The History of Luton United Synagogue

In the Beginning...

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.

First Affiliation to United Synagogue

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.

Our First Shul!

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 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.

Birth of Bury Park

Accordingly, the 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 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.

A New Home

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. Currently, and in 2010 a new building suitable for our needs was purchased. The new synagogue was rededicated in June of that year and it was extensively refurbished in 2017. We in tend that the building serves as a synagogue and as a Community Centre, which will be the centre point for the wider Luton community, thus fostering closer relationships within the multi-ethnic Luton community.