Southend-on-Sea Jewish Community

and Congregationsy

Southend-on-Sea, Essex




Ceylon Road Synagogue 1919-1968

(Westcliff and Leigh Congregation 1919-1928)

by Anne Marcus

(This article originally appeared in 'Community Voice', the newsletter of the Southend and
Westcliff Hebrew Congregation, and is printed with the kind permission of the author.)


Jewish Chronicle Sept 1919

Around 1919 a group of ultra-Orthodox members from the SWHC felt that they would prefer a more observant community and from that the ‘Westcliff and Leigh Congregation’ was formed. There is no longer any documentation from that time giving any real detail about this breakaway group, other than various entries from the Jewish Chronicle. Interestingly this small community has never been mentioned in any official listing of UK Synagogues or Jewish Communities.

So, from entries in the JC we know the following:

The first advertisement was placed in 1919, advertising High Holiday services at the New Synagogue at 38 Ceylon Road. The contact names were Mr Marks and Mr Soffer. From 1920 Jewish artefacts began to be donated – a Sepher Torah from the Ladies Society, a Mantiler from Mrs Silverblatt and a Yod from Miss Horowitz. By 1921 it was decided to convert the house in which they met into a fully functioning Synagogue and a local architect, Norman Evans, was approached.

Services were conducted by Reverend S Wolfe and from 1923 children were encouraged to attend Hebrew classes. By 1926 enough funds had been raised for the building conversion and a foundation stone was laid. A formal Synagogue committee was formed, and Mr Frank Abrahams was elected President. In 1927 Reverend P Wolfers had taken over as Minister and the services of a Chazan and Shochet were sought.

The new building was finished by the end of 1927 and the Ceylon Road Synagogue was officially opened in January 1928 by the Chief Rabbi, with a performance by the choir of the Great Synagogue. Behind the scenes there must have been negotiations taking place between the officials from Alexandra Road and those from Ceylon Road as in March of that year a meeting was held to propose that for ‘peace and harmony’ of the two communities they should merge. So, in June 1928 the two communities amalgamated again under the name SWHC.

Services continued to be held in both Synagogues until the building of a larger Synagogue in Finchley Road, by which time it was considered that Ceylon Road had outlived its usefulness. However new life was breathed into the building when in 1968 the Southend Jewish Youth Club relocated there from Alexandra Road. As the numbers of children reduced the building was considered too large and in 2001 the Youth Club facilities moved to the Talmud Torah on the Finchley Road site. The building was subsequently sold and is presently in use as a private day care facility..

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