Wednesday, September 26, 2007

August 31, 1902

On August 31, 1902, my great great grandparents, Samuel and Rose, along with their children Barney, Nellie, Bella, Max, Katie and Cissie, were gathered in the Great Synagogue in London to watch their son and brother, Sol, get married to Sarah Nathan.

There is some speculation there, in that I assume the whole family was in attendance. The youngest child at that time, Cissie, would have been six years old. This was almost 3 years after the Dreyfus protests I mentioned in an earlier post, which I also suspect several of them were at, though perhaps not the younger children. However, they lived 4.5 miles from the synagogue, so they couldn't have walked. They were close to the Oxford Circus Railway Station, though, which opened in July of 1900.

Above is a picture of the Great Synagogue in 1809. [source] It had been built in 1790, and from what I have read, it was basically the same structure in 1902. It no longer stands today, as in May of 1941, it would be completely destroyed by the German bombing.

Trying to find out as much as I could about the wedding, I looked up the names of the individuals who signed as witnesses on the Marriage record (see top of post). One of them, IL Defries, appears a few times in the Birth, Marriage, Death notices of the London Jewish Chronicle from 1890-1895, but beyond that, I know nothing about him. Two of them -- Marcus Hast and Samuel Gordon -- are mentioned in the final chapter of The History of the Great Synagogue by Cecil Roth (see link preceding the picture of the ruins).

Marcus Hast was the Hazzan (Cantor) at the Great Synagogue from 1872-1911.
“Apart from his great vocal qualities and deep piety, he deserved well of his community by reason of his monumental work, Avodath haKodesh, in which the musical traditions of the Great Synagogue were set down for all time. In 1888 Abraham Elijah Gordon (father of Samuel Gordon the novelist, who was at one time Secretary of the Congregation) joined him on the Almemor as Second Reader--an office which he continued to occupy with success until his retirement in 1919.”
Some people might wonder, "Why didn't the Rabbi sign it?" The Rabbi might not have been there. Traditionally the role of the Rabbi is as a teacher and judge/arbitrator for disputes in the community. The individual who normally led the worship services, and performed the marriages, was known as "Reader", and it was a role the Hazzan often filled. This began to change in the 19th century, but it appears the Great Synagogue still followed the traditional roles.

The scores of Hast's compositions are available for download, and there is a section devoted to wedding music, so the music that was likely played at the ceremony could be duplicated. Hast was born in Praga and was Hazzan in Warsaw before coming to England. The Newmarks also came from Warsaw, though Hast left about 20 years before they did. Still, it is possible Sol's parents, Samuel and Rose, heard Hast in Poland when they were children.

As I mentioned back in June, despite Sol not being my direct ancestor, this wedding originally piqued my interest because of Sol's wife, Sarah. The clerk who entered their marriage made an error in the name of the father of the bride. It says "Nathan Nathan." The clerk must have assumed that the father would have the same surname as the bride, and failed to ask. But Sarah was following the old tradition of using her father's given name as her surname. While that was my original interest, the more I researched, the more I discovered.

[this is an entry for the 33rd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy]


Janice said...

How sad that the Great Synagogue was not rebuilt. No doubt it was specifically targeted by the German bombers.


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

You were able to put together quite a lot of information from just just a marriage record. Well done!

Anonymous said...

My husband Steve Hast is the G G grandson of Marcus Hast. We live in Pittsburgh,PA. DO you know anything more about Marcus? I just found out he had a brother named Bernard.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much else beyond what is on the pages I link to in the entry. The Jewish Chronicle 1890-5 has one entry under Hast - the marriage of a nephew, Coleman Davies.

This article on Francis Cohen says Cohen married a daughter of Hast named Rose.

Anonymous said...


Steve we could be related.
The Hast Brothers Bernard and Marcus are decendants. My name is Michael Hart. My Grand father was Benjamin Hart born Hershgold. He was the son of Brendel Hast and Haskel Heresharga. Brendel Hast was my great grand mother, she was the daughter of Bernard Hast who was my great great grandfather.
Brendel Hast emigrated from Poland to England 1898. Benjamin my grand father was born in England 1901.My father Basil Hart born 1928 is 80 years old this year, he emigrated to South Africa in 1952. I am one of 5 children born in South Africa we have 11 children between us.

Unknown said...

Steven Hast and Michael Hart, I am related to you both! Bernhard Hast is also my 2nd great grandfather. I live in New Jersey and would love to get in touch with either/both of you! I've been piecing together our genealogy for some time and am eager to share with you! Please contact me! Hope to talk with you soon!