PORTSMOUTH, seaport and naval base in Hampshire, S. England. The Jewish community, perhaps the oldest in continuous existence in England outside London, was founded in 1746 and a cemetery was acquired in 1749. Among early settlers were a family of engravers, a jeweler, navy agents, and small tradesmen. In a boat disaster in 1758 11 Jews were drowned, the only survivor being Samuel Emanuel, ancestor of a family later prominent in civic life. A communal split occurred in 1766 over the recognition of the rabbi of the Great Synagogue or the rabbi of the Hambro' Synagogue as spiritual leader. A reconciliation in 1771 led to reunion of the two groups in 1789. In 1780, the original synagogue was reconstructed and was still in use until 1936, when it was replaced by a new building in Southsea, the residential suburb. Portsmouth's prosperity as a naval and garrison town during the Napoleonic Wars attracted large numbers of Jews, but with the decline of the town after 1815 the community also decreased. A Jewish day school, Aria College, existed in Portsmouth for many years. In 1969 the Jewish population was estimated at 600 (out of a total of 215,000). The only communal institutions apart from the synagogue were the benevolent institution and a Board of Guardians for the poor. In the mid-1990s the Jewish population was estimated at approximately 385. The 2001 British census found 235 declared Jews in Portsmouth.
C. Roth in: JHSET, 13 (1936), 157–87; idem, Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), 94–95; Newman, in: JHSET, 17 (1953), 251–68; JYB.
[Vivian David Lipman]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.