by Liam Hoare
Walking around the depressed Ramsgate of today, it is somewhat difficult to imagine that when the financier Sir Moses Montefiore purchased a country estate here in 1831, this seaside settlement was considered the height of sophistication and chic.
Located on a far easterly point of the Kentish coast of England, bereft of the holidaymakers that would have kept the place alive before the age of the package holiday, Ramsgate has a feeling of neglect and decay about it now — shuttered shop fronts and dank arcades. It is the sort of place that Morrissey had in mind when he sang of the coastal town that they forgot to close down.
Meanwhile, 180 years after its initial dedication in the presence of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic chief rabbis, the synagogue and mausoleum remain open to visitors on an irregular basis. B’nai B’rith UK organizes open days for the general public, staffed by a guide. The rest of the time it is shut, open only upon request. Still, it is a captivating monument, not only as a tribute to Sir Moses Montefiore, his imagination and his contribution to Ramsgate, but also as a relic of a time in the 19th century when the English aristocracy and Jewish upward mobility collided, producing this most exquisite building...more.
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