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Our Synagogue – a Brief History

Our synagogue was established on Chanukkah, the Festival of Lights, in 1974. Its founders were seeking something familiar but different: a Judaism which was traditional yet dynamic, true to the past yet honest about the new knowledge and realities of the modern world. Their guiding teacher was Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs, Anglo-Jewry’s greatest scholar. He stressed the importance of quest, of seeking spiritual and intellectual truth while remaining faithful to the established practices of Judaism. This is the hallmark of our Masorti, traditional and open-minded, Judaism.

The commitment and enthusiasm of its creators ensured that the new community would be a success. During the early years services took place in church halls and members’ homes. In 1984 the synagogue acquired its first proper premises, here in the Sternberg Centre, which it has been grateful to share ever since with Leo Baeck College, the Akiva School and other organisations. We are grateful too for the years of peace and prosperity we have been able to enjoy alongside our neighbours in Finchley, Church End.

In 1987 Jonathan Wittenberg was appointed as rabbi; he has remained with the community ever since and has been privileged to see it grow and develop year by year. The core activities of the congregation include prayer and study; education for children and adults in the practices, history and sacred texts of Judaism; caring for each other through life’s sorrows and joys; and reaching out to other groups both within and beyond the Jewish community through charity and social action.

Over the years our professional team has expanded to include our executive director, and directors of education, youth, programming and social action. But at the heart of all we do is a culture of volunteering and sharing, of working together to create the vibrant warmth which is the mark of true community, and the energy and engagement essential for sustaining a vibrant spiritual community. This remains true in our beautiful new building, dedicated in May, 2011.

We are devoted to our Jewish faith, through which we uphold the same prinicples which lie at the heart of this country: reverence for God’s world, respect for the dignity of all people, care for those who are vulnerable, compassion, justice and equality.

We look forward to working with all our neighbours for the realisation of these values both locally and throughout the world, and ask, in the words of the Psalms, that ‘God bless the work of our hands’.