There has been a Jewish presence in Gibraltar at least since 1356. However, the original community, together with the rest of the Jews of Spain, was banished in 1492. With the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Britain gained control over the territory. Although Spain insisted that Jews continue to be excluded, Britain did not acquiesce to this, and Jews (along with Moors and other minorities) were granted the right to permanent settlement in 1749.
Following Jewish resettlement on “the Rock,” the oldest synagogue in Gibraltar, Congregation Sha’ar HaShamayim, was established. By 1754, there were 573 Jews in Gibraltar and they formed one-third of the civilian population. By the middle of the 19th century, the Jews were an integral part of Gibraltar’s economy, dominating most of the retail trade on the island.
The community began to decline as many Jews never returned to Gibraltar after being evacuated to other British territories during the Second World War. Only a few remained after the end of hostilities.
Today, the Jewish community is growing again. Its members have played an active and important role in politics and other fields. Notably, Gibraltar’s first and third Chief Minister was Joshua Hassan, who served from 1964 to 1969 and again from 1972 to 1987. More recently, Solomon Levy served as Mayor of Gibraltar from 2008 to 2009.