West London Synagogue of British Jews
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West London Synagogue of British Jews

West London Synagogue on Upper Berkeley Street
West London Synagogue logo.png
Basic information
Location 34 Upper Berkeley Street, London W1H 5AU, England, United Kingdom
Affiliation Movement for Reform Judaism
Municipality City of Westminster
Year consecrated 1870
Status Active
Heritage designation Grade II listed
Leadership Senior Rabbi: Baroness Julia Neuberger
President: Stephen Moss CBE
Chairman: Patrick Mocatta
Website www.wls.org.uk
Architectural description
Architect(s) Davis & Emmanuel (original synagogue); Mewes & Davis (additional administrative building in Seymour Place); Julian Sofaer (Seymour Place extension)
Architectural style Neo-Byzantine
Completed 1870 (synagogue); 1933-34 (Seymour Place building; extended in 1964 and 1973)
Listed Building - Grade II
Official name West London Synagogue
Designated 7 September 1989
Reference no. 1247701
Audio description of the synagogue by Baroness Julia Neuberger
The synagogue, shown from the junction of Hampden Gurney Street and Upper Berkeley Street

The West London Synagogue of British Jews, abbreviated WLS (Hebrew: ?"? ?‎, Kahal Kadosh Sha'ar Tziyon, "Holy Congregation Gate of Zion"),[1] is a Reform synagogue and congregation near Marble Arch in London. It was established on 15 April 1840. The current synagogue building in Upper Berkeley Street, dedicated in 1870, is Grade II listed.[2] It is the oldest house of prayer affiliated with the Movement for Reform Judaism and is one of the oldest synagogues in the United Kingdom.


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.[3]

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. 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 (from 2005, Movement for Reform Judaism).

Rabbi Werner van der Zyl served as Senior Rabbi from 1958 to 1968, after Reinhart resigned and seceded with 80 supporters to form the independent Westminster Synagogue.[4] Rabbi Hugo Gryn succeeded van der Zyl in 1968, until his death in 1996.[5]Mark Winer then served as Senior Rabbi for 12 years, retiring in September 2010.

The synagogue's archives, from 1841 to 1942, are held in the University of Southampton Libraries Special Collections.[6]

Current rabbis and wardens

Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger became senior rabbi in 2011. The current rabbinic team also includes Rabbi Helen Freeman, Rabbi David Mitchell, Rabbi Neil Janes and Rabbi Sybil Sheridan. The current wardens are: David Chapman & Orlando Ortega-Medina (senior wardens); Paul Jaffa & Michelle Ross (middle wardens); and Stewart Sether & Gillian Westwood (junior wardens).[7]

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.[3] 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.[8] The synagogue's organ, which was renovated in 2007, has 55 stops on four manuals and pedal.[nb 1]

See also


  1. ^ See specification of the West London Synagogue's organ


  1. ^ "Celebrating 174 Years of Reform Judaism in Central London". West London Synagogue. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ Historic England. "West London Synagogue (1247701)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2016.
  3. ^ a b 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.
  4. ^ "West London Synagogue of British Jews: Ministers of the Congregation". JCR-UK. Retrieved 2012.
  5. ^ Messik, Louise (24 October 2014). "Ministers of the Congregation". West London Synagogue of British Jews. JCR-UK. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ "Archives of the West London Synagogue of British Jews". Archives Hub. Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ "West London Synagogue of British Jews: Wardens of the Synagogue 1842-2016". JCR-UK. 9 November 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "West London Synagogue, Upper Berkeley Street, Westminster, London". ViewFinder. Historic England. February 2006. Retrieved 2015.

External links

Coordinates: 51°30?55?N 0°09?44?W / 51.5153°N 0.1621°W / 51.5153; -0.1621

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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