Historical Synagogue Plaque Unveiling

Thursday, 11 June, 2015 - 5:09 am


LBI lofting road 040615-1607.jpegOver 100 people including MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry joined in an historic event in the history of the Jewish Community of Islington on Thursday 4 June 2015, Islington Council and Chabad Islington hosted an event to celebrate the unveiling of Islington People's Plaque on the site of the former North London Synagogue (1868-1958).

The event attracted close to 100 people, including former members of the synagogue, Judith Hassan OBE-the great niece of  the first Rabbi, the last two couples who married there, synagogue warden and attendees of the Cheder (Jewish school). Having moved out of Islington, many of them spoke about the importance of the event and travelling to Islington to celebrate the rich history of the Jewish community and it's synagogue.

Prior to the official unveiling, Councilor James Murry provided opening words about the history of the synagogue, its change to council flats and need for commemoration. Judith Hassan shared the story of her great-uncle - the first Rabbi of the synagogue, Rev. Morris Josef.

Rabbi Mendy Korer of Chabad Islington talked about his application and campaign for the plaque to mark the site of the synagogue. He asked the former members of the synagogue to share their stories, and take part in rebuilding the Jewish community of Islington.

Also present were Leader of the Council Richard Watts, Council members, President of United Synagogue Stephen Pack and representatives of Islington Museum joined the celebration.

"It was a wonderful event, which mum and her contemporaries really enjoyed, and she spent so many weeks looking forward to it." Said one of the attendees "Mum will be 80 this year and has many fond memories of her time at Lofting Road. Mum doesn't get out much but last Thursdays event (and the lead up to it) seemed to give her a new lease of life."

"I was really delighted, and moved, to see so many old congregants getting together again on what was clearly a really enjoyable and important occasion for them." Said Rabbi Korer after the event, "we would love to meet anyone that used to go to the synagogue (or relatives) to put together a full story of it's rich past."

20150604_190716.jpegThe historic synagogue and its community

During the 18th and 19th centuries Islington had one of the largest Jewish populations in England. In 1868 the North London Synagogue was built on Lofting Road (formerly John Street) in Barnsbury N1, Islington to accommodate the growing Jewish community of North London. It was a relatively affluent congregation; the members were able to raise £16,000 themselves to pay off a loan on the building. Many lived in the Chapel Street, Angel and Upper Street areas nearby.

The building was designed in Italian style and richly decorated with marble, plaster moulded into the shape of plants, coffered beilings and stained glass. The synagogue was of the Ashkenazi Orthodox tradition and was admitted as a Constituent member of the United Synagogue in 1878. The opening of Dalston Synagogue caused a decline in membership and in 1958 the two establishments were amalgamated. The building was demolished in 1958 and later replaced by the current block of flats. The history of the synagogue was written by its last minister, Rabbi Nathan Bergerman.

'My family were members of the Shul until it closed and my bar mitzvah was the penultimate one celebrated there,’ says Johnny Hoffman, former member of the historic North London Synagogue. 'Also my brother's wedding was the last wedding and my family have very happy memories from those years. We are looking forward very much to the unveiling.’

Application for the commemorative plaque

In 2014 Chabad Lubavitch of Islington applied for a recognition of this significant building by placing a plaque on the current building on Lofting Road. Thanks to an online voting contest open to the general public, the former North London Synagogue, will now have a plaque marking its site. The Borough of Islington announced that the synagogue won the second of three spots in a heated race for the coveted “Islington People’s Plaque.” This plaque commemorates Islington’s first significant migrant community, its synagogue which stood for 90 years, and the congregation that attended the synagogue during that time.

'We moved to Islington 4 years ago with a plan to rebuild the Jewish community,’ says Rabbi Mendy Korer, Director of Chabad Islington. 'We appreciate all the votes we received last year to have the plaque put up and are very proud to set up a permanent mark of Islington's rich Jewish history.'

 LBI lofting road 040615-1650.jpeg


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