About Ilford Federation Synagogue

There were Jews in the East End. Then there were Jews in Forest Gate and then there were Jews in Ilford. Thus, in 1927, Ilford and Valentines Park Synagogue was founded and around 1950 became Ilford Federation Synagogue, known as the common usage, by its address - Coventry Road Shul. 

In 1960, the original house was knocked down and together with the adjoining property at 14 Coventry Road, was redeveloped into what was originally only a dream. There was a large shul with a Ladies Gallery, a hall, classrooms, a proper office for the Secretary - in later years, a Beth Hamidrash was added, in which weekday services took place, rather than in the main shul. The focal point of that room was the Aron Hakodesh originally built for the old shul in the house by one of its members, Mr Sodikoff, grandfather of one of today’s members, Andrew Garfield. The last Shabbos in the old shul, that was also a barmitzvah, was in October 1960.  

Those of us with quite long memories will remember the first full-time Minister of the shul, namely Rev Isaac Nodel, who was the religious leader from 1957 until his retirement in 1984, when the first full-time Rabbi was appointed - Rabbi Yehuda Marmorstein.  He introduced regular adult education programmes to add to the cheder (Hebrew Classes) started by Bernard Green in 1950. There were over 150 children and in time, the total membership grew to almost 1000 families.  Rabbi Marmorstein moved to Manchester to head a girls’ seminary. Rabbi Reuben Livingstone was the new leader of the community during the peak years. At that time, there were two adult services over Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur, as well as children’s services. Space in shul was at a premium.  Much angst was involved in sorting out the seats, and at Yiskor on Yom Kippur, it was standing room only. There were active Ladies Guild and Parents Association. The former still continues.

As we entered the 1990s numbers began to dwindle. Jews were again on the move and Ilford was being replaced by other areas to live by young couples; also, as children went to local Jewish schools, there was a lesser need for a cheder, which eventually closed. 

Rabbi Livingstone moved to Hampstead Garden Suburb, but retained a close relationship with “the old country” and returned to Clarence Avenue as recently as a few months ago for Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. For three years, Rabbi Harvey Belovski was the communal Rabbi, and then he followed his predecessors in moving from Ilford Federation Synagogue to very prestigious appointments when he moved on to Golders Green.  The Honorary Officers over many years had obviously made excellent choices with Rabbonim, and they continued this with the appointment of Rabbi Alex Chapper. He was in the post for fourteen years until just a year ago, when he moved to Borehamwood. The community has recently appointed Rabbi Singer, who will took up his post in May 2018.as we enter a new era.

The roll of members was by now reducing, the big shul no longer full over the High Holiday season, and the area in which the shul was situated was increasingly inappropriate, not only for those walking a distance, but there were episodes of discomfort over Shabbos and Yom Tov due to antisocial activity from those around and about. A decision was made to relocate. At one time, amalgamation with the other community in Beehive Lane, was considered. That concept proved impossible to implement, and so the Honorary Officers looked far and wide to secure the perfect spot. Our new, current home became available, which far more suitable for our members. Following much rebuilding and development, Ilford Federation Synagogue was reborn in its present position. Coventry Road, with its memories was closed and closed. 

A new site, a new Rabbi, with a vibrant new community is now on the threshold of its next phase. Most communities last for 70 or so years. Ilford Federation Synagogue is already 92, so watch this space…