Hemel Hempstead and District Hebrew Congregation

(and the former Hemel Hempstead United Synagogue Membership Group)

Hemel Hempstead, Dacorum, Hertfordshire




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Town of Hemel Hempstead

Hemel Hempstead, a town to the northeast of London, was designated a “New Town” in 1946 and has a population of about 80,000. Since 1974, Hemel Hempstead has been part of Dacorum, a local government district (with borough status since 1984) within the county of Hertfordshire. Prior to 1974 it was within the municipal borough of Hemel Hempstead, also in the county of Hertfordshire.

Jewish Community

Although an organised Jewish community was formed in Hemel Hempstead by evacuees during World War II, it did not survive long after the end of hostilities. However a congregation was re-established in the mid 1950s.

Congregation Data


Hemel Hempstead and District Hebrew Congregation

also known as:

Hemel Hempstead Hebrew Congregation and

Hemel Hempstead and District Affiliated Synagogue(ii)

Earlier Congregation:

Hemel Hempstead United Synagogue Membership Group(iii)


Lady Sarah Community Centre, Midland Road, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HD1 1RP(iv)

(from 1977 until 1983, the address was listed as Moreton House, Midland Road, which may have been the same premises).(v)

Premises used by Membership Group:

Services, classes and meetings were often held at a Methodist Church hall. (Jewish Chronicle reports give the addresses as: Belswains Lane, Apsley, Two Waters and London Road. These different addresses are believed to refer to the same hall at the church known as Two Waters and Apsley Methodist Church, where high holyday services were held most years). Photographed here. In October 1945, a ceremony was held at the church unveiling a plaque expressing the Jewish communities gratitude to the Methodist Congregation for its hospitality during the war years.(viii)


An evacuee community had been established in 1940.(ix) This closed in the later 1940's.(x)

In 1956, a new organised congregation was formed, which also covered Warners End, Chaulden, Apsley, Boxmoor, Bennetts End and King's Langley.(xi) It was reported that only a few families from the war time remained in the town by that time. Hemel Hempstead had since been established as a new town and developed rapidly under this new status.(xii)

Current Status:



Orthodox - Ashkenazi


In January 1941 the evacuee congregation voted to become a United Synagogue Membership Group(xiii), following a meeting at which Rabbi M, Swift from London spoke.(xiv)

The reestablished congregation became an affiliated synagogue of the United Synagogue in 1957.(xv)


The following is the only minister appointed by the community:

Rabbi Jacob Posen - minister of the Membership Group from 1941 to at least 1944(xix)

Visiting Rabbis and Ministers Involved in the Evacuee Community:

There were a number of rabbis or ministers who visited the community or were otherwise involved with it, including:

Rabbi Dr A Marmorstein initially had voluntary conduct over the services(xxi) and classes and was described as joint chair of the community for some time with Mr. M.E. Waldman.

Rev. M. Katz, later Rabbi, who was based for a time at nearby Berkhamsted, also taught at Hemel Hempstead.(xxii)

Rev. M. Gayer was a warden and on the education committee.(xxiii)

Rev. Henry Olivestone was a liaison officer for the district and in charge of billeting for Jewish evacuees.(xxiv) In 1941 he complained to the local newspaper, The Gazette, about the adverts it had published from some landlords insisting on "no Jews". He was also on the education committee.(xxv)

Lay Officers  (Earlier Community):

The following are the lay officers known to have served the evacuee congregation, based upon Jewish Chronicle reports and Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947.(xxx)


J. Balkin - elected December 1940(xxxi)


Rev. M. Gayer - elected December 1940(xxxii)

M. Gelade - elected June 1942(xxxiii)

Michael E. Waldman, OBE - 1942-1947(xxxiv)

S. Bard - elected July 1943(xxxv)

Treasurers or Financial Representatives

S. Blatt - elected December 1940(xxxviii)

J. Freedman - elected September 1941 and June 1942(xxxix)

H. Steinhart - 1945-1947(xl)

Secretaries or Hon. Secretaries

Miss P. Freedman - 1941-1942(xli)

Rev. Jacob Posen - 1942-1946(xlii)

A. Fraser - 1946-1947(xliii)

Lay Officers  (Later Community)(xlv):

Hon. Officers

D. Braham - initial warden 1956(xlvi)

J. Bennett - initial warden 1956(xlvi)

J. Cohen - initial treasurer (pro tem) 1956(xlvi)

M. Finesilver - warden 1962-1976(xlvii)

C. Gordon - Treasurer 1976-1977(xlviii)

Hon. Secretaries(li)

J. Cohen - 1956(lii)

V. Warner - 1957-1958

A. Buda - 1958-1961

H. J. Beckman - 1965-1976

L. Harris - 1976-1977

C. Gordon - 1977-1984

N. Nathan - from 1984

Membership Data:

Male Seatholders(lvi)







Reports & Surveys(lvii)

1977 - 35 male (or household) members and 33 female members

1983 - 40 male (or household) members and 68 female members

1990 - 105 members (comprising 38 individual male and 67 individual female members)

1996 - 86 members (comprising 77 households and 9 individual female members)

2010 - listed as having 50 to 99 members (by household)

2016 - listed as having under 50 members (by household)


Registration District:

Hertfordshire, from 1 April 2008(lviii) - Link to Register Office website.

Notes & Sources ( returns to text above)

  • (i) Reserved.

  • (ii) Listings in Jewish Year Books were generally under the name Hemel Hempstead Hebrew Congregation and Jewish Chronicle reports referred to Hemel Hempstead and District Hebrew Congregation.

  • (iii) Listed under this name in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947. The congregation was then unlisted until 1958.

  • (iv) This is the address given in Jewish Year Book from 1984 until the last edition (2015).

  • (v) This is the address given in Jewish Year Book from 1977 through 1983. There was no address listed prior to 1977.

  • (vi) and (vii) Reserved.

  • (viii) Jewish Chronicle report of 26 October 1945.

  • (ix) The Jewish Chronicle of 25 October 1940 reported that the High Holyday services in October 1940 were the first ever held in Hemel Hempstead. Despite only a few days' advance notice, over 250 attended.

  • (x) The Membership Group was listed in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947. However, it was not one of the Membership Groups that applied to the United Synagogue for affiliate membership after the war and the group is assumed to have folded in late 1946 (a Simchat Torah celebration was held in October 1946 - Jewish Chronicle 25 October 1946) or in 1947.

  • (xi) Jewish Chronicle report of 6 July 1956.

  • (xii) Jewish Chronicle report of 13 March 1959.

  • (xiii) Listed as such in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947.

  • (xiv) Jewish Chronicle report of 24 January 1941.

  • (xv) The United Synagogue 1870-1970 by Aubrey Newman (1977), pp.218 and 222.

  • (xvi) to (xviii) Reserved.

  • (xix) Jewish Chronicle report of 5 September 1941 and obituary of 27 October 1995. He is listed as minister of the membership group in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947. To view a short profile of the minister - hold the cursor over his name.

  • (xx) Reserved.

  • (xxi) Jewish Chronicle reports of 22 November 1940 and 6 December 1940.

  • (xxii) Jewish Chronicle report.

  • (xxiii) Jewish Chronicle report of 6 December 1940.

  • (xxiv) Jewish Chronicle report of 6 December 1940.

  • (xxv) Jewish Chronicle report of 24 January 1941.

  • (xxvi) to (xxix) Reserved.

  • (xxx) Jewish Year Books were not published in the war year after 1940 until the first post-War edition, 1945/6.

  • (xxxi) Mr. Balkin was elected chairman at a meeting reported by the Jewish Chronicle of 6 December 1940. Neither he nor the title chairman is subsequently mentioned.

  • (xxxii) Rev. Gayor was elected warden at a meeting reported by The Jewish Chronicle of 6 December 1940.

  • (xxxiii) Mr. Gelade was elected warden at a meeting reported by The Jewish Chronicle of 12 June 1942.

  • (xxxiv) Mr. Waldman was elected warden at the meetings reported by The Jewish Chronicle of 12 June 1942 and 2 July 1943 and was listed as warden in the Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947. He was the principal lay leader of the war-time community and also served as General Secretary of the United Jewish Friendly Society and had been Deputy Mayor of Hackney, 1933-1934 and an hon. officer of Hackney Synagogue.

  • (xxxv) Mr. Bard was elected warden at an Annual General Meeting reported by The Jewish Chronicle of 2 July 1943.

  • (xxxvi) and (xxxvii) Reserved.

  • (xxxviii) Mr. Blatt was elected treasurer at a meeting reported by The Jewish Chronicle of 6 December 1940.

  • (xxxix) Mr. Freedman was elected as treasurer and re-elected as financial representative at meetings respectively reported by The Jewish Chronicle on 5 September 1941 and 12 June 1942.

  • (xl) Mr. Steinhart was listed as financial representative in Jewish Year Books 1945/6 and 1947.

  • (xli) Miss Freedman was elected hon. secretary at a meeting reported by The Jewish Chronicle on 5 September 1941.

  • (xlii) Rev. Posen was first elected secretary at a meeting reported by The Jewish Chronicle on 12 June 1942. He is still listed as secretary in the Jewish Year Book 1945/6

  • (xliii) Mr. Fraser is listed as hon. secretary in the Jewish Year Book 1947.

  • (xliv) Reserved.

  • (xlv) This list is based primarily on data from Jewish Year Books, which, from 1956, generally provided details of only one lay officer of each congregation, usually the secretary. Accordingly, the officers listed are only a selection of the actual officers who served the congregation for the period given.

  • (xlvi) Jewish Chronicle report of 6 July 1956.

  • (xlvii) Listed as warden in Jewish Year Books 1963 through 1976.

  • (xlviii) Listed as treasurer in the Jewish Year Book 1977.

  • (xlix) and (l) Reserved.

  • (li) Unless otherwise stated, based upon listings in Jewish Year Books. Where a secretary is first listed, it has been assumed that his term of office commenced in the year of publication of the relevant year book (the year prior to the year appearing in the title of the year book) and that he continued in office until the commencement of office of his successor, unless the office was vacant.

  • (lii) Jewish Chronicle report of 6 July 1956.

  • (liii) to (lv) Reserved.

  • (lvi) The United Synagogue 1870-1970 by Aubrey Newman (1977), pp.218/219.

  • (lvii) Reports on synagogue membership in the United Kingdom, published by or on behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and which can be viewed on the website of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research. Click HERE for links to the various reports.

  • (lviii) The former Registration Districts were Hemel Hempstead from 1 July 1837 to 1 April 1974 and Decorum from 1 April 1974 to 1 April 2008. All registers would now be held by the current register office.

  • (lix) and (lx) Reserved.


On-line Articles and Other Material relating to relating to
the Hemel Hempstead Jewish Community


Notable Jewish Connections with Hemel Hempstead

  • Ronnie Waldman (1914-1978), the son of Michael E. Waldman, OBE, JP, the principal lay leader of the war-time community, was an actor and BBC radio presenter who during World War II presented the popular programme, Monday Night at Eight, and was later to become head of Light Entertainment at BBC TV.


Other Hemel Hempstead Jewish Institutions & Organisations

Educational & Theological

  • Hebrew and Religious Classes
    The services and Hebrew classes were initially under the voluntary supervision of Rabbi Dr. A. Marmorstein.(lxi) These were arranged at local schools during the week and, later, at weekends at the Methodist Hall.

  • Jewish charities, Ose and ORT, sought to provide residential nurseries for children under five years of age to facilitate their evacuation from blitzed areas. In April 1941 they opened their first nursery at a large house at Hemel Hempstead and about 25 children were looked after there.(lxii) By June 1942 the nursery was under the control of Hertfordshire County Council.(lxiii)

Literary and Social Organisations

  • Literary and Social Society (founded 1941)
    Primarily for youth.

  • Hemel and District Jewish Ladies' Guild (founded 1942)(lxiv)

Hostels and Care Homes

  • Shalom House
    This hostel for some thirty children initially come under the responsibility of the Hostels Committee set up by the Board of Deputies. In November 1944 the Board of Guardians took over financial responsibility.(lxv)

  • The Chestnuts
    The Chestnuts children's home, initially a privately run venture, was established at 46 Alexandra Road, Hemel Hempstead to give residential care to Jewish children for two guineas a week. The home seems to have been taken over by the Board of Guardians in around 1950. It remained a residential home in Hemel for Jewish children until at least the late 1950s. See above for reminiscences from former children at the Chestnuts home.

  • Morton House
    Jewish Care Residential Home, at Morton House, Midland Road, Hemel Hempstead HP2 5B (established by 2005)(lxvi)

Jewish Institution evacuated to Hemel Hempstead

  • The Order Achei Ameth (a long established friendly society) opened temporary evacuation offices at the Old Corner Hall, Hemel Hempstead. Michael E Waldman was former president and general secretary to the society.

Notes & Sources ( returns to text above)

  • (lxi) Jewish Chronicle report of 22 November 1940.

  • (lxii) Jewish Chronicle reports of 10 January 1941 and 11 April 1941.

  • (lxiii) Jewish Chronicle report of 12 June 1942.

  • (lxiv) Jewish Chronicle report of 11 December 1942.

  • (lxiv) Jewish Chronicle report of 17 November 1944.

  • (lxivi) Listed in Jewish Year Books from 2005.


Jewish Cemetery Information

There is no Jewish cemetery in Hemel Hempstead. For cemeteries used by the Congregation, see Cemeteries of the United Synagogue, of which Bushey Cemetery is only some 10 miles away.


Hemel Hempstead Jewish Population Data



(The Jewish Year Book 1986)



(The Jewish Year Book 1991)

List of United Synagogue Congregations (and Membership Groups)

World War II Evacuee Communities

Dacorum Jewish Community home page

Jewish Congregations in Hertfordshire

Jewish Communities of England home page

Page created: 14 March 2006
Data significantly expanded and notes first added: 12 June 2022
Page most recently amended: 10 September 2023

Research by David Shulman and Steven Jaffe
Formatting by David Shulman

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