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Alexander’s Apostasy: First Steps to Jerusalem

  • Brian Taylor (a1)

Extract

The synagogue in Bevis Marks in the city of London, 1700-1, is the oldest in this country. The second is in Plymouth, in Catherine Street. It was built in 1762, and is the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the English-speaking world. It is noteworthy for its original furnishings, which are mainly austere—the deal benches, and plain turned balusters for the enclosures, with the eight brass candle-sticks, now electrified, round the bimah. The exception is the ornately carved wooden ark, towering almost to the ceiling, with large urns on the entablature, which is supported by Corinthian columns. It is mortifying to the Hebrew congregation that its existence is mostly known not for its historic and architectural importance, but in connection with the defection of one of its ministers, Michael Solomon Alexander, in 1825. A little more than sixteen years later, Alexander was consecrated for the newly constituted Jerusalem bishopric, on 7 December 1841, in Lambeth Palace Chapel. Archbishop Howley was joined in the laying on of hands by Blomfield of London, Murray of Rochester, and Selwyn of New Zealand, who had been consecrated in the same chapel three weeks before.

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1 The synagogue is described in B. Susser’s leaflet, Plymouth’s Historic Synagogue built in 1762 (1982), and more briefly in Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, Devon—The Buildings of England, 2nd edn (London, 1989), p. 648.

2 Hechler, William H., ed., The Jerusalem Bishopric, Documents with Translations … published by command of His Majesty Frederick William IV King of Prussia (London, 1883), p. 29.

3 Apologia pro Vita Sua, Everyman edn (London, n.d.), pp. 139-47.

4 in Ollard, S. L. Ollard, Crosse, G., and Bond, M. F., A Dictionary of English Church History, 3rd edn (London, 1948), p. 308.

5 Welch, P.J., ‘Anglican Churchmen and the Jerusalem BishopricJEH, 8 (1957), pp. 193204.

6 Hatchard, J., The Predictions and Promises of God Respecting Israel (Plymouth, 1825). Alexander’s account occupies pp. 37-40 [hereafter Appendix].

7 E. W. Willson and M. Ransom, Life of Michael Solomon Alexander First Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem [typescript] (n.d.).

8 Muriel W. Corey, From Rabbi to Bishop (London, n.d.).

9 Appendix, p. 38.

10 Hatchard, Predictions, p. 23.

11 Appendix, p. 38.

12 Willson and Ransom, Life, p. 27.

13 [Catherine Marsh], The Life of the Rev.William Marsh, D.D. (London, 1869), pp. 60-3.

14 Willson and Ransom, Life, p. 1.

15 Appendix, p. 38.

16 Ibid.

17 The present Exeter synagogue dates from 1835.

18 Short accounts are given in Black, Doris, The Plymouth Synagogue 1761-1961 (5521-5721), (n.p., n.d.), and in Susser, B., An Account of the Old Jewish Cemetery on Plymouth Hoe (Plymouth, 1972).

19 Black, Plymouth Synagogue, p. 9.

20 P. R. Aloof to the author, 29 October 1990.

21 Appendix, p. 39.

22 Appendix, p. 39.

23 Ibid., p. 40.

24 Hatchard, Predictions, p. 34.

25 Appendix, p. 40.

26 27 June 1825.

27 Isaiah 33.17.

28 Benedictine Almanack (1949), p. 19.

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