Guildford Synagogue refers both to a probably medieval synagogue and to a modern congregation in Guildford, England.
The Jews probably arrived in Guildford during the 12th century. It is widely believed that they built a synagogue (circa 1180) in the High Street, on a site that is now owned by the retail outlet Accessorize. There is a small plaque outside the shop to mark the spot.
The chamber was discovered in 1995 when excavations were taking place on the site. Archaeologists led by Mary Alexander of the Guildford Museum found a chamber with steps down from street level. It was ornately decorated with pattern designs. In the East of the room is an alcove and a pillar where scorch marks demonstrate that a light was often burning in this place. The assumption is that the alcove is the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) and the mark is left from a Ner Tamid (Everlasting Light).
Being the only chamber of its kind in England, there has been much dispute over its use, but the most popular theory and all the evidence points towards the probability that Guildford has the oldest synagogue remains in the British Isles and one of the oldest in Western Europe.
Today, the modern synagogue contains a stone presented by Guildford Museum of the original Jewish museum. The actual chamber is under concrete although both the owners of the site and local historians have expressed their regret at not having a glass floor.
In 1979, having borrowed halls for years, land was bought and the community modified the building on the site to build its own synagogue. Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits opened and consecrated the synagogue. A plaque at the synagogue marks the occasion that the Chief Rabbi inaugurated the synagogue laid by Theo Rubin who was the President of the community for many years. Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks visited the synagogue in 2006.
Surrey Multifaith Centre
The University of Surrey announced plans in 2007 to build a multifaith centre on their Stag Hill Campus. The plans include a Jewish Common Room – Synagogue with a Sukkah and mikvah within the centre. The chaplaincy team at the University of Surrey are advocates of the centre which has won the backing of leading religious figures in the UK. The Jewish chaplain Alexander Goldberg has been an advocate for the centre within the Jewish community and beyond.
- Sharman Kadish (2006). Jewish Architectural Heritage in England. London: English Heritage. p. 69.