Whetstone shul finds home

All are welcome to join the High Holy day services.


When accountant James Ward stumbled across the New Whetstone Synagogue three years ago, the Masorti-affiliated congregation was struggling to fill a minyan and meeting in a “dusty run down old church hall”.

But he felt an immediate connection, given that its lay leader Ellis Slater had taught him his barmitzvah.

The Wards became regular congregants and their son Ariel was barmitzvah there last year, having been coached along the way by Mr Slater.

Now serving as the shul’s voluntary administrator, Mr Ward, 44, has helped secure the community a permanent home at the nearby Alma Primary School.

As such, the community is now throwing its doors open to new faces this Rosh Hashanah – and indeed the rest of the high holy days and every Shabbat.

“The building is brand new,” he explained. “It’s light, bright and airy and we have got use of the playground and space for children’s services, too.”

Mr Slater, 74, said: “We have a formal setting but it’s very informal. Our shul refreshes the parts that other shuls cannot reach.”

The welcome message on seats reads: “Whether you’re tzitzit in or tzitzit out; you daven quietly, or shokel and shout. Shietels, snoods, no hats, or hoods, US, Reform, Liberal, Masorti, at NWS there’s a welcome for all, both you and me.”

There is little to differentiate the service from that of a United synagogue. But the leaders say the atmosphere is more relaxed. Men and women sit on different sides of the shul but there is no physical barrier between them. Nor is there a dress code.

“Women don’t have to wear hats and can wear trousers if they like,” Mr Ward said.

“And men can wear kilts, as I have done before,” added Mr Slater, in a nod to his Glasgow origins.

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