The History and Music of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Congregation in the City of London



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Bevis Marks Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the UK (consecrated 1701), and is the ‘cathedral synagogue’ of a community which arrived in England in 1656 with the blessing of Oliver Cromwell, thus ending over three-and-a-half centuries of Jewish exile from this country. For the last 350 years this community has existed as an integral part of religious and cultural life in the City of London.
This lecture explores the history of this interaction, with a particular focus on how it has affected the community’s musical-liturgical heritage, from its origins in the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam and the conversos fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, through the time of Handel and Hadyn, the Romanticism of the 19th century, right through to the present day.
The lecture is illustrated by live performances of selections from the congregation’s liturgical music by the choir of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, as well as archive recordings of times gone by.
The lecture is jointly delivered by Maurice Bitton, Beadle and Curator at Bevis Marks Synagogue, and Chazan Eliot Alderman, Director of Music of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ congregation.

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:

Gresham College has been giving free public lectures since 1597. This tradition continues today with all of our five or so public lectures a week being made available for free download from our website.

6 thoughts on “The History and Music of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Congregation in the City of London

  1. Awesome information. In my book, "Ten Times Chai: 180 Orthodox Synagogues of New York City," I include photos of Congregation Shearith Israel (Remnant of Israel), the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in the City of New York, founded in 1654. Current building is located on Central Park West, was built in 1897, and was designated a Landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. My book can be purchased on Amazon. It has 613 color photos, one for each mitzvah in the Torah.

  2. spain and Portugal was where the Sephardi Jewish community really started as a cultural economic even musical force, they adopted ladino as their language and adopted some south European customs as well as giving Spain and Portugal many of their own culture.

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