By Simon Rocker
May 23, 2011
On the way to shul last Shabbat, I mused upon a mystery: how is it that some synagogues come familiarly to be known by the roads in which they are located, while others do not.
London’s North-Western Reform Synagogue is invariably known as Alyth Gardens. Think too of Lauderdale Road (the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Maida Vale), or Raleigh Close (Hendon United) or Kinloss (Finchley United, situated in Kinloss Gardens).
But then Mill Hill Synagogue or St John’s Wood Synagogue are always referred to as Mill Hill or St John’s Wood, not by their streets.
Some steibls are popularly known after their presiding rabbi, such as Hager’s or Reb Chunna’s in Golders Green. A few communities bear Hebrew names, most famously the Machzikei Hadass. More recently, some Progressive synagogues have begun to opt for Hebrew names and one new United Synagogue, Alei Tzion in Hendon, has chosen to do so, too.
But synagogue names are rarely imaginative or evocative. I always fancied that Kinloss should be known, after the well-known statue nearby, as Our Congregation of the Naked Lady.