A compromise might be possible in a battle over the tomb of
one of Anglo Jewry's most famous figures, Sir Moses
After months of wrangling over plans to build houses near the
Ramsgate resting-place of the Victorian philanthropist, the
local authority has brought together the various interest
groups in an effort to hammer out a solution.
Local residents, chareidi activists and Jewish heritage buffs
had raised the alarm over the site, some fearing that the
bodies of Sir Moses and his wife, Judith, could even be
removed from the seaside town. Sir Moses had the mausoleum,
modeled on kever Rochel, built on the grounds of his
estate, along with a now rarely used synagogue.
The controversy centers on two acres of wild ground bordering
the tomb and synagogue, where the Montefiore Endowment -- the
charitable trust responsible for its upkeep -- has sought
planning permission for a housing development. The trust says
housing would improve the character of the area, which is run-
down and a haven for drug addicts and vandals.
Amid a rising tide of local protest, the local district
council in March refused to renew the planning consent
granted five years ago.
Chareidi objectors stepped up their campaign, planning a
demonstration in the form of a memorial service at the
Ramsgate Synagogue last week -- the 114th anniversary of Sir
Although the trustee holds $3 million, its chairman, George
da Costa, a member of the tiny Ramsgate Jewish community,
warned: "We cannot dig into the capital, and the interest is
not enormous. We also support two rabbinical colleges in
Others would resolve the whole problem by selling off the
whole site and moving the bodies to Israel.
Ten years ago, another trustee, Dayan Pinchas Toledano, head
of the Sephardi Beth Din, claimed he received a favorable
response from leading rabbis in Israel when he broached the
idea of reburying the Montefiores there.
A spokesman for the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish
Graves in Europe said: "Sir Moses made seven visits to Israel
and he could easily have make arrangements to be buried
there, but he left specific instructions for what he wanted
and ample money to pay for it. He bought shiploads of earth
from Israel for his grave."
Thanet council has now convened a working group involving
local councilors, environmentalists, representatives of the
trust and Jewish cemetery activists.
One proposal on the cards that might satisfy everyone is for
a scaled-down housing development along with a small memorial