North Western Reform Synagogue

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North Western Reform Synagogue
Basic information
Location Alyth Gardens, Temple Fortune, London,
 United Kingdom
Affiliation Reform Judaism
Status Active
Leadership Rabbis: Mark Goldsmith, Josh Levy, Maurice Michaels
Cantor: Cheryl Wunch
Director of Music: Vivienne Bellos
Completed 1936 (Original Synagogue), 1958 (Leo Baeck Centre), 2004 (Social Spaces and Kindergarten)

Alyth (also known as North Western Reform Synagogue) at Temple Fortune in north west London was founded in 1933. Three years later, in 1936, the Synagogue was built in Alyth Gardens, on land carved out from the West London Synagogue’s cemetery in Hoop Lane.[1] Alyth is one of the largest Progressive synagogues in the United Kingdom and in the Movement for Reform Judaism. It has around 2100 adult and 1000 child members, and is twinned with the Leo Baeck Community Centre in Haifa and the Jewish community in Kerch, a city in Ukraine.


Vivienne Bellos has been Director of Music at Alyth since the early 1980s.[2] Every Shabbat she directs the Synagogue's members' choir in a repertoire ranging from the work of 19th-century Liberale Composers to contemporary compositions and arrangements commissioned for the Synagogue from Meir Finkelstein and Stephen Glass.

In 1983 Ms Bellos formed the Alyth Choral Society to perform the oratorio Elijah for Alyth's fiftieth anniversary. The Alyth Choral Society, with over 40 members, sings at least two concerts with orchestra every year.

Alyth's Kids Choir leads the singing on many Friday nights and is made up of children from 5-12.

The Alyth Youth Singers has over 20 years performed Jewish, Israeli and songs from musicals at Jewish community events of all kinds. They performed at Simcha on the Square in Trafalgar Square, at the Jewish Museum and annually at the Barnet Borough Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration. This choir of 13-18 year olds has an annual international tour. The cities they have visited include Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Paris, New York, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem where they have performed at synagogues, schools and community centres.


Alyth is a fully operational congregation with Shabbat services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings and all Jewish festivals. On most Saturday mornings one or more parallel services take place. These include a Classical Reform service including the Synagogue's members' choir, the Kollot Minyan which is focussed on participative unaccompanied song and nusach, the Big Bang family service where every participant is given a percussion instrument in order to enable all ages to pray. Many Shabbatot include a Tefilah Laboratory service such as the Shira u'Shtikah (Song and Silence) service, a Healing service, the Supertots Superheroes service for young children, the Horrible Histories explanatory service for 6-12 year olds. Kuddle up Shabbat is a half hour service for the very youngest children on Friday afternoons.


As well as services Alyth also operates as a community centre, housing a kindergarten, senior club, Israeli dancing, a youth department, a performing arts group and many one-off or serial cultural events.

Social justice[edit]

Alyth is a Fairtrade synagogue[3] and in 2012 hosted its first major Social Justice Showcase, a fair with where the 150 participants could visit stalls run by over twenty charities.[4] Alyth also runs a monthly drop-in afternoon for refugees who have recently received official leave to remain in the UK.[5]

Since 2012 Alyth has partnered with the Golders Green Parish Church to run a weekly winter shelter for local homeless people. This is run at the church with volunteers from both communities.

Alyth members have participated in the UK National Mitzvah Day since its inception in 2006. Mitzvah Day founder, Laura Marks is a member of the Synagogue.

Rabbis and Cantors[edit]

Alyth's Clergy team is Rabbis Mark Goldsmith (since 2006), Josh Levy (since 2008) and Maurice Michaels (since 2011) and Cantor Cheryl Wunch (since 2014).

The synagogue's previous Rabbis were:[1]

  • 1933 – 1938 Rabbi Solomon Starrels
  • 1938 – 1942 Rev. Maurice Perlzweig, who had been elected chair of the World Union of Jewish Students in 1933 and had helped to create the World Jewish Congress
  • 1942 – 1943 Rev. Vivian Simmons, on secondment from West London Synagogue
  • 1943 – 1958 Rabbi Dr Werner van der Zyl, founder of Leo Baeck College[1]
  • 1958 – 1972 Rev. Philip Cohen
  • 1972 – 1983 Rabbi Dow Marmur
  • 1983 – 2003 Rabbi Charles Emanuel, now Emeritus Rabbi at Alyth
  • 2003 – 2011 Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, now Movement Rabbi at the Movement for Reform Judaism.[6]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Aylth - History and Heritage". North Western Reform Synagogue. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Lamden, Tim (7 January 2015). "Synagogue music director ‘invented’ communal music for British Jewish community". Ham & High. Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Reform Movement backs Fairtrade Fortnight: 23 Feb - 8 March 2009". Movement for Reform Judaism. 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Alyth showcases social justice". Movement for Reform Judaism. 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Alyth monthly drop-in for recent refugees". North Western Reform Synagogue. 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Rocker, Simon (21 July 2011). "Meet the media-savvy voice of Reform Judaism". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°34′46″N 0°11′47″W / 51.5794°N 0.1964°W / 51.5794; -0.1964