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The History of Luton's Jewish Community

The following has been extracted from the “Laws of the Luton Hebrew Congregation 5715-1955”. Its author is not mentioned but we express our sincere thanks to Mr. Anonymous for without his foresight the history of our community would be so much diminished.

“As far as can be ascertained, the first Jewish family to settle in Luton was around the year 1880, and by 1912 there were about five families living in the town. The first organised Luton Jewish Community, however, took place at a meeting held in Duke Street on September 23rd 1923, when it was resolved to form a body later to be known as the Luton Hebrew Congregation. It is recorded that nine local residents were present at this meeting. A General Meeting of the newly formed Luton Hebrew Congregation was later held on September 30th of the same year, when the first President was elected. The sum of £18 was donated by the twelve members present towards a Foundation Fund.

It was furthermore decided at this meeting to apply to the United Synagogue for affiliation with regard to burial. Although affiliation with the Federation of Synagogues was later effected, this arrangement was later reversed, and today the Luton Synagogue, though independent in its Synagogue administration, remains affiliated to the United Synagogue for burial purposes.

During the period 1924 to 1929 High Holyday Services and religion classes were held above a factory in John Street, and these were served by various visiting teachers. In 1929, the present Minister, the Rev. H.D. Ritvo, was appointed, and during the same year a house at 5 Moor Path was purchased and converted to hold about ninety people; thus the first Synagogue in Luton was established. At the outbreak of war in 1939 there were about twenty five families living in the town, but with the tremendous influx the Community swelled to over two thousand souls. This was the turning point in the history of the Luton Hebrew Congregation when it became apparent that the small Synagogue at Moor Path was inadequate to house the new members and additional communal activities created. A Youth Club had been formed; various Zionist Organisations and Hospitality Centres as well as additional Hebrew Classes pointed to a great need for a new Synagogue and Communal Centre which would house these manifold activities.

Accordingly, the present building in Bury Park was purchased in 1949, and plans for its conversion and reconstruction were drawn up. Work commenced in 1952, and on Lag Ba’Omer 5713/1953 the present Luton Synagogue was consecrated by the chief Rabbi, the Very Rev. Dr. Israel Brodie. Today the Luton Hebrew Congregation consists of over 200 members and is a thriving independent body, with its own constitution, Synagogue Council which acts as its Shechita Board. It employs full time Ministers and Teachers, and free religious instruction is offered to the children. All under one roof are now facilities for daily services, classrooms, a Youth Club with recreational facilities, and a large Communal Hall which can accommodate several hundred people. With the issue of this newly-revised constitution it was felt desirable to append these few historical paragraphs for the information of old members and the benefit of the many new members now joining our Luton Hebrew Congregation.”

In November 2001 the premises in Bury Park were sold, as the building and environment were no longer in keeping with the requirements of the Jewish community. For abount eight years, there was a search to locate a suitable building or plot of land on which to construct a new Community Centre and Synagogue. This would be in-keeping with our Jewish traditions, it was proposed that this new Community Centre would be the centre point for the Luton Jewish Community, but will also provide facilities for the wider Luton community, thus fostering closer relationships within the multi-ethnic Luton community.

Finally in January 2009 a new building was purchased which met the Community's requrements and it was formally re-dedicated on 27 June 2010 by the Chief Rabbi. On 12 July 2010, the synagogue formerly became part of the United Synagogues. To reflect this change and to reflect a more modern image the name formerly changed to Luton United Synagogue on 12 May 2011.

If anybody has other interesting facts or anecdotes they wish to share with us, please email them to info@lutonhebrew.co.uk so that we add them to this page for future generations.

Email Luton United Synagogue: info@lutonhebrew.co.uk

Registered Address: Luton United Synagogue, 656 Dunstable Road, Luton, LU4 8SE

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