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Green Plaque unveiled at site of North London Synagogue

Local dignitaries, members of the Jewish community and local history fans gathered in Barnsbury on Thursday 4 June for the unveiling of an Islington People’s Plaque at the site of the North London Synagogue.

The green plaque was unveiled by Ann-Marie Foggin and Judith Hassan, the great-nieces of the first Rabbi of the synagogue, Rabbi Morris Joseph.

The North London Synagogue was chosen by popular vote as one of three new recipients of a People’s Plaque, an Islington Council initiative that celebrates significant people, places and events in the borough.

Amongst the guests was
Cheryl Williams, who is the great-great granddaughter of the builder of the North London Synagogue, as well as people who used to worship at the Synagogue before its closure in 1958.

Also present at the ceremony were Islington South MP Emily Thornberry, Leader of the Council Richard Watts, the Mayor of Islington Richard Greening, and Jewish leader Rabbi Mendy Korer and his family.

Consecrated by the Chief Rabbi in 1868, the North London Synagogue was situated on John Street [now Lofting Road] in Barnsbury. It served as a place of worship to the Jewish community for 90 years.

The building was designed in Italian style and richly decorated with marble, plaster moulded into the shape of plants, coffered ceilings and stained glass.

During the 19th century London was expanding rapidly and the area north of the Angel, which until then had been quite rural, was transformed by new housing developments and improved transport links. Like other Londoners, those Jews who could afford to escape the grime and overcrowding of the central area were keen to move into the spacious new suburbs. By the 1850s, Islington had one of the largest Jewish communities of England.

In the souvenir booklet produced for a commemorative service to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the residing Rabbi, Nathan Bergerman, finished his address by desiring ‘that the Synagogue may celebrate its 100th anniversary unimpaired …’, but this was not to happen.

By the mid-1950s many of the synagogue’s members had moved on, and in 1958, with low attendances and the building in poor condition the synagogue was closed and then demolished. Islington Council later constructed flats on the site.

Cllr Janet Burgess, executive member for health and wellbeing at Islington Council, said:  “For nearly 90 years, the North London Synagogue was the place for the thriving Jewish community to connect, meet and worship.

“We are delighted  to commemorate the borough’s rich Jewish heritage with an Islington People’s Plaque.”


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