Guildford Synagogue

Guildford & District Jewish Community

Guildford, Surrey




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Town of Guildford

Guildford, the county town of Surrey (although not currently its administrative centre), in southeast England, has a population of about 70,000. Guildford was a municipal borough until 1974, when it merged with the Guildford Rural District to form the local government district, later borough, of Guildford, within the county of Surrey.

Guildford Jewish Community

There was a medieval Jewish community in Guildford - a chamber was discovered in Guildford High Street in 1995, which is widely believed to be the remains of a twelfth century synagogue. If it is indeed the remains of a synagogue, it is likely to be the oldest remaining synagogue structure in Western Europe.

The modern Jewish community is believed to date back to the early twentieth century. However, World War II transformed the Jewish community, with a substantial number of Jews being being evacuated to Guildford from built-up areas of London, who were later joined by Jewish refugees from Europe. During the War, a United Synagogue Membership Group was formed in Guildford. The community continued to function following the war and saw an increase in membership as a result of the University of Surrey being established in Guildford in 1966. In the late 1970s the community built its own synagogue.

Guildford Synagogue
Guildford Synagogue, York Road (2014)

Congregation Data


Guildford & District Jewish Community

also simply known as the Guildford Synagogue since 1979(iii)


World War II saw the influx into Guildford of evacuees from London and refugees from Europe who formed the Guildford United Synagogue Membership Group(iv) (see below) in the town. This was dissolved following the end of the war, when many of the evacuees returned home. However, the Jewish community continued to exist, although it was not until 1979 that it acquired a permanent synagogue building.  


York Road, Guildford, GU1 4DR(v)

The building was acquired, partly rebuilt and converted into a synagogue in 1979. Consecration took place on 26 October 1980 in the presence of Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits.(vi)

The congregation previously met in hired halls(vii)

Current Status:

Active. Generally, services are held on the high holy days.


Orthodox - Ashkenazi


Although the Membership Group was linked to the United Synagogue, the later congregation is an unaffiliated provincial congregation under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi.




The post-war congregation has never had a resident minister, although the the Jewish chaplain to the University of Surrey since 2019, Rabbi Alexander Goldberg, serves to some extent as the communal rabbi.(x)

Lay Officers:

The following are the lay officers known to have served the post-war congregation, based upon Jewish Year Books 1965 through 2015.(xi)


at least 1964-1979 - H. Gould


1979-1988 - Theo Ruben

1988-2004 - Dr. S. Cornbleet

2004-2014 - Prof. R. Spier

Hon. Secretaries

at least 1964-1979 - Mrs. J. Barnett

1979-1981 - Mrs. T.M. Goldberg

1981-1984 - Mrs. D. Davidson

1984-2014 - Mrs. B. Gould

World War II Congregation:(xii)

The Guildford United Synagogue Membership Group was formed, probably in about 1940, by members of United Synagogue congregations evacuated from London to Guildford.

Address - Ayer's Hall, Bury Street, Guildford

Closure - about 1947

Minister - Rev. S. Clayman, BA(xiii)

Lay Officers

President - J. Phillips

Vice President - H.M. Spiers(xiv)

Treasurer - J.A. Rose(xiv)

Hon. Secretary - Miss Celia Royston

Membership Data:

Reports & Surveys(xvi)

1977 - 40 male (or household) members and 5 female members

1983 - 60 male (or household) members and 10 female members

1990 - 46 members (or households)

1996 - 37 members (comprising 22 households, 4 individual male and 11 individual female members)

2010 and 2016 - listed as having under 50 members (by household)

Charitable Status:

Guildford and District Jewish Community is a registered charity, number 268088 (standard registration), registered on 27 September 1974.(xvii)

Registration District:

Surrey from 4 August 2008(xviii) - Link to Register Office website.


Online Articles and Other Material
relating to the Guildford Jewish Community



Other Guildford Jewish Institutions & Organisations

Established by the Evacuee Community(xix)

  • Hebrew and Religious Classes

  • Ladies Guild

  • Benevolent Society

  • Youth Club

Established Later

  • University of Surrey Jewish Society(xx)


Jewish Cemetery Information

There is a Jewish cemetery in Guildford.

  • Guildford Municipal Cemetery, Jewish Section.

(For additional information, see IAJGS Cemetery Project - Guildford.)


Guildford Jewish Population Data



(The Jewish Year Book 1965)



(The Jewish Year Book 1980)



(The Jewish Year Book 1983)



(The Jewish Year Book 1991)



(The Jewish Year Book 1997)



(The Jewish Year Book 2004)


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) and (ii) Reserved.

  • (iii) Reports on synagogue membership in the United Kingdom, published by the Board of Deputies of British Jews between 1977 and 2016, list the congregation as Guildford & District Jewish Community. In its first listing in Jewish Year Books (1965), it appears a "Jewish Guild.", but from the 1980 edition, it appears as Guildford Synagogue.

  • (iv) The Membership Group was listed in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947. (It was not published in the War subsequent to 1940.)

  • (v) The York Road address was first listed in the Jewish Year Book 1981.

  • (v) Article previously on the community's website and Order of Service of 26 October 1980.

  • (vii) Article previously on the community's website.

  • (viii) and (ix) Reserved.

  • (x) The community's website, accessed January 2024. To view a short profile of Rabbi Goldberg, hold the cursor over his name.

  • (xi) The congregation was not listed until the Jewish Year Book 1965. Where a person is first listed in a year book as holding a particular office, it has been assumed that his or her term of office commenced in the year of publication of the relevant year book and that he or she continued in office until the commencement of office of his successor. Year books were published according to the Gregorian year, being published generally 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 1981 through 1985, it is assumed that he or she commenced office in 1980 and continued in office until 1985. 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.

  • (xii) All data on the Membership Group has been extracted from the two Jewish Year Books (1945/6 and 1947) in which the group was listed. Unless otherwise stated, the same data appeared in both editions.

  • (xiii) To view a short profile of Rev. Clayman, hold the cursor over his name.

  • (xiv) Not listed in Jewish Year Book p. 1947.

  • (xv) Reserved.

  • (xvi) Reports on synagogue membership in the United Kingdom, published by 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.

  • (xvii) Charities Commission website, accessed January 2024. Clicking the charity numbers will take you to the charity's registrations on the website.

  • (xviii) Previous Registration Districts: Guildford (from 1 July 1837 to 1 April 1934); Surrey South Western (from 1 April 1934 to 1 October 1996); and West Surrey (from 1 October 1996 to 4 August 2008). All registers would now be held by the current office.

  • (xix) Listing in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 1947.

  • (xxi) First listed in Jewish Year Book 1996, but believed founded some years earlier.

List of United Synagogue Congregations (and Membership Groups)

World War II Evacuee Communities

Jewish Congregations in Greater London and its Outskirts home page

Jewish Congregations in Surrey

Jewish Communities of England home page

Page created: 22 February 2006
Data significantly expanded and notes first added: 10 January 2024
Page most recently amended: 12 January 2024

Research and formatting by David Shulman

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