Wimbledon and District Synagogue came into being at a meeting of the local Jewish community, held at the Wimbledon Hill Hotel in February 1949. In its first year the membership stood at a little more than one tenth of what it is today, some 60 families and services were held on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings in temporary accommodation.
The community looked for permanent accommodation and decided to build from scratch on a site that they acquired in Worple Road for £2,500 with a further £7,500 put aside for the building work itself.
The foundation stone (which you can see in the picture here) of the Synagogue was laid on Sunday 8 April 1951 by Ernest Abelson and Leonard Montefiore (of the West London Synagogue) and the Synagogue itself, then at 44 Worple Road, was formally opened and dedicated on 25 May by 1952 by Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck.
The following year the Synagogue appointed its first Minister, Rabbi Charles Berg z.l. Under his inspiring leadership the Community grew from 200 to some 750 members by the time of his retirement in 1974.
Rabbi Berg was succeeded by Rabbi Hillel Avidan, whose more radical leadership in the following eight years reflected the changes taking place elsewhere in the Reform movement. Rabbi Daniel Smith was appointed in 1982 and during his very successful eleven year ministry became, together with his growing young family, both a friend and a much loved spiritual leader. He widened the role of both women and children in the Synagogue services and left behind a harmonious and multi-faceted community. It is as much a tribute to Wimbledon as to Rabbi Smith that he was appointed to lead Edgware Reform Synagogue, the largest in Europe.
In August 1993 Rabbi Smith was succeeded by Rabbi Robert F.Shafritz z.l., who brought new insisghts and purpose to our Community. His sudden and tragic death in July 1996 left a great void amongst us. The ability of the members to pick themselves up from this tragedy and carry on Community life was a fine legacy and tribute to the confidence which his ministry brought to us. May his memory be for a blessing.
In September 1997 the Synagogue moved to its present site, the former Athlone Hall at Southlands College, Wimbledon Parkside. Although technically in the Borough of Wandsworth, we have retained our name of Wimbledon and District and following expansion of the building, this meant that for the first time in a generation, our Religion School and our High Holy Day services can take place under our own roof.
At the time of the move, which was completely funded by our members, Rabbi William Wolff became our religious leader. He brought with him a wealth of experience and with his personality appealed and touched members of the community young and old. When most people would be thinking of enjoying retirement Rabbi Wolff left us in March 2002 for a new challenge, to minister to newly arrived immigrants in north east Germany.
In November 2002, Wimbledon embarked on its most ambitious stage yet by appointing not one but two women ministers, Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild and Rabbi Sybil Sheridan. Both Rabbis have an enormous amount of experience and reputation in modern Reform Judaism. There job sharing has proved a successful template that other Synagogues are beginning to follow. At the start of 2012 we have some 900+ members, Wimbledon and District Synagogue looks forward to a further period of expansion, in the full knowledge that we are the premier Synagogue in South London.