The Liberal Jewish Synagogue is an inclusive, egalitarian community of all ages, working together to explore Jewish traditions, texts and values and applying them to the challenge of living ethical lives within the context of the social, intellectual, technological and scientific realities of the 21st Century.
We seek to sustain and develop the Jewish people’s sacred task: to build a just and compassionate world that is based on our commitment and responsibility to each other as Jews, to our friends and neighbours of other faiths and cultures and to the global environment, and to enrich and deepen the uniqueness of our identity in a context of shared spirituality and creativity, intellectual challenge and meaningful relationships.
The LJS seeks to be a warm, welcoming and compassionate community for all those who wish to engage with Judaism – Kehillah
– The LJS cherishes meaningful, shared worship and dynamic spiritual engagement within the context of Liberal Judaism – Avodah
– The LJS prioritises life-long learning and the intellectual challenge of Jewish texts, ideas and practice, growing and nurturing a sense of Jewish identity for children and adults alike – Torah
– The LJS nurtures meaningful relationships through pastoral care and spiritual encounter and facilitates social networking – Gemilut Chasadim
– The LJS values all meaningful activity that is designed to repair and heal the world – Tikkun Olam
– The LJS celebrates and commemorates all life cycle events that help to give meaning to people’s lives – Chayyim
– The LJS is committed to transparent and responsible governance of the congregation and financial accountability by its trustees – Din v’Cheshbon
– The LJS encourages its members’ contribution to the dynamic growth and development of Liberal Judaism in Europe, Israel and beyond – Yahadut Mitkademet.
THE LJS STORY
The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, known as The LJS, was founded in 1911. It is the oldest and largest of 40 Liberal Jewish communities in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Holland and Denmark. Its early years were distinguished by the leadership of the ‘Three Ms’: the Anglo-Jewish scholar, Claude G. Montefiore (1858-1938), Lily Montagu (1873-1963), whose spiritual influence on the early Liberal Jewish movement (known as the Jewish Religious Union), was considerable and Rabbi Dr Israel Mattuck (1883-1954), the first Rabbi of The LJS, a fiery and eloquent preacher.
Spiritual integrity, musical excellence, education and community care have been at the core of The LJS since its inception. Our services are conducted in Hebrew and English, music is drawn from a wide variety of sources, ancient and contemporary, learning takes place throughout the community, beginning with Tiny Tots and the LJS Nursery School and continuing through Rimon Religion School to an active and stimulating adult education programme at The Learning Circle. The synagogue’s community care programme looks after the senior members of our congregation, the bereaved and lonely, those with mental health issues and also reaches out beyond the Jewish community to work with people of all faiths through the Out and About Club and the LJS Drop-in for Asylum Seeker Families. The full story of The LJS can be read in Pam Fox’s book, A Place to Call My Jewish Home: Memories of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue 1911-2011.
The first LJS was in a former chapel in Hill Street, Park Road. It no longer exists. By 1918, it was evident that a larger building was needed for the growing community and a site was purchased at the present location in St John’s Wood Road. The LJS, an imposing synagogue seating 1,350, was opened in 1925. The building was seriously damaged by an enemy bomb in 1940, and although it was repaired by 1950 and a new classroom block and small synagogue built to one side in the 1960s, serious structural defects prompted the community to undertake a major re-building project in the late 1980s. The building was demolished in 1988, only the original portico being retained; the right to build flats around and above the synagogue was purchased by a developer, and the present building was opened in 1991.
The interior was designed by Israeli architects Kantor Schwartz; the beautiful sanctuary is lined with Jerusalem stone and the ark doors are a mesh of metals set in bronze frames. A brochure giving more details of the building and its furnishings can be found here.
The wall between the two entrance doors holds the memorial to the six million Jews who perished in the Sho’ah (Holocaust). The stone, a three-ton Kilkenny limestone, is the work of noted sculptor Anish Kapoor and was dedicated in 1996, on the 58th anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass).
Pictured by the memorial are Ann and Bob Kirk, two of the kindertransport children who escaped to the UK from Germany before the outbreak of war in 1939. They married at The LJS after the war.
More information is available here.
The Israel Abrahams Library contains more than 6,000 books listed on an electronic database.
The library is open before Shabbat morning services or by arrangement. Books, videos, and CDs may be borrowed by members of the congregation and, by arrangement, by students.