Plymouth synagogue sells silver for £175,000

By Robyn Rosen, November 26, 2009

A historic collection of silver Judaica which had been auctioned to raise funds for a struggling synagogue has made £175,000, almost double the estimated amount.

Plymouth Hebrew Congregation, the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the English-speaking world, auctioned the collection — considered by experts to be the earliest and rarest set of silver prayer instruments — at Bonhams in London on Wednesday.

The last item in the sale, a rare pair of George III silver and parcel-gilt rimonim and matching yad, was the top sale of the whole auction and made £62,400.

A late 18th-century German silver yad, expected to fetch £1,500, was sold for £13,000, and an extremely rare 18th-century silver and parcel-gilt silver Torah shield with chain estimated to fetch £4,000 made £25,200.

Nicholas Shaw, head of silver at Bonhams, said: “There were some staggering prices in the sale.”

The sale had come under criticism from charity Jewish Heritage UK, but Peter Lee, honorary treasurer at the shul, said that the survival of the synagogue was more important than the historic value of the items.

He said: “We’re very pleased with the result of the auction and the money will be invested and used to help with running costs.”

Last updated: 4:42pm, November 26 2009