Meyer Harroch

New West End Synagogue: Where Architectural Splendor Meets Community Spirit

Located next to London’s historic Kensington Gardens, the New West End Synagogue stands as a testament to both architectural splendor and heartfelt community spirit, earning its place as one of the friendliest and most beautiful synagogues the New York Jewish Travel Guide has yet visited.

From the moment you approach its elegant facade, the New West End Synagogue captivates with its classic design elements. Its exterior, adorned with intricate details and symbolic motifs from a mix of high Victorian, Gothic Revival, and Saracenic influences, presents an architectural mélange remarkably well-integrated into a coherent, dignified whole. The overall effect reflects a deep respect for tradition. Stepping inside, visitors are enveloped in an atmosphere of tranquility and reverence, where every corner exudes a sense of history and faith.

Yet, beyond its physical allure, what truly distinguishes the New West End Synagogue is its vibrant community. Here, warmth and hospitality abound, creating an environment where newcomers are welcomed like old friends. The members of this synagogue are renowned for their inclusivity and genuine camaraderie, forging connections that extend far beyond the walls of the sanctuary.

Whether you attend a lively Shabbat service, participate in a joyous holiday celebration, or engage in a stimulating cultural event, you’ll experience firsthand the deep sense of belonging that defines this community. It is a place where relationships flourish, and everyone is cherished for their unique contribution to the rich tapestry of synagogue life.

Moreover, the New West End Synagogue is a hub of learning and cultural exchange, offering enriching programming and educational opportunities that deepen both spiritual understanding and intellectual curiosity.

Torah Pointer with a Diamond Ring, New York Jewish Travel Guide

“On June 7th, 1877, Mr. Leopold de Rothschild laid the foundation stone of the New West End Synagogue in the presence of the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Nathan Marcus Adler,” stated Mr. Henry Magrill, former Chairman of the synagogue and one of its longest-living members, to NYJTG. George Audsley, the architect, designed the building, which had its official opening on March 30, 1879.”

Over its history, the synagogue has been frequented and used by numerous distinguished Jewish individuals, cementing its status as one of the UK’s longest-standing active Jewish places of worship.

Mr. Henry Magrill, former Chairman of the synagogue, New York Jewish Travel Guide

Mr. Magrill shared further insights, pointing out, “Above the door, you’ll see an unlit gas lamp that used to be lit for Kol Nidrei until the introduction of natural gas made this impossible. In the entire country, there are only three Grade I listed synagogues: Bevis Marks in the City of London, dating back to 1701; we were the second, and the third on Princes Road in Liverpool. The Grade I list is reserved for structures deemed to have the utmost historical or architectural significance, and we were fortunate to be recognized for both

H. J. Westlake, one of England’s foremost authorities on stained glass and mosaics, created the stunning stained-glass windows, adding to the New West End Synagogue’s exquisite beauty. In addition, Erwin Bossanyi’s 1937 rose window above the Ark beautifully portrays a variety of Jewish customs and ceremonies.

Gold leaf gilding to the capitals of the Binah, New York Jewish Travel Guide

The synagogue’s collection boasts around twenty Sifrei Torahs, alongside exquisite examples of embroidery and silverware, some dating back to the early eighteenth century. Additionally, Torah bells and breastplates not currently in regular use are on loan for display at the Jewish Museum elsewhere in London

Mr. Magrill noted, “The shul accommodates some 700 worshippers, evenly split between men and women. Men are confined to the sanctuary floor, while women enjoy an elevated position in the gallery.

“As an Orthodox synagogue, we have a kiddush every Shabbat and one of the foremost synagogue choirs in the country. We uphold a strong musical tradition; we are the only London synagogue with a full-time choir. When you come for Shabbat, you will probably be welcomed with an Aliyah and then treated to a delicious Kiddush.”

With such an illustrious history, it’s no wonder that the New West End Synagogue has played a central role in the history of English-speaking Jewry. Its first Rabbi, Simeon Singer, compiled the Singer’s Prayerbook, which is still in use today as the standard Anglo-Jewish siddur. The shul’s first choirmaster, D. M. Davis, who served from 1879 for 50 years, also played a key role in formalizing traditional melodies now recognized throughout the English-speaking world.

Omer Plaque, New York Jewish Travel Guide

As part of the United Synagogue, members pay a funeral expenses surcharge as part of their membership, entitling them to burial in the United Synagogue cemetery. There are about 56 synagogue communities in the United Synagogue, which is the administrative umbrella body for British Jewry, including the New West End.

The New West End Synagogue welcomes all visitors, including many tourists, especially during the summer from Israel, America, and Europe. The synagogue hosts Shabbat dinners: some are Shabbatonim for students, some for guests, and some for visiting dignitaries.

Looking to the future, Mr. Magrill spoke of the imminent arrival of a new Rabbi to occupy this august pulpit. This appointment will spearhead an outreach initiative, which underscores the synagogue’s commitment to engaging with and supporting the broader Jewish community.

The New West End Synagogue stands as a remarkable blend of architectural grandeur and heartfelt community spirit, profoundly impacting all who cross its threshold. Beyond its striking façade and historical significance, the synagogue radiates warmth, inclusivity, and genuine connection. Visitors are welcomed into a space where every detail, from its intricate design elements to its rich traditions, fosters a deep sense of belonging.

The synagogue’s beauty is not only in its physical form but also in the genuine relationships cultivated within its walls. Whether attending services, participating in cultural events, or simply connecting with fellow congregants, visitors experience a profound sense of community that extends far beyond their visit. Each interaction, each moment spent within the synagogue’s embrace, leaves an indelible mark on those who enter, enriching their lives with its hospitality and shared values.

As a cherished sanctuary, the New West End Synagogue continues to inspire and uplift, preserving its legacy of compassion and community for generations to come.

For additional information,

Authored by Meyer Harroch, New York Jewish Travel, and New York Jewish

New West End Synagogue, St Petersburgh Place, Bayswater, London, W2 4JT

Email: Phone: 020 7229 2631

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About the Author
Meyer Harroch is the founder and travel writer of the prestigious New York Jewish Travel Guide, a digital Jewish travel publication established in 2013 that promotes Jewish travel, Jewish heritage destinations, international hotels, dining, and airlines, as well as tourism. Also, Meyer publishes the New York Jewish Parenting Guide, the New York Jewish Guide, the New York Jewish Chamber of Commerce, and the New York Jewish Event Guide.