Definitions and Explanations of Terms used in connection with Congregation Data

Page created by John Berman: 2 August 2004
Page expanded and reformatted by David Shulman: 6 January 2006
Latest revision or update: 27 June 2013


There are different laws relating to marriages in synagogues in: 
1. England and Wales; 
2. Scotland (to check);
3. Northern Ireland (to check);
4. Jersey (to check).

England and Wales

The Registrar General of the Office of National Statistics publishes an 'Official List' each year. This includes all synagogues that are "Certified to the Registrar General pursuant to Section 67 (A-D) of the Marriage Acts 1949, as amended".

The certification is undertaken by:

A - Board of Deputies of British Jews for all synagogues that are not affiliated to the Reform or Progressive Movements.

B - West London Synagogue of British Jews for synagogues that are within the Reform Movement (or members of Reform Judaism - formerly the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain), ONE OR OTHER.

C - Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood, London, for Liberal and Progressive Synagogues

The 1949 Act states that Jewish marriages can only take place with both spouses being Jewish. Since 1837, when registration began, Jewish marriages can to take place in any location under the auspices of a certified synagogue. The overall conduct and certification of marriages is the responsibility of the Marriage Secretaries that have been notified and hence approved by the Registrar General. Prior to the Wedding ceremony, Notice of Marriage is given and made public at the Local Register Office.


These are given by the Registrar General for England and Wales when a place of worship is registered. This is not compulsory. There have been some number changes for certain synagogues.



The principal groups are:

  • Assembly of Masorti Synagogues - Congregations "committed to Halachah in the light of modern scholarship", sometimes referred to as Conservative congregations - http://www.masorti.org.uk -

See Listing of Masorti Synagogues

Created, in 1887, initially as a grouping of minor synagogues or "chevrot", and at first known as the Federation of Minor Synagogues.


Federation Synagogues may be either constituent synagogues or affiliated synagogues. 

See Listing of Federation Synagogues

  • Liberal Judaism (formerly Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogue) - Liberal congregations http://www.ljs.org

Congregations within the Liberal Judaism may be either constituent synagogues or associated communities. 

See Listing of Synagogues in the Liberal Judaism Movement

Congregations within the Reform Synagogue network may be either constituent synagogues or associated communities. 

See Listing of Synagogues in the Reform Judaism Movement

  • Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation - Sephardi congregations

See Listing of constituent congregations
See Listing of other Sephardi and Eastern Ritual congregations

  • Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC or Adath) - Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox congregations

See Listing of UOHC Synagogues

Synagogue within the United Synagogue network currently may generally be described either as member synagogues (previously called constituent synagogues) or affiliated synagogues.  Previous categories included district synagogues (a half-way stage between affiliated and constituent, all of which became member synagogues in about 1976) and associated synagogues (a scheme that existed between 1902 and 1948).  (Currently, the Western Marble Arch Synagogue has a special status described as an associate synagogue.) 

In addition, in light of  needs during the World War II, due primarily to the evacuation of many of the inhabitants of London to outlying regions, the United Synagogue established 22 new congregations, known as Membership Groups, primarily in the home counties and southern England. A number of these progressed to become full members of the United Synagogue.


See Listing of United Synagogue Congregations

Many synagogues are not affiliated to any group. In these cases, details might only be provided in relation to their practices and beliefs e.g. Orthodox, Reform.

See Listing of Independent Congregations



Ashkenazi - Originally used to describe the Jews of Medieval Germany and Northern France (on the strength of a Talmudic passage, the word "Askenaz" is identified with Germany) or their descendants. Now generally used to describe the Jews of Central or Eastern European origin and their ritual. 

The order and type of service ("nusach") may differ slightly at Ashkenazi synagogues. The one used by the vast majority of Ashkenazi synagogues in the UK is known as Nusach Ashkenaz.  Another, Nusach Ari (or Ha'Ari) is used by a number of old or Chassidic congregations. It was compiled by Rabbi Isaac Luria in the sixteenth century.  A third, Nusach Sefard, which is close to Nusach Ari, is the Ashkenazi nusach most widespread in Israel, and is used by a number of synagogues, including several established in the UK by Israelis, as well as by several old congregations. 

Sephardi - Used originally to describe the Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin ("Spharad" is the Hebrew word for Spain) or their descendants. Now loosely used also to include all Jews of oriental origin and their ritual, other than the Yemenites.

Temani (Yemenite) - Jews from the Yemen (including Aden). Although often included as Sephardi, their ritual differs considerably from that of the Sephardi Jews.



chevra - a small congregation, frequently established by Jews of Eastern European origin. (plural - chevrot)

minyan - the quorum of at least ten Jewish men or boys (of at least 13 years of age) required for communal Jewish prayer. The term is also sometimes used to describe a small congregation that meets regularly for prayer. (plural - minyanim)

mohel - a person trained to perform the ritual act of circumcision according to the Jewish faith. (plural - mohelim)

shul - the Yiddish word for synagogue.

yeshivah - an academy of advanced Jewish religious study. (plural - yeshivot)



Explanation of the Jewish Calendar



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