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A Brief Biography of Israel Samuel

Little is known for certain about the early life of Israel Samuel, the first recorded Jewish resident of Brighton, although the family believe that he may have been born in what is now Bohemia in the Czech Republic. His wife Susannah (daughter of Jonas Phillips) appears to have come from this area, and there is… Read more »

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Little is known for certain about the early life of Israel Samuel, the first recorded Jewish resident of Brighton, although the family believe that he may have been born in what is now Bohemia in the Czech Republic. His wife Susannah (daughter of Jonas Phillips) appears to have come from this area, and there is a document recording a loan to his daughter on her wedding day on 31 December 1766 at the Great Synagogue, London. Israel appears to have lived in London from about 1761-1766, possibly at Cock and Hoop Yard, Houndsditch, judging from an insurance policy that mentions his name.

What is more certain is that Israel and Susannah had four children, two girls Fanny and Kitty, and two boys, Abraham (born 1780) and Sampson. In 1792, Kitty married Henry Jacobs, a City merchant, and there is also evidence that Abraham married Phoebe Levy (born c1784). The family have a beautifully written letter from Susannah to her son and daughter, dated 31 August 1801, wishing them a Happy New Year.

In his shop at 22 East Street, Israel was a silversmith and toyman, but also sold a variety of clothing and other personal items. This is confirmed in a press report of 28 December 1789, which states that, on 23 December between 6pm and 7pm, glass was removed from the window of Israel Samuel’s shop on East Street, and then lists the items stolen. These included various items of menswear, including hats and shoes. Mr Samuel offered a three guinea reward, a significant sum of money in those days.

Israel’s presence at 22 East Street appears in Cobby’s Directory for 1799 and 1800, where he was described as a silversmith and toyman, and also as a lodging house keeper, with a parlour, two best rooms, and two servant’s rooms. When he died in August 1806, the Sussex Weekly Advertiser reported the event, and referred to his having lived in Brighton for almost 50 years.

His descendants are now spread across the world, but he and Susannah would probably be astonished to know that, 250 years after they began their life in the town, the event is being celebrated as the beginning of the Jewish community in Brighton & Hove.

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