the former

Aldershot Synagogue

& Jewish Community

Aldershot, Hampshire




Selected Press Reports relating to the Aldershot Synagogue
and Jewish Chaplaincy in Aldershot

Jewish Chronicle, 11 April 1902

A temporary synagogue is maintained at Aldershot in conjunction with the Jewish residents there. Attached to the building is a Chaplain's Room in which a "friendly gathering" is held every Saturday evening for Jewish soldiers, when papers, books, games and refreshments are provided. The men are also permitted to use the room on Friday and other evenings, and on Friday and Saturday evenings the soldiers have the advantage of seeing one of the Jewish Ministers. The Visitation Committee pay the congregation an annual subvention of £15, besides defraying the travelling expenses of the Ministers.

Jewish Chronicle, 29 March 1912

In a report of the consecration service of Aldershot Synagogue, it was stated that the reading desk was placed in front of the Ark [which is unusual for an Orthodox synagogue].

Jewish Chronicle, 7 May 1915

Pte. Samuel Marks, R.A.M.C., who took part in the fighting at Mons and was invalided home, sends as the following for publication:-
A rather vainglorious title, is it not? But that is the only name I can give to it. It has no mighty pillars of white marble on the outside, and the doors are not of teak hinged with gold. To look at it you would not know what it is. You would say of it that it was one of the many huts scattered round about.
Cast a glance over the door, just one glance, and what do you see? Only two intertwined triangles, the emblem of wisdom and great mysteries; the sign of a small yet mighty people. It is the sign of a curious people, the sign of the Jews. It is the Magen David. Stay a while and look around you. What amazement overspreads your features. Khaki clad warriors, England's best, are constantly passing. Yes, they are English soldiers, and the Khaki is their sign manual. How comes it, then, that a sign of that mysterious Jewish people should be situate in a camp, a great camp, of armed Christians?
Whenever you go to Aldershot, ask for Hospital Hill. Ascend it slowly, looking to your right. Presently, you will come upon the place. It is only a hut, and it stands some way back from the road. It is a modest and unpretentious structure but one storey high. Approach it. The outer walls are painted red. The doorway is a closed-in portico. Don't enter yet, but look on either side of the doorway. Two large tablets meet your gaze, inscribed with many names. Strange, they are Jewish in appearance. Yes, they are the names of those Jews who fell in the South African War, for Jews, also, are warriors. And there is another notice, running like this: "Services: Sabbaths, 2.30 p.m." This is Aldershot Synagogue. It is the only tie in Aldershot which reminds the Jewish soldier what his sympathies are. All other things in Aldershot are Christian, but this wooden hut is A JEWISH TABERNACLE.
Few people know there is a synagogue in Aldershot Camp. It is worthwhile going to see a service there. The congregation is composed of Jewish soldiers. An artilleryman, a few riflemen, a Red Cross man man, and representatives of all branches of the service gather together. In peace time it is a blaze of colour, with the various uniforms. It is then a joyous gathering. But now, only dun khaki is the prevailing tone, a more impressive note is added.
I first visited the synagogue in 1912 as a recruit. It was Yom Kippur, and besides a good number of civilians, two or three of whom had tramped about a dozen miles, I was the only soldier. I was called on the "Bima" in a "Tallis" and made a "Brocha" over the Scrolls of the Law. I felt shy and self-conscious, and made a clatter in my military ammunition boots. For six months, all the time I was in Aldershot, I attended almost every week, being paraded at the guard room by the Sergeant-Major to see that I was a credit to the regiment. During the time, Jewish soldiers either came to Aldershot or woke up, and we generally had a decent party for prayers.
Then I was moved to duty in London, and never thought of going back to Aldershot nor the little synagogue on the Hill. But the war broke out. On the fifth day of the war I was out in France doing my "little bit." Out there I met three Jews. The first was a French-Jewish soldier. He could not speak a word of Yiddish and we had to converse in French. The next was a Turco-Jew from the North of Africa. He could speak most European languages except Yiddish and English, and our conversation had to be in French, too. The next Jew I met in our hospital in Belgium, That was not a happy meeting, for he was sorely wounded and dying. He was too weak to speak. I officiated at his funeral reading from the Prayer Book issued to Jewish soldiers on active service.
I was injured and sent back to England, and eventually found my way back to Aldershot. The first Saturday something moved me to go down by the synagogue in the afternoon. During my first sojourn in Aldershot the services were held in the morning. This time I went down in the afternoon. Why, I cannot say. It is that 'There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy,' to paraphrase Shakespeare. I noticed the change to 2.30 p.m. on the notice board. I went in. There was Mr. Plaskow, the minister of former times, not at all changed. And there was a larger number than of old of Jewish soldiers, all browned and hardened by exposure to the wind and sun and the result of exercise. They looked worthy of Judas Maccabeus or Gideon. And there was a man in officer's uniform. He was a short, broad man, and he had a beard. He was a typical rabbi, Jewish in type, a typical Jew. If you looked at his cap and collar badges you would have been surprised, too. There is no regiment in the British Army which bears anything like it. The badges were the twined triangles, and the man was the Rev. M. Adler the Jewish Chaplain to British forces. He gave us a short, straightforward talk, the text of which exhorted us to be of good courage and not to be afraid.
Next time you have a spare weekend, spend it in Aldershot. There are a few Jews in the town who will put you up. Then you will be able to see the little synagogue on Hospital Hill, and join in the tie which brings together Jews of all the regiments stationed in Aldershot.

Jewish Chronicle, 3 May 1918

The opening of the Jewish Soldiers' Club in Aldershot, through the arrangements made by the Rev. V. G. Simmons, C.F., took place on Wednesday week in the Recreation Hut of the Aldershot Discharge Centre, the premises having been lent for the use of the club on two nights in the week. There was a large gathering of soldiers from many parts of the Command, and most of the members of the Aldershot Congregation were present. The initial success of the club is due to the regular opportunities thus given to Jewish soldiers in the Command to meet one another, and to share in that Jewish atmosphere without which no club can be truly appreciated by Jews. The Senior Jewish Chaplain of the Home Forces, the Rev. S. Lipson, delivered an eloquent and appealing address in the course of the evening. Tea was provided by the kindness of the ladies of the Congregation.

Jewish Chronicle, 10 September 1920

The Jewish Chaplaincy at Aldershot is being discontinued, and the Rev. Arthur Barnett, the retiring chaplain, in handing over his office to the Y.M.C.A., has sent the following cordial greeting: "In handing over to you, I desire to express for myself, and on behalf of the Jewish community, our sincerest thanks and appreciation of all that the Y.M.C.A. has done for our soldiers during recent years.

Jewish Chronicle, 23 September 1927

Services will be held on New Year and Yom Kippur. Any residents in the district wishing to attend the Services, should communicate with the Hon. Secretary, Mrs. B. Phillips, The Mount, Aldershot.

Jewish Chronicle, 11 November 1932

Sabbath Services are held at the Synagogue, Badajos Barracks, from 10 to 11 o'clock. There is also a class for children, Further information can be obtained from Mrs B. Phillips, The Mount, Aldershot.

Jewish Chronicle, 9 February 1940

A correspondent, Mr. Turk, writes this week in connection with some editorial observations on the Jewish Chaplaincy question which appeared last week.
Referring to the remark that the Rev. V. G. Simmons had been appointed resident Jewish Chaplain at Aldershot during the last war and that no such appointment has so far been made on the present occasion, he contends that Mr. Simmons did not take up the post until about three years after the last war started. But he should remember that, unlike this time, conscription was not introduced until two years after the last war started and that before then most of the volunteers in Kitchener's Army and the Territorials were drafted to other centres. It may be true, also, that, as our correspondent mentions, Dayan Gollop conducted services every Sunday for Jewish troops in September and October and that either he or his deputy visited them every week. But neither of the two commissioned Jewish Chaplains has been able to continue this function, and although the Rev. I. Levy, is doing excellent work as an uncommissioned and un-uniformed Chaplain our correspondent agrees that a commissioned Chaplain would be of great advantage in so important a military command as that of Aldershot. No doubt the appointment of a commissioned Chaplain depends on the number of Jewish soldiers to whom he is to minister, but at the rate at which men are now being called up it ought not to be long before this position is filled, even despite the numbers of Jews who attest as of another religion. Meanwhile, recognition is due to the small Jewish Community at Aldershot for the admirable efforts it is making in the interests of the Jewish troops already in its neighbourhood.

Jewish Chronicle, 9 February 1940

The Work That Has Been Done
From Mr. MAX TURK (President, Aldershot Hebrew Congregation)
SIR, I have read your leaderettes in last week's issue of the Jewish Chronicle headed "Neglected Jewish Soldiers' and " Delay in Chaplaincy Matters." I was not in Aldershot during the last war but from inquiries I have made I am informed that no resident Jewish Chaplain was actually appointed for the Aldershot Command until the Rev. V. G. Simmons was appointed about 1917. Until his appointment, it appears that at least three Ministers served as Officiating Chaplains, none of whom was a Commissioned Chaplain to H.M. Forces. It was only when the numbers grew to such considerable proportions that the War Office appointed a Jewish Chaplain to reside in the Command, and the Rev. V. G. Simmons was appointed. With regard to the present war, the Senior Chaplain to the Forces came to Aldershot early in September and from that date until the appointment of the Rev. I. Levy of the Bayswater Synagogue as Officiating Chaplain, at the end of October last, he personally conducted religious services every Sunday in the Command and also he or his deputy personally visited the Jewish soldiers each week. From the date of his appointment the Rev. I. Levy has put his heart and soul into his work as Officiating Chaplain. He holds three services per week in different centres within the Command. In addition to these religious services which are extremely well attended, regular visits are paid to the men in their barracks and in this way he keeps in intimate contact with the men serving in this widespread area. I am reliably informed that every camp and centre within the Command is visited regularly at least once each month. Realising the difficulties presented by lack of transport, and the nature of the lay-out of this Command, it would be unfair to expect that more .....

Jewish Chronicle, 25 October 1940

The services at the Aldershot Synagogue on Yom-Kippur had an international character because of the presence of troops from several parts of the world. Among the 250 officers and men who attended were representatives of Canada, Palestine, and France. Following the services, which were conducted by the Rev. H. I. Alexander, assisted by Mr. Lester and Mr. Turk, a reception was held at the Institute Hall. Among those who organised and provided the reception were Mr. Phillips, the Sheeter and Lester families, and Mr. B. Garcia. They were thanked in speeches by Trooper Myer Myers, Sergeant Aarons, of Canada, and a French sergeant..,

Jewish Chronicle, 15 October 1943

The Synagogue, which has served Jewish troops for very many years. But probably never before (writes a correspondent) have Jewish troops, both British and Allied, been so well provided with hospitality or been so numerous in their attendance at the services as they have been during these Holy-days. The special hospitality provided was run on strictly kosher lines, with the use of brand-new dishes and cutlery. The services, which were held at the Garrison Cinema, by kind permission of the G.O.C. Aldershot Command, were conducted by the Rev. Arthur Barnett C.F. On Yom Kippur, he was assisted by Mr. Sam. Ansel, who attended as the representative of the Jewish Hospitality Committee in London. On Rosh Hoshana, the congregation, numbering about 400 soldiers, paraded under the command of Canadian officers and marched to the Smith-Dorien (Methodist) Institute, where a Yom-tov dinner was served. For Yom Kippur, thanks to a Canadian unit, whose sergeants' mess was readily placed at the disposal of the Committee, a breakfast was prepared and served for the entire congregation. Mrs. Phillips, who has helped Jewish forces in Aldershot for the last forty years, was the chief organiser, and Mr. Arnold Levy, of Hindhead, persuaded the canteen staff of his own firm to help by undertaking the catering arrangements.

Jewish Chronicle, 31 December 1943

United Nations at Aldershot
About 350 Jewish members of the United Nations Forces in the Aldershot Command attended a Chanucah service and entertainment at the R.A.S.C. Theatre, Aldershot, on Sunday, the function was arranged by the Jewish Hospitality Committee to the Forces. Mr. Arnold Levy, of Hindhead. Surrey, again acted as the host. Twice previously he has done so, but in addition, on this occasion, assisted by Mrs. B. Phillips, a resident of Aldershot, and a band of other workers, he was also chief organiser. The service was taken by the Rev. Arthur Barnett C.F. He also gave an address...

Jewish Chronicle, 9 July 1954

Extract from article by Rev. Isaac Levy:
"Great-assistance has been given to the work of our department by the creation of camp and garrison synagogues. The oldest in the country is at Aldershot...The large garrison of Catterick also has a synagogue, which is frequently used. The most successful religious centres are at the RA.F. stations of Stafford, Yatesbury, and Hednesford. The last-named is unique. It was recently opened as a synagogue and clubroom and, since this station is the main centre in which all Jewish R.A.F. National Servicemen receive their basic training, it is used with great regularity and advantage".

Aldershot Synagogue & Community homepage

Page created: 17 August 2021
Page most recently amended: 2 December 2021

Research by Steven Jaffe
Formatting by David Shulman


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