Ply­mouth sells off its fam­ily sil­ver

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY ROBYNROSEN

THE DI­REC­TOR of the char­ity Jewish Her­itage UK has spo­ken out against a con­gre­ga­tion which is sell­ing its his­toric col­lec­tion of sil­ver Ju­daica.

Rare sil­ver re­li­gious or­na­ments from the Ply­mouth Syn­a­gogue will be sold at auc­tion by Bon­hams on Novem­ber 25. Among the items are a yad (pointer) and a pair of rim­monim (dec­o­ra­tive finials for a se­fer To­rah), thought to have been made in Lon­don in 1783 and con­sid­ered among the most orig­i­nal sets known to ex­ist; and a To­rah breast­plate, made in War­saw in about 1820.

The to­tal col­lec­tion is es­ti­mated to sell for be­tween £50,000 and £60,000.

Built in 1762, Ply­mouth is the old­est Ashke­nazi shul in the English-speak­ing world and the col­lec­tion is con­sid­ered by ex­perts to be the ear­li­est and rarest set of sil­ver prayer in­stru­ments.

But Pat Good­man, vice-pres­i­dent at Ply­mouth Syn­a­gogue, said that the syn­a­gogue had about 40 mem­bers and only one man at­tends on Shab­bat.

She said: “We don’t use the items and we are very short of funds. I’m not sad to see the items go. We’re a dy­ing com­mu­nity. There is no point keep­ing sil­ver in the bank that we are not us­ing and aren’t of value to us.

“Other shuls would have closed but we are keep­ing open be­cause there are peo­ple here that think it ought to be left open.”

Adam Ja­cob­son, a trus­tee at the shul, said that the money will be spent on re­fur­bish­ment work for the build­ing.

He said: “The more money we can raise, the longer the com­mu­nity will last. It would be des­per­ately sad to see the end of this an­cient com­mu­nity.

“It’s a trade-off be­tween sur­round­ing your­self with items of sil­ver­ware and a syn­a­gogue fall­ing around your ears in dis­re­pair.

“Of course it’s worth­while to sell the items — it’s one of the most his­toric com­mu­ni­ties in the coun­try and it’s part of our Jewish her­itage.”

But Dr Shar­man Kadish, di­rec­tor of Jewish Her­itage, said she was shocked at the news.

“This is a huge shame,” she said. “There are lots of other op­tions that they could take to raise funds.

“They should ap­ply for grant schemes rather than sell off the fam­ily sil­ver. Sell­ing the as­sets of the con­gre­ga­tion should be a last re­sort.

“The build­ing doesn’t have any ma­jor prob­lems so I’m very sad to hear about this. Those items are part of the his­tory of the com­mu­nity.”

The Jewish Mu­seum is aware of the sale but was not yet ready to com­ment on whether it will bid for the items.

English sil­ver rim­monim, made around 1783, from Ply­mouth Syn­a­gogue and a yad, or To­rah pointer, are up for sale in the Novem­ber 25 auc­tion at Bon­hams

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