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About the Society of Heshaim

The Society of Heshaim was founded in the late seventeenth century, the name ‘Heshaim’ reflecting what we now write as Ets Hayim, the ‘tree of life’, a metaphor for Torah. The Society began, early in the history of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation in London, as a school for training young men past the age of elementary Jewish education who showed potential as future hazanim, rabbis, or well-informed lay-leaders. The Anglo-Jewish community has grown, and training of this kind is now provided for in other ways.

The main function performed by the Society today is that of publishing the liturgy, with English translation, according to the congregational minhag. It also issues other scholarly or historical matter. For example, publications include several volumes of Bevis Marks Records, containing archival material vital for tracing Sephardi genealogies. Recordings commissioned by the Society are available on the web, including the entire liturgy (the hazanut, but not the choral singing) recorded by the Revd Halfon Benarroch, which may be found at A website of choral music is currently being developed.The Society recently issued a facsimile and translation of Matteh Dan, the major work of Haham David Nieto from 1714. In 2011 the Society published its first completely reworked edition of the prayer book in 110 years, Sabbath Morning Prayers, and is currently preparing a prayer book for all Sabbath services.  A guide to funerals and mourning is being entirely reworked in collaboration with the Hebra. For more about the history of the printing of the Spanish and Portuguese payer book in England, click  here.

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