JCR-UK

Welwyn Garden City Synagogue

and Jewish Community

Welwyn Garden City, Welwyn Hatfield, Hertfordshire
 

 

 


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congregations throughout the British Isles and Gibraltar, both past and present.
NOTE: We are not the official website of the congregation discussed below, the address of which is given below.

Town of Welwyn Garden City

Welwyn Garden City, a town in the county of Hertfordshire in southeast England, was founded in the 1920’s. It is part of the local government district of Welwyn Hatfield, formed in 1974 by the merger of the urban district of Welwyn Garden City with adjoining localities.

Welwyn Garden City Synagogue
Welwyn Garden City Synagogue (Courtesy Jeff Rosen)

Jewish Community

The Jewish community in Welwyn Garden City dates from World War II, when it was founded by Jewish from Europe seeking refuge from the Nazis and families evacuated from London. It was initially organised as a United Synagogue Membership Group, and subsequently developed into a full community.

In about 2016 the United Synagogue Communities of Potential Board identified Hatfield and Welwyn as a new Jewish centre of growth, due to Jewish families moving into the area, attracted by good road and rail links to London and affordability of housing for young couples and families who are being priced out of Borehamwood and Radlett.

In 2021, the website of the Movement for Reform Judaism (https://www.reformjudaism.org.uk/) listed Reform Judaism in Welwyn & South Herts as one of its affiliated congregations and societies, providing a telephone number but no further details.

Congregation Data

Name:

Welwyn Garden City Synagogue

(formerly Welwyn Garden City Affiliated Synagogue and Welwyn Garden City Jewish Community)

developed from Welwyn Garden City United Synagogue Membership Group(iii)

Address:

Barn Close, Handside Lane, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, AL8 6ST.(iv)

A building fund had been established by 1949 and the plot in Handside Lane (next to the Friends Meeting House) was purchased in 1951.(v) On 25 May 1955, the foundation stone of the new synagogue was laid by Simon Lichtigfeld, senior warden.(vi)

On 1 January 1956, the synagogue was opened by Werner Lash and consecrated by Chief Rabbi Sir Israel Brody. The other joint guest of honour was His Excellency, Colonel José Arturo Castellanos, the then ambassador to Britain of the Republic of El Salvador. Col. Contreras (1893-1977) was a Salvadoran army colonel and diplomat who, while working as El Salvador's Consul General for Geneva during World War II, and in conjunction with a Jewish-Romanian businessman named György Mandl, helped save up to 40,000 Central European Jews, most of them from Hungary, from Nazi persecution by providing them with fake Salvadoran citizenship certificates. As the community at that time was founded and largely maintained by ex-refugees, the presence of Col. Castellanos was especially welcomed.(vii)

Previous Addresses:

Previously, the congregation met at various addresses throughout Welwyn Garden City, in particular the Friends Meeting House, Handside Lane.(x)

Current Status:

Active

Formation:

The congregation dates from January 1939 when 16 young refugees from Nazi Germany came to Welwyn Garden City, with the assistance of the Quaker community. Welwyn subsequently attracted evacuees from London and in November 1939 a meeting was held at Lawrence Hall when the Welwyn Garden City Jewish Community was established. The community became formally established congregation win 1948.(xi)

The congregation attracts members from Hitchin in the North to Hatfield in the South, and from Hertford in the East to St. Albans in the West.(xii)

Ritual:

Orthodox - Ashkenazi

Affiliation:

Initially a United Synagogue Membership Group,(xiii) the congregation became an affiliated synagogue of the United Synagogue in 1948(xiv) and a constituent synagogue in 2017.(xv)

Website:

http://wgcshul.org.uk/

Ministers:

(To view a short profile of a minister - hold the cursor over his name.)

Rabbi Dr. D. Lewin - spiritual leader during World War II(xx)

Rev. Jakob Kaufmann - reader and minister from about 1947 until 1968(xxi)

After Rev. Kaufmann's retirement, the community was unable for many years to support a minister and Jack Harris was of the congregation's principal lay reader during this period.

Rev. Julian Klein - part-time minister from 1987 until 1991(xxii)

Rabbi I. Geoffrey Hyman - part-time minister from 1998 until 2006(xxiii)

Rabbi Hillel Gruber - part-time minister from 2007 until about 2014(xxiv)

Rabbi Yakov Tatz & Rebbetzen Elana Tatz - rabbinic couple from 2018 until present (June 2022)(xxv)

Lay Officers:

Unless otherwise stated, the data below has been extracted from Jewish Year Books, not published during the war years 1940-1945.(xxx) In most instances, the officer's first name has been obtained from other sources.

Presidents

c.1940 - H. Spiers (Chairman)(xxxi)

war years-1946 - Dr. K.S. Richard

1946-1949 - Dr. A. Cohen

1949-1950 - Werner M. Lash

Chairmen

1950-1951 - L. Simmonds

1951-1956 - Werner M. Lash

Treasurers

war years-1947 - Max Kleeman

1947-1949 - S. Tibber

1949-1950 - B. Burger

1950-1953 - Leonhard Hamburger

1853-1955 - J. Harris

1955-1956 - Sydney Grossman

Secretaries & Hon. Secretaries

war years-1946 - Rev. Dr. D. Lewin

1947-1948 - Achim Pollack & W. Leschziner

1948-1949 - Achim Pollack & Mrs. P. Jackson

1949-1950 - P. Pollack

1950-1952 - Mrs. P. Jackson & J. Harris

1952-1953 - Achim Pollack & Mrs. P. Jackson

1953-1960 - Achim Pollack

1960-1964 - Robert Landau

1964-1968 - H.B. Kaltz

1968-1971 - Robert Landau

1971-1976 - E.G. Tuch

1976-1981 - Robert Landau

1981-1985 - M.F. Trent

1985-1989 - R. Selby

Membership Data:

Male Seatholders(xxxv)

1948

1950

1960

1970

29

31

59

66

Reports & Surveys(xxxvi)

1977 - 55 male (or household) members and 19 female members

1983 - 49 male (or household) members and 20 female members

1990 - 107 members (comprising 77 households, 1 individual male and 29 individual female members)

1996 - 103 members (comprising 90 households, 6 individual male and 7 individual female members)

2010 and 2016 - listed as having 100 to 199 members (by household)

Charitable Status

As a constituent of the United Synagogue, the congregation operates within that organisation's registered charity status (registered charity no. 242552).

Registration District:

Hertfordshire, from 1 April 2008(xxxvii) - Link to Register Office website.

Notes & Sources ( returns to text above)

  • (i) and (ii) Reserved.

  • (iii) Listed under this name in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947.

  • (iv) Congregation's website and address given in Jewish Year Book from 1956.

  • (v) Articles on the congregation's website (see below).

  • (vi) Jewish Chronicle report of 3 June 1955. Also see report of ceremony in articles below.

  • (vii) Primarily the articles on the congregation's website (see below).

  • (viii) and (ix) Reserved.

  • (x) This was the address listed for the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 through 1955.

  • (xi) Articles below on the congregation's website.

  • (xii) Congregation's website.

  • (xiii) Listed as such in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947.

  • (xiv) The United Synagogue 1870-1970 by Aubrey Newman (1977), pp.218 and 222.

  • (xiv) Jewish Chronicle report of 28 July 2017.

  • (xvi) to (xix) Reserved.

  • (xx) Congregation's website (which on one occasion refers to him as Dr. K. Lewin). Dr. D. Lewin is listed in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947as minister (and secretary) of the congregation.

  • (xxi) The Jewish Chronicle reported on 12 April 1957 that at the recent Purim ball the chairman of the congregation, presented Rev. J. Kaufmann with a silver spice-box to mark his 65th birthday and the tenth anniversary of his appointment as reader. The history article on the congregation's website refers to his retirement in 1968. He is not listed as minister of the congregations in any Jewish Year Book.

  • (xxii) Rev. Klein had been part time headmaster of the congregation's cheder from autumn 1985. The Jewish Chronicle reported on 24 July 1987 that the appointment of Rev. Klein as part-time minister of the congregation had been confirmed and on 16 August 1991, it reported on his resignation. He was listed as minister of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1989 through 1992

  • (xxiii) The Jewish Chronicle reported on 15 May 1998 that Rabbi Hyman, who left a ministerial post at Belmont two years previously, had been named part-time minister to the congregation and on 23 June 2006, it reported on his move to Ilford. He was listed as minister of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 2001 through 2007.

  • (xxiv) In 2007, The Jewish Chronicle reported that, after a search lasting almost a year, the congregation had appointed Rabbi Hillel Gruber as its new part-time minister to succeed Rabbi Hyman, who left the congregation the previous summer. A report of 2012 placed Rabbi Gruber still at Welwyn. He was listed as minister of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 2008 through 2015 (the last edition to be published).

  • (xxv) Congregation's website, last accessed June 2022.

  • (xxvi) to (xxix) Reserved.

  • (xxx) Where a person is first listed in a Jewish Year Book as holding a particular office, it has been assumed that his term of office commenced in the year of publication of the relevant year book and that he continued in office until the commencement of office of his successor, unless the office was vacant. The year books were generally published towards the end of the year prior to the year appearing in the title of the year book. For example, if an officer is listed in Jewish Year Books 1947 through 1952, it is assumed that he commenced office in 1946 and continued in office until 1952. However, it should be noted that this is only an assumption and, accordingly, his actual years of office may differ somewhat from those shown here. There were gennerally no listings of lay officers, other than secretary, in editions subsequent to 1956. Publication ceased in 2015.

  • (xxxi) Referred to in the Articles below as the congregation's first Chairman.

  • (xxxii) to (xxxiv) Reserved.

  • (xxxv) The United Synagogue 1870-1970 by Aubrey Newman (1977), pp.218/219.

  • (xxxvi) Reports on synagogue membership in the United Kingdom, published by or on behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and which can be viewed on the website of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research. Click HERE for links to the various reports.

  • (xxxvii) The former Registration District was Hatfield (or for certain areas, Hertford) from 1 July 1837. All registers would now be held by the current register office.

Welwyn Garden City Synagogue
Interior of Welwyn Garden City Synagogue (courtesy Jeff Rosen)

 

On-line Articles and Other Material relating to relating to
the Welwyn Garden City Jewish Community


on JCR-UK

  • Selected Press Reports relating to the Welwyn Garden City Jewish Community.

  • Copy Brochure, dated 13 November 2016, commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Synagogue of the Welwyn Garden City Hebrew Congregation (pdf file 2.4 mb), includes a history of the Congregation. JCR-UK is grateful to Jeanette R. Rosenberg for providing a copy of the brochure..


    on the Congregation's website

  • Our Community, article by Werner M. Lash, initially published in the congregation's magazine, Malka, in 1972;

  • The First 40 Years - History of the Welwyn Garden City Jewish Community 1939-1979.


    on other third party websites

  • Jewish Refugees come to Welwyn Garden City, article on Our Welwyn Garden City website, based on a WGC Interfaith Storytelling Event held on Tuesday, 23 November 2010.


Notable Jewish Connections with Welwyn Garden City

  • Keren David (b.1963), national and Jewish community journalist, features editor of The Jewish Chronicle and author for young adults, grew up in Welwyn Garden City.

  • Martin Dyas, a member of the Welwyn Garden City congregation, is a leading Elvis Presley tribute performer who performs under the name Elvis Schmelvis.

  • Baroness Hayman (Helene Valerie Hayman) (b. 1949) was Labour MP for Welwyn and Hatfield, October 1974-1979 and, at the time, the youngest member of the House of Commons.

  • Derek Prag (1923-2010) was MEP for Hertfordshire (1979-1994) and directed the European Community Press and Information Office in London. He was a resident of Welwyn Garden City and active in the congregation.

  • Grant Shapps (b. 1968) is Conservative MP for Welwyn and Hatfield since 2005. He was appointed Housing Minister in 2010 and co chair of the Conservative Party in 2012. He has been Secretary of State for Transport since 2019.

  • Desmond Wilcox (1931-2000), born in Welwyn Garden City, television producer, documentary filmmaker, journalist and television executive converted to Liberal Judaism following his marriage to journalist, campaigner and TV presenter, Esther Rantzen, in 1977.

  • Wim Van Leer (1913-1992) was a Dutch engineer, war-time pilot, playwright, film producer and the scion of a philanthropic family who endowed the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. He settled in Welwyn Garden City in the 1930s where he founded a small metal factory. He was persuaded by the Quakers to rescue Jews from Nazi Germany. He fought in Israel's war of independence, became a leading industrialist in Israel, and founder of the Haifa Cinematheque, the Israel Film Archive, the Jerusalem Film Festival, as well as Israel's first film archive; the Jerusalem Cinematheque

 

Jewish Cemetery Information

There is no Jewish cemetery in Welwyn. For cemeteries used by the Congregation, see Cemeteries of the United Synagogue, of which Bushey Cemetery is only some 16 miles away and Waltham Abbey some 21 miles.

 

Welwyn Garden City Jewish Population Data

1947

250

(The Jewish Year Book 1948)

1948

150

(The Jewish Year Book 1949)

1950

200

(The Jewish Year Book 1951)

1951

195

(The Jewish Year Book 1952)

1990

290

(The Jewish Year Book 1991)


List of United Synagogue Congregations (and Membership Groups)

Jewish Congregations in Hertfordshire

Jewish Communities of England home page


Page created: 14 March 2006
Data significantly expanded and notes first added: 7 June 2022
Page most recently amended: 30 October 2022

Research by David Shulman, assisted by Steven Jaffe
Formatting by David Shulman


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