Do you have information about the former Commercial Road synagogue or Israel Cohen, one of its founders? Joshua Jacobs, one of Israel's descendants, would love to hear from you.
He has written to say:
I am searching for information about Israel Cohen, founder or one of the founders of the Commercial Road Synagogue in the East End.
Israel was the son of my great-great-great grandfather Nathan/Nachem Cohen, originally from Plintsk, Poland, who settled in London somewhere in the late 1890s. Israel’s brother was my great-great grandfather Louis (formerly Jossel/Joseph) Cohen, who left London and settled in Philadelphia.
I’ve been doing genealogical research on my family off and on for a decade and finally am delving deeper into the Cohen branch.
The reason for my inquiry is that Israel’s gravestone calls him the founder of the "Commercial Rd CT Synagogue". Israel was born in 1874 in Plintsk, Poland and died in 1941 in London. His parents Nathan and Rachel, as well as several siblings, fled Poland in the 1890s and settled in London. Other children came to the U.S., including my great-great grandfather Louis Cohen.
In the photograph of Israel’s gravestone where you can see the synagogue part etched at the very bottom.
I thought it was so amazing that my ancestor helped create a prominent synagogue in London in the early 20th century and am hoping someone might have an old photo of him or synagogue documents with his name included. I’m not sure if his other siblings or relatives that remained in London were also involved, but the fact they put it on his gravestone is quite significant.
I would love to find out more information about Israel and the founding of the original synagogue if someone has any additional knowledge.
Any help is greatly appreciated.
Commercial Road synagogue merged with the East London Central Synagogue at Nelson Street in the late 1960s.
Our magazine The Cable had a short article about it some years back by my late brother PhilipZ"L, with some splendid pictures. Here is a chance to re-read it, with the photographs.
This splendid colour photograph from the 1960s, sent in by a kind reader, is a view from Sidney Street looking across the East End into Commercial Road and beyond, and includes the old Commercial Road Great Synagogue.
Note the cranes on the horizon arching above the long filled-in London docks. Note also the Victory pub on the corner of Watney Street, and the distant view of Tower Bridge.
The synagogue, number 262 Commercial Road, is the square peaked roofed building to the right of the pub. Founded in 1920 it closed in 1968 to merge with the East London Central synagogue in Nelson Street. In its day it was a major Jewish community centre.
The two black and white photographs date from the 1950s and show the synagogue interior. In the first, the synagogue’s Rabbi Shlomo Halstuck is addressing a meeting. On his extreme right sits Sid Borstein who financed the East End Scholarship centre Talmud Torah in Philpot Street, which closed in 1980. The second shows him (with beard, seated) and others listening to the synagogue's boys choir.