Visitors have had a chance to look around the Montefiore Synagogue and Mausoleum in Ramsgate as part of the annual Heritage Open Days event.
Sir Moses Montefiore commissioned his cousin, architect David Mocatta, student of Sir John Soane and the first Anglo-Jewish architect, to design a synagogue, which was then opened with a grand public ceremony in 1833.
Sir Moses Montefiore was born in 1784 and died in 1885, aged 100.
As a young man, his uncle Moses Mocatta secured him a position as one of only 12 brokers allowed to practise on the London Exchange. He married Judith Cohen, sister-in-law of Nathan Meyer Rothschild; and that connection helped him to make his fortune before the age of 40. Montefiore then retired from the Stock Exchange in order to devote the rest of his long life to the interests of poor and oppressed fellow Jews.
Sir Moses, who continued to sign cheques for charitable causes on his deathbed, was so firm a believer in the unity of the Jewish people that he endowed each couple who married in his synagogue with a gift of money.
In 1833 Sir Moses opened his own synagogue in Ramsgate, close to his country house. The future Queen Victoria who took holidays in an adjacent house on Ramsgate’s East Cliff, was given a golden key to the gate between the two gardens to enable her to enjoy both.
He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1837 for benevolent services and was made a Baronet in 1846.
His house has long since disappeared; but his synagogue and the adjacent mausoleum in which he and his wife are buried still stand, carefully maintained by the trustees of his Endowment.
Sir Moses Montefiore’s Deed of Foundation of 1866, together with his will of 1882 and its codicils, provided for the future transfer of the assets and administration of the Ramsgate Synagogue and the Judith Lady Montefiore College to the Board of Elders of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, London. Following Sir Moses’s death in 1885, the Elders assumed responsibility for what became known as The Montefiore Endowment.
In 1989, the Board of Elders, in consultation with the Charity Commission of England and Wales, transferred its interest to a registered charity, The Montefiore Endowment at Ramsgate.
With thanks to Brian Whitehead for the photos