The Wedding Ceremony of Joan Sklan and Louis Freedman in the Abbey Road Synagogue, 10 July 1949.
St. John's Wood Synagogue is a prominent and flagship member of the United Synagogue. We are a modern Orthodox community situated in the fashionable district of St. John's Wood. The open spaces of both Primrose Hill and Regents Park, together with the tree-lined streets, give a leafy feel to the prestigious location of the Synagogue.
St John's Wood Synagogue was the first community to be established in 1876 under the aegis of the new United Synagogue (formed 1870) and with its help. The growing Jewish population in the environs of the West End led to the demand for this new synagogue.
Our first Synagogue was a temporary iron structure. It was consecrated in 1876 on the site at the corner of Abbey Road and Marlborough Place, and it accommodated 250 worshippers.
The community grew so quickly that by March 1882 the foundation stone was laid for a permanent building at Abbey Road, which was ready for occupation the following July. Construction costs were £8,466! The synagogue in Abbey Road bears witness to the importance placed by Anglo-Jewry on the St John’s Wood community. Designed by Hyman Henry Collins, one of the main architects working for the United Synagogue in the later part of the period, it is the only one of H. H. Collins's eight London synagogues to have escaped demolition A few years after its construction the building again needed to be extended to accommodate a growing community.
In 1920 the Synagogue had to be underpinned due to major subsidence. At the same time the interior was extended, with the Bimah moved to the front, adjacent to the Aron HaKodesh. Otherwise, the building remained substantially unchanged until the congregation moved to its current home in Grove End Road in 1964.
Between the world wars, St. John's Wood became an even more fashionable Jewish area. In the 1950's flat dwelling became convenient and desirable and there was a move back from the outer suburbs to the areas close to the West End. Consequently our membership grew. It was the increasing size, importance and affluence of the congregation that led the Honorary Officers to undertake the construction of a new Synagogue and Community Centre at Grove End Road. The community centre was opened in 1957 and the Synagogue completed in 1964.
One of the most beautiful features of our Synagogue has to be the outstanding stained glass windows designed by the talented David Hillman. Please take some time to look at them on this website and share our enjoyment of their beauty.
As a flagship synagogue of the United Synagogue, we have played host to major communal events including the installation ceremonies of Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovitz, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and our current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
The Synagogue has also held communal services celebrating the 50th Birthday Celebrations of the State of Israel, which was attended by HRH Prince of Wales and the 350th anniversary celebration of the Jews’ resettlement in England. In addition, St John's Wood has hosted ceremonies celebrating Royal occasions, including the coronation of King George VI, held on Shabbat, 8 May 1937 and numerous Jubilee Celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen.
Currently our community is also home to the London Carlebach Synagogue Trust (The Saatchi Synagogue) which meets on Shabbat and Yom Tov mornings in our Steinfeld Beth Hamedrash and also Anshei Shalom, a Sephardi community. Our synagogue holds daily minyanim and offers communal, social and educational events across the age spectrum.
Chief Rabbi Herman Adler, then delegate Chief Rabbi, laid the original foundation stone of the Abbey Road Synagogue. For 100 years, from 1913 onwards, the shul served as the official seat of the Chief Rabbi, who resided in nearby Hamilton Terrace.
Chief Rabbi J H Hertz succeeded Chief Rabbi Adler and was the first Chief Rabbi to live in St John’s Wood. He and subsequent Chief Rabbis, Sir Israel Brodie, Harav Lord Jakobovits and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks were all regular attendees at our Synagogue.
Our first minister was Rev S Landeshut who provided Services in the area from 1873. Rev B. Berliner was appointed in 1878 and served for 34 years and the Rev Harris Price was with the congregation from 1891 to 1933, first as a Junior and then as a Senior Minister.
He was followed in 1934 by Rabbi Harris Swift, who left for South Africa in 1950. Rabbi Dr Soloman Goldman was Rabbi from then until 1976, and was succeeded by Rabbi Menachem Fink.
Rabbi Cyril Harris was our minister until 1987, when he was appointed Chief Rabbi of South Africa, and he was followed by Rabbi Dr Nisson Shulman.
It was not until 1917 that a Reader was appointed. Among the Synagogue's chazanim have been Rev G Prince (1917-1935), Rev Mark Hertzberg (1935-1974), Cantor Asher Heinovitz and Rev Chaim Abramovitz. From 1996 to 2015 Cantor Moshe Haschel was our Chazan. Since the retirement of Chazan Haschel, in order to introduce variety, we have weekly guest chazanim.
Since 1995 Dayan Ivan Binstock has led the congregation as Rabbi and continues to carry on the great traditions of our Synagogue.