I was born at Westcliff-on-Sea on 7th August 1914 – three days after World War One broke out.
My father was Aaron Samuels, Silk Merchant, born in Kovno (Lithuania) and my mother Bella was born in Falmouth. She was the daughter of Rabbi Nochum Lipman – who was shochet to that community, and his wife Bala. He later became Rosh Hashochetim of Great Britain for 44 years
In those days wherever Jews established a business (usually in a town linked to a trade – Falmouth was a fishing town) and there enough to make a minyan then a shochet was employed and a shul or stiebel set up. Thus a community was formed in Falmouth (and Penzance etc) and up to a about 20 years ago the shul still existed but alas was used as a furniture store. The cemetery still exists.
Within a few days of being born my parents decided for safety reasons to move to Hove. We occupied the second house down on the left hand side when turning into Montefiore Road from Old Shoreham Road (at the time of this document it is a guest house)
Soon after settling in Hove my father decided that on account of the influx of co-religionists into the area – some of whom could not walk to Middle Street Synagogue – that a minyan should be set up in Hove. He consulted with Rabbi Lipman and it was decided that he should start a minyan at his home
A custom built Aron Hakodesh (Ark) was made in the shape of a bookcase and, with the help of Rabbi Lipman, three Sifrei Torah were purchased – why three? One for Shabbat, two would be needed for Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh and the third in case Rosh Chodesh Chanucah fell on Shabbat
The “Samuels” Sifrei Torah were probably written in 1913 or possibly earlier
The minyan was held in our front room on every Shabbat and, on Yom Tov, my father hired the hall in the church opposite our house (now a Mission). The hall was on the first floor and the seats built around the wall. These were light brown tongued and grooved boards
Members were encouraged to shnodder for the Yeshiva Etz Chaim – this being my father’s favourite charity – but for Maftir and Haphtorah a bottle of brandy – Martell or Hennessy was expected. After every service my mother prepared a kiddush
About 1916 my sister Dulcie took up dancing and my mother took her to have lessons that were given in a Gymnasium – now Hove Hebrew Congregation – in Holland Road and I went along with them. The entrance to the building was through a side door and against the inside wall stood a brown upright piano
My parents returned to London about 1918/19 and although there was a gap between the closure of the minyan and the opening of Hove Hebrew Congregation I am of the opinion that my father with his foresight had planted an acorn that grew into the Hove congregation – incidentally the whole ark area and interior was designed by a member of my family, Mr Glass.
Some history of the three Seforim
The first was about four foot tall and extremely heavy. Two men had to do Hagbah when the the sedrah was Bereshit or Zos Habracha. Unusually there were no Etz Chaim but carved satin wood was used inset with ivory elephants and the entire scroll was lined end to end with continuous purple Chinese silk. This sefer was presented to Finchley United Synagogue when my father was warden in about 1937 – with the proviso that it was used every Shabbat Mevorachim and first day Yom Tov – otherwise on account of its size and weight it would be left unused and eventually become possal.
The second medium sized sefer was presented after 1950 to an Israeli charity (possibly JNF?) for use on a kibbutz and a plaque placed on the roller with my father’s name. A proviso was made that a record should be kept in Israel as where the sefer was – ie which kibbutz or moshav – but when my father went to Israel soon after the donation nobody had heard of him or the whereabouts of the sefer!
The third, very small, sefer was portable and in its own Aron Hakodesh and has a very interesting history. At the behest of my cousin-in-law Salmond Levin LLB – then President of the United Synagogue – my father presented the sefer to the Jewish Free School in Camden Town for the use of the early morning minyan run by the students.
My two grandchildren, the children of my daughter Lauren, were recently enrolled at the Wolfson Hillel Primary School in Southgate and Rabbi Yisroel Fine whilst talking to my daughter that the new school could make good use of of a sefer as he was keen for the boys at an early age to be able to read from a sefer. This rang a bell in my daughter’s mind and she asked me about the small sefer. I contacted JFS and suggested that if the sefer was not used regularly that it should be sent to the US Education Department. This they did and I was happy to present the sefer to the Wolfson Hillel Primary School
Norman Samuels, July 1993
Presented by Steven Samuels