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Chief Rabbi in Spitalfields for Sandys Row synagogue’s 160th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 July 2015 | UPDATED: 14:04 14 July 2015

Sandys Row Synagogue and (inset) newly-inducted Rabbi Mendy Korer [synagogue photo: Jeremy Freedman]

Sandys Row Synagogue and (inset) newly-inducted Rabbi Mendy Korer [synagogue photo: Jeremy Freedman]

Sandys Row Synagogue

Worshippers have marked the 160th anniversary of their reviving Jewish community in London’s East End with the induction of its first full-time rabbi for several decades.

Sandys Row SynagogueSandys Row Synagogue

Rabbi Mendy Korer has been inducted at Sandy’s Row in Spitalfields, the East End’s second-oldest surviving synagogue, by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

The Chief Rabbi said: “This is an outstanding example of how a community can impressively withstand the test of time.”

But the building itself nearly didn’t “withstand the test of time” after literally being shaken to its foundations during the Blitz.

The heavy bombing in the streets around Spitalfields and the City during German air-raids in the Second World War dislodged the roof—yet no-one noticed at the time.

Restoring Sandys Row synagogue and its danger roof in 2011 [photo: Jeremy Freedman]Restoring Sandys Row synagogue and its danger roof in 2011 [photo: Jeremy Freedman]

The roof could have collapsed at any moment during the following 70 years, until a surveyor discovered the major structural dangers during Heritage Lottery renovations in 2011. It underwent emergency shoring up until it was strengthened.

Synagogue president Harvey Rifkind said: “Our doors have not closed in more than 160 years and we take pride in doing everything we can to make sure this beautiful site remains an active part of London’s East End.”

The building was bought by the community in 1854 and consecrated a year later.

Guests meeting the Chief Rabbi included Charlie De Wet, from the Huguenots of Spitalfields, as well as Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali and representatives from faith communities such as Spitalfields Christchurch and the Brick Lane Mosque.

Jeremy Freedman, camera at hand, examining dangerous roof structure in 2011Jeremy Freedman, camera at hand, examining dangerous roof structure in 2011

Jeremy Freedman, sixth generation descendent of founding-member Abraham Englesman, said: “No-one could have known when the synagugue was founded that it would last so long. For me, sitting in the same seat as my forbears was something I’ll never forget.”

The congregation was founded in 1854 by Dutch traders, historian Rachel Lichtenstein told guests, but the building itself goes back to a French Huguenot church opened in 1763. Rachel has been working with the nearby Bishopsgate Institute on a Heritage Lottery project on East London’s “Hidden Histories”.


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