|AdminHistory||The Spitalfields Great Synagogue in Brick Lane has its roots in the 19th century. The building in which it was housed had a chequered denominational history, before its incarnation as a focal point of Jewish activity in the East End.|
Much of its history corresponds with the fortunes of the Machzikei Hadath, for whom the Synagogue became a base in 1893. The organisation was originally established in 1891 by newly arrived Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They had been domiciled in the Ashkenazi tradition, and were strictly orthodox in matters of worship and observance. Its previous home was a smaller synagogue in Booth Street, Spitalfields, where the congregation consisted of members of Machzikei Shomrei Shabbat Synagogue in Booth Street and the North London based Beth Hamedrash.
The church building which accommodated the Spitalfields Great Synagogue was originally built in 1743 by French Huguenots who were refugees from religious persecution, and prominent in the weaving industry. Shortly after building work began, the work had progressed sufficiently for the vaults underneath to be leased to Benjamin Truman the brewer. The decline of the weaving industry ran parallel with industrialization elsewhere in Britain, at which point these Huguenots moved west and the church fell into disuse. The building was bought by the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among Jews. This mission chapel ran for 10 years. From 1819, the building functioned as a Methodist chapel. In 1843, the trustees of the French church leased the building to a group of Methodists, at which point it became the Spitalfields Chapel.
Most significantly, in 1898, the trustees leased the building to the London Hebrew Talmud Classes. The new lessees were said to have installed a new roof, facilitating 12 additional classrooms above the Synagogue which were then sublet to the Machzikei Hadath. The Spitalfields Great Synagogue resolutely followed the pattern of synagogues found in Eastern Europe. The practices of the Anglo-Jewish establishment did not accord with its standards of orthodoxy. During an emergency meeting of Machzikei Hadath, convened to discuss securing the services of a new rabbi for the ultra Orthodox congregation one member wanted the "weatherwise coadjutors in the Anglo-Jewish canning-tower"* to know that people were increasingly sympathetic to its strict orthodoxy, which could only be to the good of Judaism.
In the early 20th century, Machzikei Hadath was an important rallying point for local Jewry. As people became more mobile and moved away from the area attendance declined, and the synagogue closed in 1952. In 1956, a branch of the synagogue had opened in Golders Green Road. It continued to function as the Machzikei Hadath Synagogue until the 1980s, when a new Synagogue opened in Golders Green.
In the 1970s, the original Grade 2 Listed building was sold to a group of Bangladeshi Muslims and converted for use as a mosque. Today it is the London Jamme Masjid.
Sources of Information:
*East London Observer, Saturday 26th July, 1913.
Spitalfields Great Synagogue (1953): London Metropolitan Archives
patrick comerford.com : "Brick Lane Synagogue....a once vibrant East End community " (23rd January, 2020)