One of Britain’s oldest Progressive synagogues has changed its name to reflect its commitment “to growing a vibrant place of learning and Jewish action.”
On Erev Rosh Hashanah, South West Essex & Settlement Reform Synagogue (SWESRS) officially became Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue.
This follows an overwhelming vote in favour of the name change by members at the community’s AGM in July.
The synagogue’s Senior Rabbi Jordan Helfman said: “In the past number of years, the Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue has begun a real transformation, becoming a more welcoming home for Jews seeking an inclusive community.
“There has been a meaningful surge in LGBTQI+ membership, as well as individuals who have felt marginalised in other communities because of their skin colour.
“This is an ongoing journey that the Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue will continue to evolve into, and the change in name and logo are part of that commitment to growing a vibrant place of learning and Jewish action.”
The community partly began life in 1919 as the St George’s Settlement Synagogue in the East End, the only jointly affiliated Reform and Liberal Judaism congregation.
In 1997, with the population having shifted towards Essex, the Settlement Synagogue (as it was then known) merged with South West Essex Reform Synagogue, which itself was founded in 1956. Jointly the two became SWESRS and solely a Reform congregation.
Now, 67 years later, the working name will change to Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue. Although, at the suggestion of the Charity Commission, the registered name of the synagogue will remain the same.
The community has also introduced the new tag line of “honouring our past, building our future”. A logo (pictured) was designed by Gemma Shinebroom, with its oak tree drawn by Rebecca Roher, to reflect this.