4. BROCKENHURST GARDENS
In 1959, a “temporary prefabricated arched roofed” single storey building was purchased for approx £15,000 and erected in the garden of the house in Sylvan Avenue, with its entrance being in Brockenhurst Gardens. Two members of the Board of Management, Mr R Epps and Mr H Walters, were primarily involved in the conception and given responsibility for the oversight of this development.
In June 1959, the Synagogue engaged its first full-time Minister Reverend (later to be Rabbi) Shlomo Cutler, who together with his wife Rebbetzin Judith Cutler, served the Community faithfully and most effectively for the next 33 years.
The new building was used as a multi purpose Synagogue and Community Centre and comprised :
Synagogue / Hall, Classrooms on the ground floor and Offices on a mezzanine floor above the entrance. The two storey original brick building on the site now adjoined the new building. The ground floor garage was converted into a kitchen and the flat on the first floor, was used by the newly engaged full-time Caretaker Mrs Gazely, her husband and family. She was to remain with the Community for over 25 years.
This building was officially consecrated as a Synagogue on 15th May 1960. Dayan Swift carried out the consecration ceremony and at the same ceremony, officially inducted Reverend Cutler as Minister. The membership by this time had grown to 238 family and 38 female members.
This “temporary building” was originally intended to have a “shelf life “ of maximum 25 years, but served the Community magnificently for over 50 years, even having a modernisation effected in 1975, when it was remodelled as the “Samuel Levy Hall” and dedicated in memory of the late father of our member Michael (later Lord) Levy and consecrated as such on 7th December 1975 by Dayan Swift. Following further enhancement, on 25th March 1990 the then Chief Rabbi, Lord Jakobovits reconsecrated the Hall as the “Annie and Samuel Levy Hall”, named after both the beloved parents of our member Michael (later Lord) Levy.
In its “extended lifetime” the building not only housed the Synagogue, which after the building of the new purpose built Synagogue in 1971 then became used for the additional High Holyday services, but also the Cheder and Kindergarten.
Other Communal and Social activities held there, included the vibrant and ever expanding Youth Club and what for many years became the largest and best attended Jewish Bridge Club in London. A long established and renowned Friendship Club and later a JACS club, became major Community attractions.
Social activities over the years, included New Year’s Eve dinner dances; barn dances; quizzes; the amazing “Mannickins” audience participation, Old Tyme musical extravaganzas and dinners; racing nights; poker evenings; jumble sales; film shows; concerts; talks and AGM’s. And of course, wedding, bar/bat mitzvot celebrations, as well as Chanukah and Purim parties and the renowned Ladies Guild prepared, weekly Shabbat kiddushim, to name but a FEW !
But the one unforgettable event, which has and will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of all who had the privilege to attend, was the meeting held shortly after the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. The Community came together as one, as the future of the State of Israel lay in the balance. It opened its hearts and its purses to an unparalleled extent, in support of our then endangered brothers and sisters.
Our Community had and continues to have very close ties with the State of Israel, Many members or members of their family have made aliyah; others have holiday homes there and many others pay regular visits, as well as holidaying there The Synagogue has always had a vibrant Israel Committee and has organised many fact-finding Missions. Several Ambulances have been donated by individual members and by the Community itself. Our Community can be particularly proud that it was one of the earliest and foremost in the UK, in its support of the Israeli War Disabled organisation, having visiting disabled soldiers as guests in their homes and accompanying them during their holiday recuperation visits to the UK. Our Community hold annual Yom HaShoah and Yom Hazikaron commemoration services and Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration parties.