Jewish Historical & Genealogical Society of WA Inc.


Readers will be saddened to learn that the centuries-old Synagogue in Penzance, Cornwall, England, was recently closed as expenses soared and the community diminished.

Meanwhile, any modern-day Rabbi who feels put-upon by his or her congregation would do well to read the following job description of a rabbi in Penzance two hundred years ago:

The congregational staff was necessarily economical to a degree. Though at one prosperous interlude we read of a Beadle, at a salary of a few pence weekly, it was generally a one-man position, and the one man had perforce to see to many matters. The main requirement was a reader and shochet; but activities extended, in fact, far beyond this. An agreement of 1817 lays down the functions of the communal factotum (the Rav, or Rebbe, as they called him) in detail.

He was to slaughter animals for food whenever any of his employers should require it 
To porge the meat (attending at the market twice weekly for a couple of hours for this purpose, as we learn from another record)
To instruct the children belonging to the congregation in Hebrew and cognate subjects
To supervise the cleaning of the Synagogue
To conduct Divine service
To read the Law
To prepare the Scrolls for the next day, on the eve of Sabbaths and Festivals
To bind the palm branches on the feast of Tabernacles and to procure the willow twigs on
Hosanna Rabba.
In addition, according to the original regulations, he was to collect week by week all offerings made by members
He was to recite the
Megilla on Purim, and to supervise the preparation of the flour on Passover.
Finally, every Sabbath he was to conduct a lesson for adults in the forenoon.

In return for all this, he enjoyed the princely salary of some £40, or a little less, per annum.

Taken from “The Lost Jews of Cornwall; from the Middle Ages to the 19th Century”
Edited by Keith Pearce and Helen Fry; Consultant Godfrey Simmons

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