the former

Berkhamsted United Synagogue Membership Group

Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire




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Town of Berkhamsted

Berkhamsted (frequently spelled Berkhampstead until the 1930s), a historic town of about 19,000, had a medieval Jewish community. It is situated on the Grand Union Canal and the river Bulborne to the northeast of London. Since 1974, Berkhamsted has been in Dacorum, a local government district (with borough status since 1984) within the county of Hertfordshire. Prior to 1974 it was within the urban district of Berkhamsted, also in the county of Hertfordshire.

Berkhamsted Jewish Community

The modern Jewish community was founded in Berkhamsted during World War II, with the establishment of an evacuee congregation, but which closed shortly following the war.

Congregation Data


Berkhamsted United Synagogue Membership Group


Services, for the high holy days, were first held in September 1940(ii) and the the Membership Group was officially inaugurated in February 1941, having already commenced regular Sabbath services and Hebrew classes.(iii)


Elvyne Hall, Chesham, Berkhamsted.(iv)

Date Closed:

Closed in, or shortly after, 1947(v)


Ashkenazi Orthodox


The Membership Group, formed in 1941, was linked to the United Synagogue.(vi)

Minister & Secretary:

Rev. M. Katz, later Rabbi, served the congregation from at least 1941, probably until the congregation closed in or after 1947.(ix)

Lay Officers:



H. Samuels & M. Nassenbaum


Warden - Dr. S.R. Goldberg

Financial Representative - D. Roth

Registration District (BMDs):

Hertfordshire, since 1 April 2008.(xii) - Link to Register Office Website

Cemetery Details

There is no Jewish cemetery in Berkhamsted. Although Bushey Cemetery is only about 14 miles away, this was not established until 1947. The most likely cemetery used by members of the congregation was Willesden Cemetery. See Cemeteries of the United Synagogue.


Notable Jewish Connections with Berkhamsted

  • Dame Esther Louise Rantzen CBE, British Jewish journalist and television presenter (who presented That's Life 1973-1994) and campaigner particularly for children and the elderly, was born in Berkhamsted in 1940.


Berkhamsted Jewish Population Data



(The Jewish Year Book 1948)


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) Reserved.

  • (ii) Jewish Chronicle report 20 September 1940.

  • (iii) Jewish Chronicle of 7 February 1941 reported "Jewish activities, including regular Sabbath services and Hebrew classes, have been carried on in Berkhamsted under the direction of the Rev M. Katz. Recently Jewish residents decided to form a United Synagogue Membership Group...on Sunday last a meeting was held at which the group was officially inaugurated".

  • (iv) Although this was the address at which the first services were held in 1940 (Jewish Chronicle of 20 September 1940), the Jewish Chronicle of 16 July 1943 reported the the Membership Group "has recently acquired premises at Elvyne Hall, Chesham Road, to be used as a Synagogue, Hebrew classes, and communal centre". It was also the address listed in the Jewish Year Books 1947 and 1948 (no address being given in the 1945/7 edition) It was reported that the high holy days daytime services were held in 1941 and 1942 at the Town Hall and in 1943 at the Congregational Church Hall (presumably as the regular premises were too small to hold the large number of congregants).

  • (v) The last Jewish Chronicle report on the congregation was in 1947 and the congregation was last listed in the Jewish Year Book 1948.

  • (vi) Jewish Chronicle report of 7 February 1941 - see note (iii) above.

  • (vii) and (viii) Reserved.

  • (ix) Rev. Katz is mentioned in the Jewish Chronicle report of 7 February 1941 (which also refers to him as secretary). As Rabbi Katz, he addressed the Membership Group's Hebrew classes annual prize distribution in 1947 (Jewish Chronicle 10 January 1947) and is listed as minister and secretary in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and as secretary in the 1947 and 1948 editions. There is also reference to Rabbi M. Katz of Berkhamsted as being guest preacher at a number of London synagogues in 1946/7.

  • (x) Jewish Chronicle report of 7 February 1941.

  • (xi) Elected in 1943 (Jewish Chronicle report of 2 July 1943) and listed in Jewish Year Book 1945/6.

  • (xii) Previous Registration Districts:  Berkhampstead (from 1 July 1837);  Berkhamsted (renaming from 1 October 1939); and Decorum (from 1 April 1939 to 1 April 2008). Any registers would now be held by the current register office.

List of United Synagogue Congregations (and Membership Groups)

World War II Evacuee Communities

Berkhamsted Medieval Jewish Community

Dacorum Jewish Community home page

Jewish Congregations in Hertfordshire

Jewish Communities of England homepage

Page created: 2 May 2006
Data significantly expanded and notes first added: 30 July 2021
Latest revision or update: 8 September 2023

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