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Northwold Road Synagogue

Stoke Newington, London N16, England

בית הכנסת אהל ישראל


50th Anniversary of Beth Hamedrash Ohel Yisroel


Here are the contents of a briefing letter written by my father on December 18, 1981, to Rabbi A. Cohen of Craven Park Road.  It was written to mark the 50th Anniversary of the original establishment of the Brooke Road Shtibil, Beth Hamedrash Ohel Yisroel.  This historical data is by no means complete but was carefully researched from my father's personal knowledge.

Around mid 1931, the original congregation was established at No. 48 Brooke Road, Stoke Newington but was transferred within a few months to No. 46 next door - which was purchased by a Mr. Michalowski to serve primarily as Shabbat Shul for a few elderly people residing locally and therefore unable to attend their own synagogue in East London.  This shul or "shtibil" was originally known as the Michalowski Congregation.

No. 46 was originally a leasehold property with some 20 odd years remaining; but on behalf of the congregation I negotiated the purchase of the freehold when this became available in the late 40's.  On the original purcahse of No. 46, 4 trustees were appointed -- consisting of Mr. Michalowski himself, a Mr. Yarrow, A Mr. Wolf and Mr. Abraham Neufeld.  With the exception of the latter, all the other three were (at that time) quite elderly and of course retired.

In the late 30's, a Mr. Harris Rosenberg, at that time choir master of the New Synagogue, Egerton Road, but residing in Brooke Road, took an active interest in the Michalowski Congregation of which he had then become the Honorary Secretary.  Largely under his influence and because of the migration of substantial numbers of Jewish people into the area from the East End in the early years of the war; very quickly grew from some 30 or 40 paying members to around 150 members by the late 40's.  This growth in membership was also assisted by the fact that Mr. Rosenberg has negotiated an agreement with the Adath Yisroel Burial Society for obvious cover and which now became available to all younger members joining the congregation.  This too was an obvious inducement.

During this period, the congregation acquired Rabbi Yoselovitch (z.l) who also took over the residential flat above the shul until his demise around 1946/47.  By that time, the congregation has become known as the Beth Hamedrash Ohel Yisroel.  Under Rabbi Yoselovitch's guidance and influence, the congregation continued its steady growth and became more vibrant, with daily morning and evening services as well as Shiurim on shabbat and week-day evenings.  At about that time the regular Seudot Shlishith was also introduced.

The premises in Brooke Road then became far too small to accommodate the expanding congregation and for a number of years in the late 40's and early 50's, overflow services were arranged for the Yomim Noroim at St. Michaels Hall at the Clapton end of Northwold Road which accommodated over 400 members, their families and friends.  In the early 50's, the congregation began seriously to look for larger premises and eventually these were found in the present building in Northwold Road in 1953 , which was purchased from the Methodist Church after several months of negotiations which I had with the Methodist Conference in Manchester.  The badly war damaged and largely derelict building was then extensively repaired, renovated, re-roofed, wired for electricity and redecorated at an overall cost of some 10,000 -- this included the purchase cost -- and which was quite a considerable sum at that time.  The income from the St. Michaels Hall overflow services provided the nucleus for the Synagogue's Building Fund which made possible the initial purchase of the new property and contributed towards the very substantial repairs and reinstatements costs.

Within the first year of acquiring the new premises in 1953/54 and following a very intensive membership drive -- the congregation expanded to over 300 members by the time they entered the newly acquired and renovated building in Northwold Road on Rosh Hashanah 1955.

By this time however, the original 4 trustees of which of which I was now one, had become 5 by the execution of a new Deed of Trust.  The percent trustees -- although there have been changes over the years, are: --

Myself, Mr. Ben Luxenburg -- a past (now life) warden of the Synagogue, Mr. Freedman who is the present treasurer, Mr. R. Hirsh the Secretary of the Adath and Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld who was one of the original 5 trustees of the new building.

The first Rav of the Synagogue was Rabbi Weiser who was followed after some 2 or 3 years by Rabbi L. Broder who, as you know, moved to Hendon in May, 1980.

The first Chazan was Rev. Crossman who served the Synagogue also for some 3 or 4 years and who was then followed by Rev. Twersky the present incumbent.  We also has a Talmud Torah for some 8 or 10 years in the late 50's and early 60's but this eventually has to close because of the lack of young people (with children) coming into the area.

Whilst it is not possible to enumerate all the original dedicated and outstanding members of the congregation, I feel that one must make mention of just a few.  For example, the original two long serving Guboim in Brooke Road, Mr. Gothelf amd Mr. Jacob Salik -- he was an outstanding character of the "old school" dedicated to the service of the Synagogue in its formative years; covering a span of some 20 years until his retirement into an Old Peoples Home at the age of over 90.

Mention must also be made of the original Functions Committee which raised large sums of money to enable the 1953/55 building works and succeeding improvements to be carried out.   Also tribute must be paid to the earlier and successive Ladies Guilds who provided considerable financial as well as physical help in all aspects of the Shul's activities as at Shevuoth and Succoth/Simchat Torah.  Moreover, the Guild played a most important part in bringing into viable use the previously defunct Hall beneath the Synagogue.

Se we come now to the present time with our sadly declining congregation (and also membership -- due mainly to natural causes, removals from the district with no source of replacement.  Although the Synagogue has, in recent years made strenuous efforts to carry on, this is now proving very difficult -- but not withstanding that we have this year reached this Synagogue's Golden Wedding Anniversary.

If members and friends wish this Shul to continue for a further number of years, then we must ask for their full support by regular attendances at all the services.  Perhaps we can then recommence the Shabbat afternoon and Sunday morning services -- both of which have ceased for some 2 yeas past.  We would also welcome many of our Shabbat friends who are not members to join the Synagogue.  If Shiurim were wanted, then no doubt these could also be provided. . .

The above only covers the "historical data" in general terms although you may feel that this "history" has been now fairly well covered.  You will of course appreciate that I was personally privileged to be involved in the whole of this epoch; almost from the very inception.  I was also treasurer from about 1950 to 1960; then chairman until 1970; since then as president/warden.

I will leave it to you to incorporate such parts of this "data" which may be appropriate in the course of your sermon on Shabbat Chanukah . . . . .

Kind  regards,


S. A. Kingsley


At Rosh Hashanah 1955 the congregation was renamed Beis Hacknesses Ohel Yisroel upon entry into the new premises in Northwold Road.

-- this name is above the main entrance doors. . . .

December 18, 1981


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First Posted: March 6, 2003
Revised: March 8, 2003

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