trying their luck on remote Sheppey on the other side of the Swale.
They were attracted by a major military installation, the Naval Dockyards and garrison of Sheerness - one where the fledgling Nelson spent time as a midshipman.
The date of foundation was about 1790 and the key figures in the start of the community were Isaac and Samuel Abrahams. Samuel was a silver smith and Navy Agent. The Abrahams were to remain a prominent family in the history of the Sheerness community. The new community was largely a local affair in that the census of 1841 records that the vast majority of the Jews residing in Sheerness were born inside the County of Kent and by this it is probably correct to infer that many if not most of these came from Chatham in the first place.Next