The Synagogue, affectionately called Marble Arch, is officially known as the Western Marble Arch Synagogue and came into existence as a result of the successful merger between the Western Synagogue (founded in 1761) and the Marble Arch Synagogue (founded in 1957).
The Western Synagogue, one of the first Ashkenazi Synagogues in the country, was the first to be established outside the City of London in Westminster and was originally known as the Westminster Synagogue. It was the first London Synagogue to preach sermons in English. Whilst adhering to strict orthodox principles, The Western Synagogue had always maintained an attitude of religious tolerance to individuals and had upheld its tradition of administrative independence for well over two hundred years.
The Marble Arch Synagogue came into existence in 1957 under the auspices of the United Synagogue to replace the Great Synagogue which was destroyed by enemy action during the 2nd World War.
The merger in 1991 of these two great central London Synagogues, one being an Independent Synagogue and one being a part of the United Synagogue, was the first of its kind to have taken place in this country. The two former congregations have happily blended together into a unified and dynamic community with a membership catering for all age groups.
A brief chronology:
- 1761 Founding of the Western Synagogue then known as the Westminster Synagogue in Great Pulteney Street Westminster
- 1765 Room in Back Alley Denmark Court Strand was acquired
- 1767 The first Laws of the congregation adopted
- 1774 Larger premises acquired in Denmark Court for worship
- 1797 Dibdinís Theatre Denmark Court acquired for synagogue
- 1811 Institute for education established Ė later known as Westminster Jews Free School
- 1815 First cemetery in Fulham Road consecrated for Western Synagogue
- 1826 Move to newly built Synagogue in St Albans Place Haymarket
- 1884 Second cemetery in Edmonton consecrated for Western Synagogue
- 1914 Commenced construction of Synagogue in Alfred Place, Holborn Consecrated for worship in 1915
- 1941 Synagogue destroyed in bombing raid
- 1943 Acquired temporary premises in Grotrian Hall, Wigmore Street. Also destroyed after six months and worship continued in adjoining premises
- 1947 Western Synagogue moved to temporary Synagogue in Carton Street, Gloucester Place W1
- 1955 Site acquired by United Synagogue for the building of a new Synagogue to replace Great Synagogue
- 1957 Marble Arch congregation formed and worship commenced in the Mayfair Rooms
- 1957 Western Synagogue consecrated in Crawford Place Westminster
- 1961 Marble Arch congregation moved to Synagogue in Great Cumberland Place on the consecration of the Synagogue for worship
- 1961 Bicentenary of the Western Synagogue celebrated
- 1966 Western Synagogue acquired adjoining land for youth centre opened in 1980
- 1983 Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks accepts the call to Marble Arch
- 1986 Both congregations votes to amalgamate to form The Western Marble Arch Synagogue. Dr Jonathan Sacks appointed Chief Rabbi
- 1991 Western Marble Arch congregation acquired from the United Synagogue, 32 Great Cumberland Place as the congregationsí Synagogue subsequently dedicated for worship by Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks. New Laws adopted establishing The Western Marble Arch Synagogue as an Independent Synagogue in association with the United Synagogue.