“Golders Green Synagogue: The First Hundred Years,” celebrating the Synagogue’s history with more than 200 photographs, letters, correspondence and excerpts from meetings from 1915 to the present, was published today by historian Helen Fry.
Fry interviewed past and present members of the illustrious synagogue, many of whom are in their 90s. She also interviewed six generations of the same family who have attended the same synagogue.
The synagogue began by renting a room for Shabbat services on Friday and Saturday from St Albans Church Hall, and then transforming it again for Sunday’s church services.
Until the turn of the twentieth century, Golders Green comprised mainly open fields with a total population of about 300, whose main industry was brick making. The redevelopment of Golders Green took off from 1905 with plans for a tram route and the widening of the Finchley Road. From the 1910s onwards, Golders Green Road became a smart shopping area, described as having “the finest shops outside the West End of London.”
In the immediate years since the Jewish community’s inception there, plans were undertaken to construct a dedicated synagogue as the community expanded and looked to its own permanent place of worship. Due to wartime building constraints, it was a few years before permission was granted to start construction. By 1918 there were 116 households from an original membership of only twenty in 1915. The congregation acquired land in Dunstan Road:
“That it is desirable to erect and found a Synagogue, to be known as the Golders Green Synagogue (as a Constituent Synagogue of the United Synagogue), in the district of Golders Green, for persons of the Jewish Religion who use the Ashkenazi ritual… the site and property known as Dunstan Road may be acquired for the purpose of the erection of the said Synagogue and Class Rooms… that the terms of the Building Agreement to be entered into with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England…”
The synagogue was finally consecrated on 10 September 1922 in a ceremony officiated by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Joseph Herman Hertz. Its first minister was Rev Isaac Livingstone, appointed in 1916, who served the community faithfully for nearly 40 years and into his retirement years, aided by the dedicated Reader, Rev Taschlicky. Then came Rabbi Dr Eugene Newman, a deeply committed communal rabbi, who died unexpectedly in office in 1977. The congregation was also served by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who later went on to become Chief Rabbi of the UK.