United Synagogue

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The United Synagogue is the largest synagogue movement in Europe. Founded in 1870 today it is comprised of 62 local communities/synagogues supported by a central office. Chief Rabbi Mirvis is the spiritual head of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.[1] Its members fall into a category described by the Board of Deputies as Central Orthodox, which also includes the Federation of Synagogues and many similar congregations throughout the United Kingdom. Membership of Central Orthodox congregations in 2016 numbered 41,990, constituted some 52.8% of synagogue membership in the United Kingdom. However, such numbers had decreased by 24,211 members (a decline of 37%) over the preceding six years. Approximatel 37.4% of British synagogues adhere to Central Orthodoxy.[2]

It is a registered charity (no. 242552) and its head office is located at 305 Ballards Lane, North Finchley, London N12 8GB.

Background and History

The formation of the United Synagogue was a result of a special Act of Parliament dated 14 July 1870 (the United Synagogues Act 1870) which granted formal recognition to the union of the three City of London Ashkanazi synagogues (the Great Synagogue, the Hambro' Synagogue and the New Synagogue) as well as their two West End branch synagogues (the Central Synagogue and the Bayswater Synagogue). The union was forged by Chief Rabbi Dr. Nathan Marcus Adler.[2]

As an organisation, the United Synagogue is not officially tied to the Zionist movement but many of its leaders, most notably Robert Waley Cohen, have "...contributed in practical ways towards the upbuilding of the state of Israel, and that appeals for causes associated with the Zionist cause had never been far away from the synagogue".[3]

In 1913 Joseph Hertz was elected Chief Rabbi of the group of synagogues known as the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire, led by the United Synagogue. Hertz was strongly Zionist and "...lost little opportunity to preach his ideas. Some organisations in Anglo-Jewry followed him in welcoming Zionism, but the United Synagogue for one did not."[4]

Religious and organizational conflicts with the more right-wing Federation of Synagogues (1887) were a regular occurance since the beginning of the 20th century. Tensions had been mounting between the two umbrella organisations, particularly with regards to community control. Both vied for control of London's orthodox East End and bitter conflict ensued.[5] A news bulletin from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on 22 June 1966 stated "On an important domestic issue, the Board’s (referring to the Board of Deputies of British Jews) president, Solomon Teff, urged the organization’s executive committee to offer its services to help solve the dispute between the United Synagogue and the Federation of Synagogues. The conflict between the two religious bodies, he said, is “making increasing inroads into the unity of British Jewry.”[6]

With the election of Isaac Wolfson as president in 1962 the United Syangogue lurched further to the right and the organisation faced repeated challenges from both the theological right and left. The rise of the Masorti movement provided a further challenge to the United Synagogue and as such, its membership has declined in recent years. In 2016 members numbered 41,990, constituting some 52.8% of synagogue membership in the United Kingdom. However this decreased by 24,211 members (a decline of 37%) over the preceding six years.[7]

Historically, the United Synagogue has been comprised of congregations based in or around London and the home counties. However, in recent years, communities from further afield have joined the network, beginning with the Sheffield congregation in 2015.[2]



Steven Wilson | David Collins | Rabbi Jeremy Conway | David Frei | Jo Grose | Vickie Lampkin | Richard Taylor | Richard Verber | Lali Virdee[8]


Michael Goldstein | Andrew Eder | Claire Lemer | Fleurise Lewis | Maxwell Nisner | Nicola Rosenfelder | Barry Shaw | Saul Taylor | Jacqui Zinkin[9]

Relationship with Israel & the Zionist Movement

The United Synagogue has strong ties to Israel. It describes itself as 'a Zionist organisation' and runs many programmes including:

  • Helping with Shul trips to Israel
  • Helping US members plan weddings and other simchas in Israel
  • Offering services/events for US members now living in Israel
  • Rabbinic recruitment
  • Support for Tribe Israel’s trips, tours, programmes, Leadership training[10]

To help facilitate these services the United Synagogue has a dedicated Israel Desk, similar to what the Alliance for Progressive Judaism (a partnership between Liberal Judaism and The Movement for Reform Judaism) established.

Several United Synagogue communities are affiliate members of the Zionist Federation of Great Britian and Ireland. They include Cockfosters and N Southgate Synagogue, Hendon United Synagogue, Kenton United Synagogue, Kinloss (also known as Finchley United Synagogue), Woodside Park Synagogue and South Hampstead Synagogue.[11]

United Synagogue purchased a section of Eretz Hachaim Cemetery just outside Jerusalem for use of members who wish to be buried in Israel.[12]



Tribe is a youth group run by United Synagogue. It runs a variety of programmes and activities centrally and across all United Synagogue shuls and schools.

Tribe Israel hosts activities for all British students on a gap year in Israel, throughout their year there. They hold a welcome event, as well as an annual shabbaton. They also help to develop essential skills like public speaking and work with students on Israel Advocacy through the Tribe Learn 2 Lead programme.

Tribe Campus Recruiters help with advice and events, which are often organised together with key partner, University Jewish Chaplaincy and JSOCs (Jewish Societies).[13]

Members and Communities

Ahavat Yisrael | Alei Tzion | Barnet | Belmont | Birmingham Central Synagogue | Borehamwood & Elstree | Brondesbury Park | Bushey & District | Catford & Bromley (Affiliate) | Central | Chelsea (Affiliate) | Chigwell & Hainault | Cockfosters & N Southgate | Cranbrook | Ealing | Edgware | Enfield & Winchmore Hill | Finchley | Finsbury Park | Golders Green | Hackney & East London | Hadley Wood | Hampstead | Hampstead Garden Suburb | Hemel Hempstead (Affiliate) | Hendon | Highams Park & Chingford | Highgate | Kenton | Kingsbury | Kingston, Surbiton & District | Luton | Magen Avot (Hendon) | Mill Hill | Mill Hill East | Muswell Hill | New West End | Northwood | Palmers Green & Southgate | Peterborough (Affiliate) | | Pinner | Potters Bar | Radlett | Richmond | Romford & District (Affiliate) | Ruislip | Sheffield | Shenley | South Hampstead | South London | South Tottenham | Southport | St Albans | St John's Wood | Staines (Affiliate) | Stanmore & Canons Park | Sutton & District | Watford | Welwyn Garden City | Wembley | Western Marble Arch (Associate) | Woodford Forest | Woodside Park[14]


Youth groups


305 Ballards Lane, London, N12 8GB is the address of a number of companies and charities especially those associated with United Synagogue one of the seven main Synagogue movements in the UK representing largely Synagogue's catering for Ashkenazi 'Central Orthodox' Jews.[15]





Primary Schools

Primary schools which have the United Synagogue as its foundation body and are under the religious authority of the Office of the Chief Rabbi:

Primary schools with the Scopus Jewish Education Trust as their foundation body which are now part of the United Synagogue:

Jewish Community Academy Trust Schools which are supported by the United Synagogue:

Primary Schools under the religious authority of the Office of the Chief Rabbi:

Secondary Schools

Secondary schools which have the United Synagogue as its foundation body and are under the religious authority of the Office of the Chief Rabbi:



Email: info@theus.org.uk
Address: 305 Ballards Lane, London, N12 8GB


  1. About United Synagogue, United Synagogue. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 United Synagogue, Jewish Communities & records. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  3. Aubrey Newman, New Problems - The United Synagogue in an 'Age of Affluence' in The United Synagogue 1970 - 1970. Routledge, 1976.
  4. Aubrey Newman, London Jewry 1912-1945 in The United Synagogue 1970 - 1970, p.109. Routledge, 1976.
  5. Vivi Lachs, Whitechapel Noise: Jewish Immigrant Life in Yiddish Song and Verse, London 1884-1914, Wayne State University Press, May 2018.
  6. Protection for Aden Jews Sought; Britain to Leave the Protectorate, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 22 June 1966.
  7. "Jewish News", Issue No. 1010, 6 July 2017, pp. 1 & 4, quoting report by Board of Deputies Policy Reseach, carried out between April and September 2016.
  8. Directors, United Synagogue. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  9. Trustees, United Synagogue. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  10. US in Israel, The United Synagogue. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  11. Affiliate Members, Zionist Federation of Great Britian and Ireland. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  12. Burial in Israel, United Synagogue. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  13. What is Tribe?, Tribe UK. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  14. Communities, United Synagogue. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  15. JCR-UK United Synagogue