West London Synagogue
|West London Synagogue on Upper Berkeley Street|
|Leadership||Senior Rabbis: Helen Freeman|
and David Mitchell (jointly);
President: Mark Fox
Chairman: Patrick Mocatta
|Location||34 Upper Berkeley Street, London W1H 5AU, England, United Kingdom|
|Municipality||City of Westminster|
|Architect(s)||Davis & Emmanuel (original synagogue); Mewes & Davis (additional administrative building in Seymour Place); Julian Sofaer (Seymour Place extension)|
|Completed||1870 (synagogue); 1933–34 (Seymour Place building; extended in 1964 and 1973)|
|Official name||West London Synagogue|
|Designated||7 September 1989|
The West London Synagogue of British Jews, abbreviated WLS (Hebrew: ק"ק שער ציון, Kahal Kadosh Sha'ar Tziyon, "Holy Congregation Gate of Zion"), is a synagogue and congregation, affiliated to Reform Judaism, near Marble Arch in central London. It was established on 15 April 1840. The current synagogue building in Upper Berkeley Street, dedicated in 1870, is Grade II listed. It is one of the oldest synagogues in the United Kingdom and, is the oldest house of prayer affiliated with the Movement for Reform Judaism.
On 15 April 1840, 24 members of the Mocatta, Goldsmid and other families announced their secession from their respective congregations, the Sephardi Bevis Marks Synagogue and the Ashkenazi Great Synagogue of London, and their intention to form a prayer group for neither "German nor Portuguese" Jews but for "British Jews", which would allow them to worship together. The Mocattas and Goldsmids had been quarrelling with the wardens and complaining over lack of decorum for years. The new prayer group, convening in Burton Street, hired Reverend David Woolf Marks in March 1841. Marks and the congregation adopted a unique, bibliocentric approach often termed "neo-Karaism" by their critics, largely rejecting the authority of the Oral Torah. They abolished the second day of festivals and excised various prayers grounded in rabbinic tradition. It was only after almost a century that the congregation adopted mainstream Reform Judaism.
On 27 January 1842, the West London Synagogue of British Jews was consecrated in its first permanent building, at Burton Street Chapel. By 1848, it had become too crowded for the congregation. A new location was found, in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, at a cost of £5,000. It was dedicated on 25 January 1849. In 1867, a new location was required again. Eventually, the current synagogue building in Upper Berkeley Street was opened on 22 September 1870. It cost £20,000 and had capacity for 1,000 congregants at the time.
With Marks' retirement in 1895, he was replaced by Rabbi Morris Joseph, who abandoned his predecessor's philosophy, which was never very popular with constituents, and brought West London closer to mainland Reform, by removing from the liturgy its petitions for the restoration of sacrifices in Jerusalem.
20th and 21st centuries
During the 1920s, mixed seating was introduced. In 1929, the synagogue appointed Hebrew Union College graduate Rabbi Harold F Reinhart, who brought it into the World Union for Progressive Judaism. In 1942, West London Synagogue was a founding member of the Associated British Synagogues (called the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) since 2005).
In 1957 Rabbi Reinhart resigned as Senior Minister and, accompanied by 80 former members of West London Synagogue, established the New London Synagogue which, shortly afterwards, was renamed Westminster Synagogue.
Rabbi Julia Neuberger served as senior rabbi from 2011 to 2020.
Current rabbis and wardens
Rabbis Helen Freeman and David Mitchell took up post as joint Senior Rabbis on 1 April 2020. As of 2019 the wardens are: Vivien Feather, Oliver Walton, Liliane Chan, Steven Rowe, Monica Jankel and William Campos-Ortega.
Ritual and edifice
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 bimah, accompany the congregation in all musical parts of the service except for the aleinu and the kaddish. 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 wish to do so.
The current building, dating from 1870, is located near Marble Arch in London. The main sanctuary was built in the Neo-Byzantine architectural style by Davis & Emmanuel. Its premises, which extend into Seymour Place, also contain offices, a library and various community facilities. The bimah and ark were built in 1869–70 by Davis & Emmanuel. The synagogue's organ, which was renovated in 2007, has 55 stops on four manuals and pedal.[nb 1]
- List of Jewish communities in the United Kingdom
- List of former synagogues in the United Kingdom
- Movement for Reform Judaism
- See specification of the West London Synagogue's organ
- "Celebrating 174 Years of Reform Judaism in Central London". West London Synagogue. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
- Historic England (7 September 1989). "West London Synagogue (1247701)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
- Moore, James R (ed). (1988). Religion in Victorian Britain, vol III: Sources. Manchester University Press in association with the Open University. p. 490. ISBN 0-7190-2944-9.
- "Westminster Synagogue". The National Archives (UK). Retrieved 2 August 2020.
- "West London Synagogue of British Jews: Ministers of the Congregation". JCR-UK. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
- "Archives of the West London Synagogue of British Jews". Archives Hub. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
- "Our rabbis". West London Synagogue. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- "West London Synagogue of British Jews: Wardens of the Synagogue 1842–2019". JCR-UK. 16 October 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- "West London Synagogue, Upper Berkeley Street, Westminster, London". ViewFinder. Historic England. February 2006. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- Official website
- The Movement for Reform Judaism
- West London Synagogue of British Jews on Jewish Communities and Records – UK (hosted by JewishGen)