The Life of the Synagogue

Western Synagogue, London

Line illustration of crowd in interior of Western Synagogue
Consecration of the Western Synagogue, St. Albans Place, London
Wood engraving
The Illustrated London News
April 19, 1851

A synagogue consecration was occasioned not only by the construction of a new building, but also, as in the case of this print, when a synagogue had “undergone complete repair and lateral decoration.” Such an event was no less formal or well attended than an initial dedication, as evidenced by the article describing the consecration of the Western Synagogue at St. Albans Place published in the Illustrated London News. On view is the procession of the Torah scrolls, which took place among male attendees on the main floor, while “elegantly dressed ladies” observed from galleries above. The text describes in detail both the attendees and the synagogue itself, admiring the interior “brilliantly illuminated with wax lights from richly-gilt chandeliers,” and praising the effect as “exceedingly striking.”

The description of the event highlights unity among Jews from different synagogues and classes. The consecration of the Western Synagogue drew attendees from the entire local Jewish community, many from other London congregations. This is illustrated by the deliberate listing of the names of clergymen attending from other local synagogues, such as Rabbi Abraham Belais (1773–1853) of Bevis Marks Synagogue, Rev. David Woolf Marks (1811-1909) of the West London Synagogue of British Jews, Rev. Abraham Barnett (1809–1886) of the New Synagogue at Great St. Helen’s, and the choir from the New Synagogue, which contributed music for the occasion. The article also identifies prominent members of the community, such as financier and philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore (1784–1885). The reach of the event to this broad audience demonstrates the central role the synagogue played in the Jewish community as a whole.