Tuesday 31 March 2009

Out of the ruins of war and disruption...

This Sunday I was at the 70th anniversary celebrations at Belsize Square synagogue.

It was moving, fun, beautiful and spiritiual.

I wanted to share with readers some of the pictures that I took after the celebration. Including the small plaque that celebrated the 60th anniversary.

It's probably easiest if the history of the synagogue is told in their own words:

Belsize Square Synagogue was founded in 1939 by refugees from Central Europe who came from the continental Liberal Jewish Movement. While those of Orthodox or Reform background could integrate into already well established English congregations, there existed nothing in this country, no congregations, no synagogues which could provide either the spiritual background or form of worship to which they had been accustomed. English Liberalism, on the other hand, was far too radical for them.

A few months before the outbreak of the last war, some men, chiefly from Berlin and Frankfurt-on-Main, got together and, with the help of Miss Lily Montagu, one of the founders of the English Liberal Movement and a lay Minister in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, secured the use of Montefiore Hall (attached to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue) for Friday evening Services.

The first of these Services took place on 24th March, 1939 and was held in the continental Liberal manner. There was no formal congregational organisation. Each Sabbath Eve Service was conducted by a different Rabbi and Cantor recently arrived here. Some of them subsequently emigrated overseas, such as the late Rabbi Lemle who founded a similar congregation in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Others, such as the late Rabbis ltaliener and Van der Zyl, became Ministers in the Reform Movement.

It was in June 1939 that what was more or less an ad hoc state of affairs became organised by the formation of the New Liberal Jewish Association with the Hon. Lily Montagu, J. P. as its first Chairman, and Rabbi Dr. Georg Salzberger (formerly Frankfurt-on-Main) and Cantor Magnus Davidsohn (formerly Berlin) its first permanent Ministers. It was affiliated to the Jewish Religious Union (now Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues). Rooms were rented in the Swiss Cottage area.

In January 1940 the word "Association" was changed to the more descriptive "Congregation" and so it remained during Miss Montagu's life-time, although the words "New Liberal" were widely considered misleading. It was not until June 1971 that the congregation assumed its present title.

In 1951 it acquired its own home, a former vicarage in Belsize Square which was converted to accommodate a modest synagogue seating 80 and communal offices, as well as religion school.


Anonymous said...

We didn't see you at the talk given by Sara Teather about her trip to Gaza and her description of the death and destruction in the recent holocaust there.
It was organised by refugees from occupied Palestine.

Ed Fordham said...

Unfortunately i couldn;t be there - there's a by-election (another) going on in Camden - in the constituency- and it's keeping me a tad busy.

Also as a school governors (two schools), on the kilburn partnership etc i'm tad busy - if the diary had allowed i would've been there


BenefitScroungingScum said...

As a Jew by birth alone raised far from London in a C of E school system it's really great to be able to see synagogues like this, thank you
Bendy Girl

Jonathan said...

Count 476 votes to win. My wife and I, formerly supporters, will not vote LibDem unless Nick Clegg retracts his ani-Israel comments.

I suspect Lib-Dems are hoping for Muslim support by opposing Israel. Shame on you.

Ed Fordham said...


For my own part I can only stress again that here in north london we have a deeply multi-cultural community. it's one I am seeking to represent and I'm not playing one faction or viewpoint against another.

Mutual respect and shared existance is the only way forwards - it's a philosophy and for me a way of life i hope...

Nick, for the record, was very clear about his respect and knowledge of israel - but like many reserves his right to criticise where he perceives the current gov't to be wrong...