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How did this gem of a place of Sephardi orthodox worship find its way into a typical London Square built in the early Victorian era?

Tucked into the corner of St. James’s Gardens in Holland Park, London W11, is The Holland Park Sephardi Synagogue. Its history and origins are extremely interesting as are its unique services and liturgy.

Founded by a community of Sephardi Jews early in the 20th century who had come to England to better themselves economically when they foresaw the onset of the decline of the Turkish Empire.

They first lived in the City of London and gradually made their way west as more and more families arrived mainly from Salonika in Greece and Constantinople (now Istanbul) in Turkey.

Why did they move to West London and specifically the Shepherds Bush area?

In 1908 an Anglo French Trade Exhibition was held at the newly erected White City and many came to exhibit goods, particularly Turkish carpets and textiles. After the exhibition they stayed in the area, and the burgeoning community were joined at the onset of the First World War by many more young men who came to avoid being conscripted into the Turkish Army.

By 1916 there were some seven hundred families in the area who wanted their own place of worship. It took twelve years of hard work before they had raised enough money which together with a large bequest enabled a plot of land to be bought in St James’s Gardens, and the Synagogue erected. It first opened its doors at the end of 1928.

The coming together of these Jews from both Greece and Turkey was not without its difficulties. Each group had their own ideas and it took great effort by the leadership to bring these fairly disparate groups together successfully. But succeed they did and a unique warmth still pervades the traditional services which have their own liturgy and traditions embedded into the very body of the beautiful building.

Holland Park Synagogue has maintained its independence and has over the years attracted membership from Sephardi Jews from all over the world who have come to London and found their spiritual home in a special place of worship full of warmth and hospitality.

Members from countries as diverse as Iran, Iraq, Egypt, France, Italy, Israel and the Sudan as well as the original founding families, whose descendants, now 5th and 6th generations on, still continue to worship and come together as a community in Holland Park and share the joy of practicing their religion in a truly architecturally beautiful and spiritually uplifting building.

To read more on the history of Holland Park Synagogue, click here.

Sun, 13 June 2021 3 Tammuz 5781