The New Synagogue

Stamford Hill, London N16

(formerly City of London, London EC3)






by Simon Goulden, Director, United Synagogue Community Services Group together with
Rabbi Jeremy Conway, Director, United Synagogue Religious Affairs Group
(using edited extracts from the book "Torah Haminhagim - Studies of the Nusach Ha'Tefillah
and Other Minhagim of the United Synagogue London" by Dayan Dr Lerner)

Reproduced from editions of Daf-Hashavua, dated from 1 April 2006 to 29 April 2006

Page created: 26 November 2006
Reformatted: 21 November 2011
Latest revision or update (formatting): 14 December 2014

Extract from edition dated 1 April 2006

The minhagim of the United Synagogue are based upon those of the original founding Synagogues. Dr Cecil Roth, the eminent historian, in his 'Report on the Archives of the United Synagogue' in 1930, refers back to a set of rules dated 1692, less than thirty years after the Jews were formally permitted to return to England. Chief Rabbi Hertz, in his commentary to the Authorised Daily Prayer Book, dated 1941, refers to a Takanah (Rule) of 1722 which states: "The minhag of this Synagogue shall be the Polish minhag as used in Hamburg." The laws of the New Synagogue likewise prescribed that the "Form of Service and Prayer shall be conformable to minhag Poland as already established". Remarkably, the Western Synagogue, an independent congregation founded in 1761 but now joined to the family of United Synagogues through the Western Marble Arch congregation, has precisely the same formula. The original reference to the usages of Hamburg reflects the fact that predominant amongst early settlers in London, after the famous visit of Menashe ben Yisrael in 1655, were migrants from Hamburg.

Extract from edition dated 15 April 2006

[T]he New Synagogue Laws, published in 1851, started with a preamble reaffirming the name of the Synagogue as the "New Synagogue as Founded in the Year 5522/1762" and that the forms of service should conform to minhag Poland.

Extract from edition dated 22 April 2006

Whilst the rules of the New Synagogue, which was founded in 1762, listed various financial and administrative matters, there appeared to be great emphasis laid upon the fines to be imposed upon congregants refusing to accept or performing various offices or functions for which they had been chosen.

Clearly, volunteerism was not high on the community's agenda. Their method of choosing Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereshit did not appear to be as democratic as those earlier demonstrated in the rules of The Great Synagogue. For example, 14 days before Shemini Atzeret, the honorary officers would meet for the purpose of selecting two gentlemen to serve from a list of 18 names of members, not in arrears, who had never served previously. A draw was then to be made for two out of these 18 to be declared the Chatanim. Their duties and privileges were defined 'including joining in the circumambulations evening and morning'.

As with The Great Synagogue, the New Synagogue also had the minhag regarding seven scrolls to be
taken out of the Ark on Hoshanah Rabba and only three for Hakofot on Simchat Torah. However, there was no mention made of possible breaches of decorum by those making a "mock misheberach".
Perhaps they were a more sober congregation than the Great Synagogue - or perhaps they had given up trying!

In a separate section, the rules concern a special Ezras Bale Batim Fund founded by a certain Mr Abraham Solomons in 1824 for the purpose of granting annual allowances to the aged and indigent, clearly a much needed and worthy cause in those difficult times before the Welfare State.

Extract from edition dated 29 April 2006

The rules of the New Synagogue, a founding community of the United Synagogue and dating back to 1762, provided for the appointment of a surgeon to attend to the poor of the congregation and, should his skills not be sufficient, two members were to be elected annually to serve as Overseers of Burials to ensure compliance with the religious rules. These rules are detailed in a separate section and include the requirement that 'in case of serious illness of a member, the Rabbi and Shammas shall attend to read prayers in order that no member of this community shall depart life without religious consolation.'

This section is followed by another relating to Kaddish entitlements, which includes provision for a ballot to decide who is to say Kaddish after Aleinu if more than one mourner is present. Members of the Synagogue who were unable to contribute to its support 'shall be allowed to say one Kaddish every week during the 11 months of mourning'.

One section, dealing with salaried officials of the Synagogue, note that the beadle must be "a Constable of the City of London" whose duties comprise, amongst other things, to "take in charge or place in custody any person or persons, who shall disturb the service of the Synagogue, or interrupt or disturb the business of any meeting of the vestry". One can only speculate on the behaviour of the members in Shul which led to such rules being enacted.

Reproduced from editions of Daf-Hashavua, provided by BRIJNET  -  British Jewish Network.  Copyright United Synagogue, London

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