In his memoirs Rothenstein recalled how he had gone by chance into Spitalfields Synagogue, and was gripped by the scene of mourning Jews. He was not allowed to paint in the Synagogue itself, so took a room nearby and persuaded some of the men to sit for him. Some of the models have been used twice in the picture: the two standing men appear to be the same person. Rothenstein was himself Jewish, and painted several scenes of contemporary Jewish culture in the early years of the century. The picture was first shown at the NEAC 1906 summer exhibition. Afterwards it went on to the celebration of Jewish life in Britain held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. The picture was presented to the Tate in 1907 by Jacob Moser to commemorate that exhibition.