In 2015 the Golders Green Synagogue celebrates the Centenary of its foundation. Founded in 1915, during the First World War, services were first held in St Alban’s Hall in Golders Green, belonging to the local Anglican Church. Until the turn of the twentieth century, Golders Green comprised mainly open fields with a total population of circa 300 people. A modest area then, its main industry was brick making. The redevelopment of Golders Green really took off from 1905 with plans for a tram route from Finchley to Cricklewood and the widening of the Finchley Road. From the 1910s onwards, Golders Green Road became a smart shopping area, described as having ‘the finest shops outside the West End of London.’ In the immediate years since the Jewish community’s inception there, plans were undertaken to construct a purpose-built synagogue as the community expanded and looked to its own permanent place of worship. Due to wartime building constraints, it was a few years before permission was granted to start the build. Amongst its founding fathers were Benjamin Drage and Rev. Isaac Livingstone. By 1918 there were 116 households from an original membership of only twenty 1915. The congregation acquired land in Dunstan Road:
‘That it is desirable to erect and found a Synagogue, to be known as the Golders Green Synagogue (as a Constituent Synagogue of the United Synagogue), in the district of Golders Green, for persons of the Jewish Religion who use the Ashkenazi ritual… the site and property known as Dunstan Road may be acquired for the purpose of the erection of the said Synagogue and Class Rooms… that the terms of the Building Agreement to be entered into with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England…’
An extremely active congregation, it has always placed great emphasis on education and especially for its youth, as well as charitable work and Women’s Guild activities. Counted amongst its rabbis who have served the community are Lord Jonathan Sacks, prior to his appointment as Chief Rabbi, and also Rev. Eugene Newman and Dayan Binstock.
The history of the first 100 years is being told in the book using oral testimonies, extensive community archives and local material. It will be published by Halsgrove in November 2015 and include over 220 black & white photographs. A special exhibition, researched and written by Helen, is being shown at the synagogue to celebrate its Centenary.