Customs of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews of Londonby Rabbi Jonathan Cohen (formerly Visiting Rabbi of Bevis Marks Synagogue)
The Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community of London is the oldest Jewish community in Great Britain, having been established in 1656, and celebrated its 350th anniversary in 2006.
The S&P community (or "kahal" as it prefers to be known) possesses some beautiful and unique customs, and the purpose of this site is to document those that may be of general, religious or historical interest to the lay reader.
The S&P have a distinctive ritual based, it is thought, on that of pre-expulsion Spain, but also influenced by the Spanish-Moroccan and Italian rites. In their three-and-a-half century sojourn in the British Isles they have of course evolved further, developing an English Sephardi character of their own, distinct from that of their "parent" congregation in Amsterdam, or of their "sister" congregations in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere.
In the first instance, these notes are based on my own observations growing up as a member of the kahal.
An indispensible reference is Keter Shem Tob, by Rabbi Shem-Tob Gaguine (1884-1953), an encyclopaedic treatise which examines and compares the rites, ceremonies and liturgy of the eastern and western Sephardim (and Ashkenazim), paying particular attention to the customs of the S&P. However many details recorded in Keter Shem Tov are beyond the scope of this site, while many new points are introduced here that R. Gaguine did not discuss.
Last update: March 2016