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70 Anniversary

We celebrate our 70th anniversary!

Members of St Albans United Synagogue past and present marked the 70th anniversary of its opening as the first purpose-built shul in Hertfordshire with a celebration tea and some memories of seven decades of its history.   Joining the mid-November festivities as guests of honour were the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, and the Mayor of St Albans & District, Cllr Edgar Hill.   The event was particularly significant as it was the first in-person social event organised by the community since the beginning of the pandemic.

Other honoured guests included a number of children and grandchildren of the founder members.    Many of them had contributed to the afternoon’s highlight:  a video review of the seven decades of the shul’s history.   Their reminiscences of the early days of the St Albans community, from wardens in top hats to makeshift minyanim and community excursions to Jaywick Sands, near Clacton, were a feature of the presentation.   Among them were 91-year-old Victor Harris, son of Jack Harris, the shul warden who performed the 1951 opening ceremony with a golden key;  Anthony and James Larholt, now both in their 70s and sons of Louis Larholt, who had laid the foundation stone in 1950;  and 85-year-old Hazel Kyte, who recalled her participation in the children’s choir which sang at the shul’s consecration.

Acknowledging the warm welcome he had received, and remarking on the evident closeness shul members shared with each other and with their rabbinic couple, Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Alli Sturgess, the Chief Rabbi told his audience:  “You are not just a community, you are a mishpocha – a family.   There’s a very special warmth here.     It’s palpable, I can feel it.  it’s a marvellous thing – that sense of camaraderie, and I envy you for that – we simply don’t have communities like this in London.     I don’t know if you appreciate how lucky you are to be part of this community – it is something really, really special.”

Other speakers at the event included co-chairs Elissa Da Costa-Waldman and Daniel Agasee as well as Rabbi Daniel.   Bringing greetings from the City of St Albans, the Mayor, Cllr Hill, expressed his admiration for the role the local Jewish community played in the city’s life, while St Albans MP, Daisy Cooper, unable to be present, wished the community ‘mazeltov’ via a video message.   Their words were echoed by synagogue co-chair, Elissa Da Costa-Waldman, who observed that “what we provide by way of learning, services and charitable efforts in the wider community might be described as punching above our weight.”

Standing in for United Synagogue President Michael Goldstein was US Trustee Professor Andrew Eder, who offered congratulations on the shul’s 70th anniversary, saying:  “We at the US can’t wait to see what you will achieve in the next 70 years.”

A recording of the entire occasion, including the video review of the seven decades of the shul’s history, may be viewed by clicking here.  Apologies for the sound quality in a couple of places which occurred for reasons beyond our control.

A selection of photographs taken at the event may be viewed in our Gallery section.   Click here to see them.