History - Dover Jewish Cemetery
With kind permission of Marcus Roberts Jtrails.org.uk© Marcus Roberts, www.jtrails.org.uk
The Jewish Cemetery is sited on the North East edge of the town. It can be readily found from the town centre if one travels towards the London Road (becoming the A256) or along the Barton Road. Either of the two main roads north-west will cross or pass along Bridge Street and Frith Road. The Old Charlton Road leads directly off Frith Road and Bridge Street feeds into Frith Street. Therefore by turning right onto either of these streets from the centre, the cemetery can be found.
The cemetery itself is located on the right hand side after the fork with Roman Road and is opposite one of the Christian cemeteries and a chapel of rest.
The cemetery is next to the road and is fronted with high, flint-knapped walls with locked Iron Gates. The burial enclosure is rectangular. The front half of the enclosure is without burials - in fact the remains of the foundations of the rectangular ohel and a circular carriage drive occupy much of this area. The ohel was originally built in 1870. On the wall or rested next to the wall to the right of the gate are a variety of plaques and inscriptions either preserved from the destroyed synagogue or relating to the cemetery.
The rear upper portion of the cemetery, containing most of the burials, is on a very steep slope with a central access path. The oldest burials are at the very rear i.e. the highest point, of the cemetery.
The cemetery is part of a natural amphitheatre and an expansive necropolis filling the surrounding land and hill sides. It is - for a cemetery - a charming and peaceful place with a wonderful rural location.
The cemetery was established after 1864 and by 1868 on land provided by the Dover Harbour Board. The dispute that occasioned its creation has already been described. Early maps show that it was built on what would have been low value land, on or next to old clay pits, between St Mary's and St James's Cemetery to the immediate south-west and north-east. The site has not been extended since the original foundation. The cemetery is still in use today and there were recent interments at the time of our original visit.
In looking around the cemetery, the first points of interest, apart from the site of the ohel and entrance drive, are the plaques on or next to the wall to the right. Many of them are the only remnants of the synagogue destroyed in the Second World War, which were brought to the cemetery for preservation.
Several from the old synagogue give touching and wide ranging testimony in stone to the services and work of R.I. Cohen; the largest of all the memorials is a very large and now broken tablet leant against the wall:
THIS TABLET WAS [ERECTED TO THE] MEMORY OF
THE REVD R I COHEN OF SUSSEX HOUSE
IT WAS BY HIS INSTRUMENTALITY
THAT THE NEW SYNAGOGUE IN DOVER WAS [ERECTED]
AND THIS BURIAL GROUND WAS FORMED IN RE[SPECT]
OF HIS LAST WISH THAT THERE MIGHT BE A [BURIAL]
PLACE IN DOVER FOR THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY
HE LOVED SO WELL AND AMONG WHOM HE SPENT SO MANY
YEARS OF A LONG AND USEFULL LIFE
Another large tablet, shattered into pieces lies on the ground near the first:
THIS MEMORIAL TABLET
IS ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF THE
REVD R I COHEN
OF SUSSEX [HOU]SE DOVER
WHO DIED IN LIV[ERPOOL] DEC 3RD 1865
IN THE 62ND YEAR OF HIS AGE
HE CONCEIVED THE IDEA OF BUILDING THIS
SYNAGOGUE AND BY HIS GREAT PERSONAL
EXERTIONS AND BY THE RESPEC[T] WHICH
HIS GOOD NAME CARRIED WITH IT [AM]ONG ALL
THE CLASSES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY HE WAS
MAINLY INSTRUMENTAL BY COLLECTING SUFFI
CIENT FUNDS FOR ITS ERECTION WHILE ITS
MAINTAINANCE IN PEACE AND HONOR WAS
THE PRIDE AND DELIGHT OF HIS LIFE
BY GODS PERMISSION
THIS SYNAGOUE WAS MADE THE CLOSING
SCENE OF HIS EARTHLY LABORS
FOR THE LAST ACT OF HIS FAILING HEALTH
ALLOWED[?] HIM TO ACCOMPLISH
WAS THE READING OF THE PRAYERS O[N]
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT 5626
SOON AFTER WHICH
[IT P]LEASED GOD TO TAKE HIM
When we came across the tablet we had to completely reassemble it after it had been cast aside in a strewn heap for the recent clearing of the vegetation. Many of the smaller pieces have already been lost - though we managed to find chips and smaller fragments buried among debris. This memorial is in undoubted danger of being lost or stolen.
A white marble tablet set in the wall, and presented by the Dover congregation, also continues the justified valedictions to Rabbi Cohen:
IS ERECTED BY THE MEMBERS OF
IN RECOGNITION OF THE INDEFATIGABLE
ZEAL EVINCED BY THE
REVD. R.I.COHEN. HONY. SECY.
TOWARDS THIS SYNAGOUE.
LIKEWISE FOR HIS MANY VALUABLE
PAST SERVICES RENCERED FOR A LONG TERM OF YEARS
AUGUST 10TH 5625/1863
Other then Cohen's memorial there are other tablet of historical interest. The upper half of a very finely inscribed plaque with the prayer for the Royal Family in English (with a Heading in Hebrew) is also leant against the wall. While the inscription looks at first glance to be very indistinct it can be read fairly clearly from an oblique angle and in the correct light.
THE ROYAL FAMILY
He who giveth salvation unto kings and dominion unto
princes whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom who
delivered his servant David from the ------ sword who
maketh a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waves
[may he] bless guard and protect and..................
A foundation tablet from the synagogue also survives set into the wall:
BY VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS
B. NATHAN J.GRUNWALD
ON MONDAY 10th AUGUST 5625/1865
W, GRUNWALD A.J.VANDERLYN
There are two additional memorial wall tablets, citing the involvement of the wives of two prominent men in the life of the Dover community. One to Judith Montefiori, the wife of the celebrated Sir Moses Montefiori, and the other to Priscilla Hart, the second wife of Henry Hart.
Within the area of burials there are a number of interments and tombs of interest. Starting from the rear, the graves of the victims of the W.A.Scholten are to be found in the second row down (B, 7-12). Only one memorial was raised to any of the six Jewish victims of the shipwreck, to Solomon Goldsmith, probably a passenger from the first class on the Scholten. The English reads 'In memory of / Solomon Goldsmith / who was drowned off Dover in the wreck of the W.A.Sholten / 31 November 1887 5648 / Ps 139 9-10 / may his soul rest in peace.'
The verses alluded to from Psalm 139 reads, 'If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.' This quotation aptly recalls that Goldsmith was probably bound as an settler to American and a poignant faith in the goodness of the hand of the Lord even in disaster...
This sole memorial belays the platitude that there is no social distinction in death. The other interments are the blank unmarked plots to either side of Goldsmith - mute testimony to the other victims.
In next row down (C, 13-14), just below the victims of the Scholten, lies the tombs of Henry Hart and his second wife Priscilla. Henry Hart's memorial gives honour to his status as honorary freeman of Canterbury. It is interesting to note that the decoration at the top of his tomb, a flower, perhaps recalls the emblem rose carved on his first wife's, Rosa's, tombstone at Canterbury. Thus while in death Hart lay by the side of his second wife, he had not forgotten his first laying in the quiet enclosure of Canterbury cemetery.
On the next row down, below, and to the right of the tomb of Henry Hart, near to the end of the row, the grave of Rabbi Barnstein (C, 19) can be found and notes his fifty years' leadership of the congregation.
At the foot of the slope there is a single chest tomb to Bloom, the wife of the Revd. R.I. Cohen. The tomb is very attractively designed and has a fine English and Hebrew inscription on either side. Bloom died '..in her 83d year after a useful and happy life...'. In this period being deemed to have led a 'useful life' was considered to be high praise indeed and reflects a peculiarly 19th century attitude to human existence. The monument was raised by the redoubtable daughters of R.I. Cohen who were mentioned earlier.
Keys to the cemetery, had at the time of our original visit, been placed in the hands of Hambrook & Johns, Undertakers, Beaconsfield Road, Dover, so as to provide access for visitors to the cemetery.
On returning to the centre of Dover remnants and sites of other places of interest can be located by the more dedicated.