The Community started more than seventeen years ago, meeting on a Friday night in the home of the late Tony Brooks and his wife Bonnie Brooks. We moved on to fortnightly servives at the home of Cheryl and Steve Pack before progressing onto monthly Shabbat morning services. Friday afternoons would see all Cheryl and Steve's furniture being moved around and their lounge would be transformed into a ‘shul’. The best seats were on the sofas, plants surrounded us together with family photos and not many shuls boast a grand piano! The environment was so welcoming and intimate and together with the added incentive of a great Kiddush, many came through the door from day one. The great Kiddush still remains as a signature dish of our Hadley Wood community. Over time, Shabbat services became fortnightly and then increased into regular weekly occasions. Amazingly, the Packs hosted our shul for 7 years!
Over the years the numbers grew, so that in 1998 we decided to hold our first High Holy Day Services. At the time, the Cockfosters and N Southgate supported this initiative – both by the welcomed presence on 2nd day Rosh Hashana of Rabbi & Mrs Fine as well as the additional financial help required to host these services. We have held our roving shul in Hadley Wood Junior School as well as had marquees sited in congregants’ gardens. We now have over 300 people coming to the Yomim Noraim services and our marquee arrangement has been perfected. Enormous thanks goes to Ronnie and Martin Vincent who arrange this and lend their home each year so that we can celebrate the New Year in our community.
As we grew, members wanted to share their simchas in our welcoming and friendly environment. Our first Barmitzvah was held in 1998 in the school hall and many more Bar and Bat mitzvahs have followed with Rabbi Fine joining us for many of these wonderful occasions. Over the years we have celebrated special birthdays, auf-rufs, weddings and even a Brit in our community – not forgetting the wonderful day with the Chief Rabbi when we danced and paraded through the local streets for the dedication of the Brooks’ Sefer Torah. Yet probably one of the biggest strengths of this small community is the support and comfort members experience at difficult times.
The idea of a permanent home and property in Hadley Wood was mooted and discussed for a number of years and eventually in 2002, after a few aborted attempts, we were able to buy a residential house in Lancaster Avenue. The Hadley Wood Jewish Community (HWJC) Charitable Trust was established and the hard work began to raise the funds. A dedicated team approached local residents and through a number of interest free loans from congregants, some outright gifts, deeds of covenants and a mortgage, we managed to purchase and cover the initial running costs of the house. An executive committee and chairman were elected and the HWJC was established by the United Synagogue as a satellite of Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue. The main shul helped support us through financial and administrative means. Although there are far too many people to thank who enabled the establishment of our shul, the community are indebted to the invaluable work that Steven Kenton (z”l) provided particularly on the legal front.
Rabbi Hillel and Yael Simmons together with their six children moved in and Rabbi Simons regularly leined for us and helped support the community through our Shabbat and yom-tov services. During this time we introduced a family membership fee to help with the running costs of the house.
In 2007 we appointed a part-time rabbi – Rabbi Zvi Wanderer. He joined our community together with Eve and their children and was a deputy to Rabbi Fine in the main shul. With Rabbi Wanderer’s help our community continued to grow enabling us to have services for all the festivals. Rabbi Wanderer made a lasting impression on our community and today we rarely struggle to get a minyan.
The HWJC had become so successful that we were quickly outgrowing our premises. In 2009 the shul was refurbished in loving memory of the late Marsha Rogers (z”l). Today our shul is as inviting as ever and this enlargement to the room has enhanced the welcoming atmosphere that all who experience it value and all who visit us comment upon.
In saying farewell to the Wanderer family, we were joined by Rabbi Yoni & Elisheva Birnbaum together with their four children. Rabbi Yoni strengthened our activities including regular Friday night services, monthly shiurim (Torah lectures), a ladies programme, and a cheder (now known as SMILE). The Birnbaums are continually developing and encouraging the community both religiously and socially and appear to have taken Hadley Wood by storm.
Two of our members have been honoured with the title of Chavarim. Eli Carmelli, for regularly leining for us in the early days and Steve Pack for his tireless work, commitment and leadership of our fledgling community. The Chatan Torah & Chatan Bereshit honours have become a highlight of the HWJC calendar, given to those gentlemen who have made outstanding contributions to the development of this community. A Ladies of the Year award has been introduced. The ladies are a key part of this community and also work tirelessly in its growth and success.
Today HWJC has over 120 families as members and is a thriving, friendly and welcoming community. Our regular social events are always well attended and fun. We are always delighted to see and meet new faces.
On 10 December 2012, Hadley Wood Jewish Community became an independent member of the United Synagogue.
And the story continues....