Fascinating House of Life Project Talk

A fascinating and stimulating talk by Hester Abrams took place last night at Central Synagogue, on the subject of the connection between the Synagogue (established on the present Great Portland Street site in 1870) and Willesden Jewish Cemetery (established by the United Synagogue in 1873).

The links between the Synagogue and cemetery are many.  Most notable are:

1) The Boer War memorial which was once displayed on the Great Portland Street side of the original building and was lost in the subsequent WWII bombing; a replica of which is displayed in Willesden Cemetery.


2) The common architect of the Synagogue and the Cemetery, Nathan Solomon Joseph.

3) The Reader Revd. A. L. Green at the Central Synagogue was buried at Willesden in 1883, as was Revd. Michael Adler, Minister at Central Synagogue for 31 years, who died in 1944.

4) Leopold de Rothschild and Mlle Marie Perugia were also buried at Willesden – their marriage at Central Synagogue 29th January 1881 was much talked about and was the first Jewish Wedding attended by royalty.  The chuppah featured 4 ornamental ‘pineapple’ shaped finials on top of their chuppah poles, still in safe keeping at the Synagogue.


(Their graves can be visited every day except Shabbat and festivals 8am – 4pm in Winter, 8am – 3pm on Fridays.)

Many other relatives of former and current members of the Synagogue are buried in Willesden, such as the Wolfson, Gee, Lawson, Peltz and Metliss families.

The purpose of the evening was to raise awareness of the project, headed by Hester Abrams of the United Synagogue, to preserve the heritage of the cemetery and to convert it into a ‘House of Life’ with a visitor-friendly environment of interest the wider community.  With thanks to the United Synagogue and Heritage Lottery Fund for the project.

The House of Life project is recruiting volunteers to help deliver activities for the public and protect and share the value of its important heritage.  Do get in touch with them if you would like to share your skills and be trained for new ones.

Both the Synagogue and the cemetery were at the forefront of anglo-Jewry in the past, and Hester’s project is bringing this history alive and underlining its value to modern day Jewry.

A thoroughly thoughtful and illuminating evening, enjoyed by all.

Incidentally, we also made the discovery that there are still some plots available at Willesden Cemetery!!!

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