Aberdeen Hebrew Congregation בית הכנסת אהל יעקב
Aberdeen Hebrew Congregation  בית הכנסת אהל יעקב

The Marischal Street Shul

The following information was kindly sent to us by one of our Canadian friends, Ms Carole Payne, whose relatives were members of our Shul some years ago.  This article comes from The Churches of Aberdeen, historical and descriptive by Alexander Gammie; Aberdeen, Aberdeen Daily Journal Office, 1909. XCIV - The Jewish Synagogue  which is a book held in the Local Reference section of Aberdeen Central Library.  A transcription is given, and a document viewer below if you wish to expand the full image to see it better.


Many thanks again to Carole for sending this to us.


Marischal Street Shul Consecration, 1893 Marischal Street Shul Consecration, 1893

A feeling was said to have existed for a considerable time among the Jews resident in Aberdeen that a synagogue should be established in the city; but it was only in 1893 that anything was done to translate that feeling into action.  About the month of August in that year it was resolved to proceed with a scheme with as little delay as possible, and in a few weeks’ time the movement had taken practical shape.  Suitable accommodation was secured on the first floor of the house No. 34 Marischal Street, and the necessary alterations having been completed, the apartments were ready for consecration as a Jewish synagogue on 7th September, 1893.

The consecration service, with the rites and custom of the Jewish people, was interesting and unique.  It was conducted by Rev. James Littman, assisted by Mr. Alexander Zamek, a leader among the Jewish community in Aberdeen and the first president of the congregation.  At the commencement of the proceedings, the whole congregation – quite a small company – assembled outside the doors, and, led by Mr. Littman and Mr. Zamek, who each bore a manuscript copy of the first five books of Moses wrapped in a rich covering, they filed into the rooms, the minister chanting a Hebrew prayer the while.  One of the copies of the Mosaic Law was then unrolled, and a prayer having been offered for the success of the work, the scroll was borne to its resting-place in the ark by Mr. Sidney Blanckensaw, of Birmingham.  Mr. Littman then prayed fervently for the Queen and the Royal Family, and this concluded the consecration service, but a meeting was held at the close when those present were hospitably entertained and congratulatory speeches were made.

The synagogue, while it serves the purpose of a place of worship for the small community of Jews in Aberdeen, is recognised to be but partially suitable, and quite unworthy of comparison with the synagogues in Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere.  From the time of Moses the Jews have held that the sexes should worship separately, and in the larger synagogues this is generally arranged by providing a large gallery for the women, while the men occupy the body of the building.  This, however, could not be done in Aberdeen with the available accommodation, and it has thus been necessary for the men and women to worship in separate rooms.  The synagogue, therefore, consists of two rooms, with the reader’s desk or pulpit in view of both.  The furnishings are in no sense elaborate, but simple even to severity.

Rev. James Littman, who officiated at the consecration service, took charge as minister of the congregation for some years, and he was succeeded by Rev. Morris Cohen.  Mr. Cohen’s stay was also of short duration, and so was that of his successor, Rev. A. E. Hirsovitz.  The present “minister of the Hebrew congregation”, to use the official designation, is Rev. I. Ostroff, who came to Aberdeen in June, 1907.

Services are held in the synagogue on Sunday mornings at nine o’clock and on Friday evenings at sunset, while there are special celebrations on the occasion of the great Jewish feasts and anniversaries.  The president of the congregation is Mr. Thomas Geershon.  The Jewish population is officially returned as 24 families, and the number of seat-holders in the synagogue as 26.

Please note that the above is a literal transcription - services would, of course, have been held on Saturday mornings!

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