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Liberal Judaism

Liberal Judaism, a grouping of liberal and progressive congregations, is the most radical of the various synagogue movements in the United Kingdom. Membership of Liberal congregations in 2016 (including the unaffiliated Belsize Square Synagogue) constituted some 8.2% of synagogue membership in the United Kingdom.(1) 

In April 2023, Liberal Judaism together with the larger Movement for Reform Judaism announced their intentions to merge into one Progressive Jewish movement.

Basic Data


Liberal Judaism

Former Names:

Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (ULPS) (1944 to 2002)

Jewish Religious Union for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism (until 1958), which evolved from.....

Jewish Religious Union (1902 to 1911)

Head Office:

The Montagu Centre, 21 Maple Street, London W1T 4BE

Date Formed:



Liberal and Progressive Judaism


Member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism



Burial Society:

Jewish Joint Burial Board of 1 Victory Road, Wanstead E11 1UL (serving several Reform, Masorti, Liberal and Independent Communities in England), established 1968.

Legal and Charitable Status:

On 5 November 2012, 'Liberal Judaism (ULPS)" was incorporated as a registered company (company no: 08281223), a private company limited by guarantee without a share capital (and with an exemption from use of the word 'Limited').

It is also a registered charity (No: 1151090), registered on 5 March 2013


The founding father of British Liberal Judaism was Claude Montifiore, who at a meeting held on 19 February 1902 was instrumental in founding the Jewish Religious Union (JRU), a society that grew as a result of an article, entitled "Spiritual Possibilities in Judaism To-day", by Lily Montagu which appeared in the Jewish Quarterly Review in January 1899.

The society, which was not a synagogue, held its first prayer service on 18 October 1902 in the Wharncliffe Rooms at the Great Central Hotel, Marylebone Road, London in 1902. Services were held on Saturday afternoons so as not to conflict with regular Shabbat morning services in synagogues. At the time, these services were not seen as the prelude to the setting up of a separate denomination within Anglo-Jewry.

Following the first service, the JRU accepted an invitation from London's then only Reform synagogue, the West London Synagogue, to discuss the possibility of services being held there, but the stipulation made by the synagogue, such as the right to veto the content of the services and the refusal to allow men and women to sit together were unacceptable to the JRU.

By 1909, the JRU decided that the time had come to set up its own synagogue and this was achieved in 1911 with the opening of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. By 1928, two other Liberal congregations had been founded in London and one in Liverpool. In 1944, the JRU (which had added the words "for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism" to its name in 1911) was reorganised as the "Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues", changing its name to "Liberal Judaism" in 2002.


In 1949 there were 11 member congregation. Today, Liberal Judaism now has 36 communities (formerly referred to as constituent synagogues, as well as two developing/affiliated congregations, throughout Britain and Ireland.(3) Also affiliated is a community in Denmark and a developing/affiliated congregation the Netherlands. At one time, the organisation included the Bene Israel Rodef Shalom congregation of Bombay (now Mumbai), India (which is now affiliated directly with the WUPJ).

Greater London and Vicinity:


Unaffiliated Congregations, with Liberal / Progressive or Egalitarian Tradition:


Provincial and Outer London:

* An active congregation or group currently affiliated to Liberal Judaism

Φ congregation previously affiliated to Reform Judaism

An active congregation or group, formerly affiliated to Liberal Judaism, now unaffiliated but following Liberal tradition.

An active congregation, formerly affiliated to Liberal Judaism, but now affiliated to Reform Judaism.

A congregation formerly affiliated to both Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism, but that has now merged into an active congregation solely affiliated to Reform Judaism.

# A congregation that merged with another congregation.

# An active congregation, unaffiliated to any organisation, following a liberal or egalitarian tradition.

(P) A former independent congregation believed to have followed a Progressive / Liberal tradition.



Bibliography, On-line Articles and Other Material
relating to the Liberal Judaism Movement


  • Annual Reports filed with Companies House and the Charities Commission (pdf):(4)

  • Selected Bibliography:

    • The Synagogues of London by Paul Lindsay, 1993 (Valentine Mitchell, London)

    • Israel Isidor Mattuck: Architect of Liberal Judaism by Pam Fox, 2016 (Vallentine Mitchell)


Cemeteries of Liberal Judaism in the Greater London Area

  • Willesden (Liberal) Cemetery, Pound Lane, Willesden, London NW10
    This is the primary cemetery of the The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St. John's Wood.
    The War Memorial at the cemetery is a Grade II Listed Building (number 1461873). designated on 7 February 2019. (View description on Historic England website.)
    (See also IAJGS Cemetery Project - Willesden Liberal)

  • Edgwarebury Cemetery (active), Edgwarebury Lane, Edgware HA8 8QP
    This cemetery, opened in 1973, comprises four sections belonging, respectively, to Liberal Judaism (used by members of most of its London synagogues other than The Liberal Synagogue (St John's Wood), the West London Synagogue, Belsize Square Synagogue and the S&P Sephardi Community (formerly the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation). (See also IAJGS Cemetery Project - Edgwarebury.)

  • Burials through the Jewish Joint Burial Society (JJBS), which serves three member synagogues of the Liberal Judaism (including one London Synagogue, Beit Klal Yisrael, North Kensington) in addition to a large number of Reform and Masorti synagogues and some Independent congregations. JJBS principal cemetery is:

    • Bulls Cross Ride Cemeteries (active), Cheshunt, Herts. EN7 5HT
      The cemetery comprising the original Western Cemetery as well as the newer Woodland Cemetery. JJBS acquired its section of the Western Cemetery from the Western (now Western Marble Arch) Synagogue (which still retains its own section). (See also IAJGS Cemetery Project - Cheshunt)

In addition, many municipal cemeteries throughout Britain have sections
reserved for non-Orthdox Jewish burials.


References and Notes   (returns to main text)

  1. "Jewish News", Issue No. 1010, 6 July 2017, pp. 1, 4, quoting report by Board of Deputies Policy Reseach, carried out between April and September 2016.

  2. Primary source: A place to Call My Jewish Home - Memories of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue 1911-2011 by Pam Fox, pp 1-5.

  3. Listed on Liberal Judaism website, last accessed 23 July 2019.

  4. From the websites of Companies House and the Charities Commission.

Synagogal Organisation in the United Kingdom

London Jewish Community home page

Page created: 27 June 2017
Page most recently amended: 20 December 2023

Research and formatting by David Shulman

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