West London Synagogue
|West London Synagogue on Upper Berkeley Street|
The synagogue, shown from the junction of Hampden Gurney Street and Upper Berkeley Street
|Location||Upper Berkeley Street, London, United Kingdom|
|Leadership||Senior Rabbi: Julia Neuberger
Presidents: Mark Fox and Alexander Landau
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|Jews and Judaism|
The West London Synagogue of British Jews (commonly abbreviated as WLS) is a Reform Jewish synagogue and congregation near Marble Arch in London. It was established on 15 April 1840. Its current building in Upper Berkeley Street dates from 1870, making it the oldest standing Reform synagogue, and one of the oldest synagogues, in the United Kingdom. In September 2013 it was announced that WLS would become the first British synagogue to perform same-sex marriages, effective from January 2014.
The West London Synagogue of British Jews was formed by a group of families after breaking away from the Bevis Marks congregation in 1840. Its first location was a building in Burton Street, and David Woolf Marks was its first minister. On 27 January 1842, the West London Synagogue of British Jews was consecrated, the name reflecting the unity now existing between Sephardi and Ashkenazi members and expressing the patriotism felt for Britain by its members.
By 1848, the building in Burton Street had become too small for the congregation. A new location was found, in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, at a cost of £5000, and it was consecrated on 25 January 1849.
From 1849 to 1867 the numbers of the congregation continued to rise, and a new location was required. Eventually, its current location in Upper Berkeley Street was found and was consecrated on 22 September 1870.
Rabbi Werner van der Zyl, the founder of Leo Baeck College, was Senior Rabbi at West London Synagogue from 1958 to 1968. Rabbi Hugo Gryn, Holocaust survivor and notable broadcaster, served as Assistant Rabbi from 1964 to 1968 and then as Senior Rabbi until his death in 1996. Now serving in the emeritus position of senior scholar, Mark Winer succeeded Gryn and served as Senior Rabbi for twelve years, retiring in September 2010.
The current rabbinic team includes Rabbi Helen Freeman, Rabbi David Mitchell and Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger, whose appointment as Senior Rabbi was announced in February 2011. Rabbi David Mitchell, who had previously been serving at Radlett and Bushey Reform Synagogue, joined West London Synagogue on 21 November 2011.
The current building, dating from 1870, is located near Marble Arch in London. The main sanctuary is built in the Neo-Byzantine architectural style. The premises also contain offices, a library and various community facilities.
Customs and ritual
Services at West London synagogue follow the prayer books of the Movement for Reform Judaism, which incorporate material from both Sephardi and Ashkenazi traditions. A choir and organ, located behind a screen to the rear of the dais, accompany the congregation in all musical parts of the service except for the aleinu and the kaddish. The organ was renovated in 2007.
Men and women sit together during services, and also play equal parts in leading them. Male worshippers are required to wear a kippah; females can wear one if they so wish, but are not required to do so.
- List of Jewish communities in the United Kingdom
- List of synagogues in the United Kingdom
- Movement for Reform Judaism
- Synagogue website.
- Wyman, Jessica (1990). "West London Synagogue of British Jews – History". JCR-UK. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- Epstein, M; revised by Black, Gerry (2004; online edition, May 2006). "Marks, David Woolf (1811–1909)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
- "West London Synagogue of British Jews: Ministers of the Congregation". JCR-UK. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Messik, Louise (4 October 2013). "Ministers of the Congregation". JCR-UK. West London Synagogue of British Jews. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- See specification of the Synagogue Organ
- "Archives of the West London Synagogue of British Jews". Archives Hub. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
- Official website
- The Movement for Reform Judaism
- West London Synagogue of British Jews on Jewish Communities and Records – UK (hosted by jewishgen.org)