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The LJS Heritage Trail


The LJS is a wonderfully diverse and international community, with our own or family roots in countries across the world from Spain to Nigeria, Poland to China, Ukraine to Iraq, and all parts of the United Kingdom. Our community is made up of a classic Jewish mix of backgrounds, whether our backgrounds are in fact Jewish or not. The love and respect for community and core Liberal Jewish values draws us together. 
 
Over the coming months, on The LJS Heritage Trail, members will generously share an insight into their heritage and how each came to the LJS. As the months go on, we will discover the variety of backgrounds that make up our community. 

This project forms part of our ongoing recognition and celebration of the full range of diversity and the inclusivity of the LJS. For further information and to take part in other ways, please email office@ljs.org

The Story of the Diamonds from Warsaw

My great-grandfather Zyman Diamond, born c1840, was a wood-turner in Warsaw (which had 125,000 Jews by 1850)according to his Naturalisation petition, although I have not found his name in Polish records. A daughter Leah was born there in 1854 to his first wife Miriam, then a son, Isaac, in c1857. Zyman came to London in the 1860s, before the main immigration of the 1890s, possibly due to the uprising in 1863, and he became a woodturner in Bethnal Green, selling turned parts to nearby cabinet makers. He obtained British nationality in 1896, his wife having died in 1871. 

Zyman remarried in in the London Great Synagogue in 1873 to give Isaac, Leah and another daughter a stepmother. His business in various small premises became difficult, and he made arrangements with creditors in 1882. He supported a small stiebel, the New Warsaw Synagogue, as Treasurer, later President, also supporting two benefit societies for Warsaw immigrants, so he kept in touch with his landsmen. He retired from his business in 1902 and moved to Westcliff with his son Isaac in 1908 and died there in 1921. His simple memorial is in Edmonton cemetery (Federation of Synagogues).

His son, Isaac, my grandfather, started his trade in Bethnal Green as a turner and carver, then became a timber merchant with a yard, importing American walnut and mahogany from New York City as The New York Lumber Company or the Anglo-American Timber Company. British nationality was obtained in 1886 at the young age of 25. He moved from Bethnal Green Road, where eight children died of illnesses, to the pleasant suburb of Dalston in 1895. In Westcliff he was Chairman of the Building Committee for the new synagogue. Surviving artefacts are a family Bible, pair of silver candlesticks, kiddush cups, a Stilton cheese scoop and a 1895 Frankfurt ivory-covered prayer book (on right). His elaborate memorial is in East Ham.

Isaac and his wife Jane had eight surviving children of whom two emigrated to Winnipeg. One of them, Flora Jacobs, had a wedding dress by a leading designer which is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. My father, born in 1897, was the youngest.

Hugh Marsden's Story

The family was from Alsace in the mid-1700s, via Holland. Elias Moses is recorded in Bungay in 1786, setting up as silversmith. Isaac Moses, his son, was born in 1808, the additional family name Marsden being added only in 1865, one of the first Jewish families to anglicise the family name, and doing so by adding Marsden – a Yorkshire town where he had business connections. The London Gazette of 1865 noted, ‘Be you Montagu, Marsden or Moses you can change your names but you can’t change your noses.’
 
E. Moses and Son was founded by Elias, Isaac’s father. In 1829 they opened a shop in Houndsditch, before moving to larger premises at Aldgate in 1832, the largest clothing outlet in England at the time. They opened a further four branches in England and were probably the pre-eminent men's fashion retailer in London, introducing plate glass windows to advertise their wares and large glass atriums to bring natural light into the sales floors. Extra trading hours were made possible with gas lighting, and the introduction of the Singer sewing machine greatly reduced costs and increased output to serve ‘Man & Servant’ at moderate or affordable prices. A resident poet provided amusing ditties on all invoices and advertisements in the many journals of the day and at the Great Exhibition in 1851. 

In 1845, nine years after the death of Isaac’s first wife, Rachel (née Hyam) who bore five children, Isaac married Esther Gomes Silva, born in 1825, in Kingston, Jamaica, to a family which had fled the Spanish Inquisition. They moved to London around 1840 and were members of the Bevis Marks synagogue. With Esther, Isaac had thirteen more children and moved to 23 Kensington Palace Gardens. He was a founder member of the St Petersburgh Place Synagogue. 
 
From 1858 Isaac started to invest in property in St John's Wood. In 1860 he purchased the freehold of Lord’s at auction from the Eyre Estate, selling it to the MCC in 1866. His portrait now hangs outside the Long Room in Lord’s.

With his death in 1884 it seems that his vast business empire died with him. There were only four sons, and today just two Marsden great-grandsons and two great-great-grandsons. As LJS members we thus return to our old neighbourhood.

If you would like to take part in The LJS Heritage Trail and are an LJS Member or Friend, please submit a 300-350 word account of your family heritage for consideration. 

Selected stories will be shared on our website over the coming months with two pieces rotated monthly. Please note that we may not be able to include all submissions. We also reserve the right to edit your piece, with your knowledge and agreement. 

Please email office@ljs.org to get in touch.

Mon, 20 September 2021 14 Tishrei 5782