In 1893 Lily Montagu, with Emily Marion Harris, founded the West Central Jewish Girls Club. In 1901 and 1902, Montagu laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Jewish Religious Union in London. In February 1902 she arranged the first meeting of the Jewish Religious Union for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism. The Union set up the first synagogue in Liberal Judaism in the UK and helped found the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Montagu was a founding member of the Jewish League for Woman Suffrage.
The Girls’ Club was set up for women who worked in the garment trade in Fitzrovia. They worked on Saturday mornings and had no opportunity to go to a service. At the Club in Alfred Place, Bedford Square, they met at 3pm, and this tradition continued throughout the synagogue’s life.
On the night of 16-17 April 1941 a landmine fell on Alfred Place, destroying the West Central Jewish Girls Club (which housed the West Central Liberal Synagogue). Its 27 occupants were killed. (Their names can be seen on the left. There is now an office block on the site.) The synagogue moved to temporary venues in the area through the war, and eventually moved to 21 Maple Street, London W1.
Covid 19 meant that the synagogue could no longer meet at the premises at Maple Street, and during lockdown the space deteriorated and became unusable. The reduced congregation met over Zoom, and in person at Westminster Synagogue in Kensington, but in January 2022 West Central Liberal Synagogue formally ceased to exist. But that wasn't the end of the community: read on and scroll down!
A chavurah group meets at 3pm for a service on the first Shabbat of every month at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood, London. Services are led by Rabbi Jackie Tabick (pictured left) or members of the group.
We're a small, friendly group and the service is hybrid (in person and on Zoom). Participation is key and everybody joins in. If you like a service where you can sing and read, join us in person or online.
Tea, coffee, biscuits, fruit and chat are provided.
For details see liberaljudaism.org. Please get in touch if you'd like to come along. Check our Facebook page for updates.
Rabbi Jackie Tabick is running Judaism 101 conversion classes: see liberaljudaism.org for information. Classes are via Zoom.
The congregation's recipe book, West Central Cooks, is available from Amazon.
1928-1933 Rabbi Dr Solomon Starrels
1933-1934 Rev Maurice Perlzweig
1934-1936 Rabbi David Jacobson
1936-1938 Rev Maurice Perlzweig
1939-1946 Miss Montagu assisted by Rabbi Dr Israel Mattuck, Rabbi Dr Harold Reinhart, Rev Leslie Edgar, Rev Vivian Simmons, Rev Philip Cohen, Rev Stanley Solomons, Rabbi Dr Bruno Italiener, Rabbi Dr Rudolf Brash, Rabbi Dr Werner van der Zyl, Rabbi Dr Heinrich Lemle, Rabbi Ernst Sawady, Rabbi Dr Georg Salzberger, Rabbi Curtis Cassell, Rabbi Jakob Kokotek
At the end of the war, Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck
1946-1955 Rev Dr Frederick Solomonski
1955-1967 Rev Joseph Ascher
1967-1971 Rabbi Roger V Pavey
1979-1973 Rev Joseph Ascher
1973-1985 Rev Lawrence Rigal
1985-1998 Mark Solomon
1998-2014 Janet Burden
2014-2022 Jackie Tabick (Rabbi Tabick, pictured left, became Britain’s first female rabbi in 1975.)