The Federation of Synagogues
The Federation of Synagogues was the second major synagogal organisation to be established in Britain, being founded in 1887, some 17 years after the establishment of the United Synagogue. It was intended for cater for the many small, less anglosized, congregations, or chevrot(1), that had multiplied in London, particularly since the wave of officially inspired anti-Jewish attacks and pogroms that followed the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881.
The Federation of Synagogues falls into a category described by the Board of Deputies as Central Orthodox, which also includes the larger United Synagogue and many congregations of similar ilk throughout the United Kingdom. Membership of Central Orthodox congregations in 2016, constituted some 52.8% of synagogue membership in the United Kingdom in 2016, although the figures are declining.(2)
On 16 October 1887, a meeting, presided over by Samuel Montagu, Liberal MP for Whitechapel (later Lord Montagu of Swaythling), was held in the Spital Square Synagogue, Spitalfields, in London's East End. Attending the meeting were members of so-called "minor" synagogues and "chevrot" from the East End. At the meeting the following resolution was passed without dissent:
"That it is desirable for the Chevras to become federated for
certain clearly defined objects."
On 6 November 1887, representatives from 18 synagogues(3) met at the Spital Square Synagogue, again under Mr. Montagu's chairmanship, to to formally constitute themselves as the Federation of Minor Synagogues (the word "Minor" was soon droped from the formal title). It was determined that the Federation would be managed by a Board of Delegates, which met for the first time on 4 December 1887.
16 synagogues(4) were represented at the first meeting of the Board of Delegates in December 1887, whose total membership did not exceed about 1,300. By the time of the Federation formally came into existence there were 21 "original federating synagogues"(5) (of which only one, the New Daston Synagogue, was outside the London East End).
In 1903, the figure had grown to 39 synagogues, representing nearly 4,400 male seat-holders.(6) By 1937, there were 68 affiliated synagogues and some 13,000 members scattered across London, but still primarily in London's East End. Today, the Federation serves 18 constituent synagogues and 7 affiliated congregations in Greater London and Manchester.(7)
FOOTNOTES (↵ returns to main text)
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