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Our History

How did this gem 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.

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

They lived first 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 the community move to West London and specifically the Shepherds Bush area?

In 1908 the Franco-British 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 on in the area. The burgeoning community were joined at the onset of the First World War by many more young men who came to Britain to avoid conscription into the Turkish army.

By 1916 the community numbered some seven hundred families 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 to be erected. It opened its doors for the first time 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 this beautiful building.

Holland Park Synagogue has maintained its independence and has over the years attracted Sephardi Jews from all over the world who have come to London and found their spiritual home in a special place of worship that is 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 fifth and sixth generations on, still continue to worship and come together as a community in Holland Park and share the joy of practising their faith in an architecturally beautiful and spiritually uplifting building.

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

Sat, 15 June 2024 9 Sivan 5784