The opening words of today’s Sidra ‘Lech Lecha’ – meaning ‘Go forth’ signal our forefather Avram’s journey and the beginnings of Jewish history.
The Central Synagogue – a brief history
The Central Synagogue has been in Great Portland Street, London, in one form or another for more than 155 years. Today’s synagogue was rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1958, after the original building was destroyed in a bombing raid on 10 May 1941.
The history of the Central Synagogue is an integral part of the proud history of Anglo-Jewry. It has played a noble part in the life and activities of the Jewish Community here in London. Its archives are full of outstanding figures who have contributed enormously to the welfare and prosperity of the Jewish and wider community.
The Central Synagogue: a brief timeline
1848 Authorities at the Great Synagogue at Duke’s Place in the City of London, decided to establish a branch Synagogue in the West End area for the many Jews who had begun to migrate there since the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign.
1855 The ‘Branch Synagogue’ was consecrated. The Great Synagogue remained responsible for the administration and the supervision of religious services. Membership grew and the need for a permanent Synagogue became apparent.
1869 On 18 March the foundation stone of the first Synagogue to be built on the present site was laid by Baron Lionel de Rothschild, M.P. The name was to be ‘Central Synagogue’.
1870 On 7 April the completed Central Synagogue was consecrated by the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Adler. It was established as an independent congregation on its present site in Great Portland Street, London. Construction of the ornate building was completed in a year.
1941 On 10 May the Synagogue was destroyed by enemy bombing. A year earlier permission had been granted for it to be used as an assembly centre for temporary refuge for those whose homes had been destroyed. Fortunately no one was in the building at the time.
1946 A temporary Synagogue with 550 seats was built.
1951 Rev. Simon Hass was appointed as Cantor. Rev Hass’ fine voice embellished the Synagogue services for many years, during which time his fame spread as one of the world’s great cantors.
1955 In May, after the abolition of licensing restrictions, it was decided to rebuild a fine permanent replacement Synagogue on its original present site. Two month’s later, Rev. Cyril Shine B.A. of the North Finchley and Woodside Park District Synagogue was appointed Minister.
1956 On 4 February the rebuilding of the new Synagogue commenced. The foundation stone of the new Central Synagogue eas laid by Isaac Wolfson Bt. and consecrated by Chief Rabbi Dr. Israel Brodie.
1958 The consecration of the new Central Synagogue took place on 23 March. The dedication of the Children’s Synagogue took place watched by a large gathering of member families.
1963 For the first time in the history of the Synagogue, A midnight Selichot Service conducted by Rev. Hass was held.
1970 On 22nd November a Centenary Service was held. The service was conducted by the Emeritus Chief Rabbi Sir Israel Brodie K.B.E. Rabbi Cyril Shine and Rev. Simon Hass.
1988 Rabbi Cyril Shine retired after more than thirty years of dedicated service to the Community. Rabbi Silverman was appointed as the new Rabbi.
1993 Rev. Simon Hass retired as Chazan after more that forty years service to the Community.
1995 Rabbi Barry Marcus was appointed after the departure of Rabbi Silverman.
2003 Rev. Steven Leas was appointed as Cantor of the Central Synagogue.
2008 A special service was held to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the reconsecration of the Central Synagogue.
To see a complete timeline spanning from 1848 to the present day, please download our special edition Anniversary brochure.