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WPS 1943 - 1947

by Cyril Blake

I would like to thank Reverend Michael Plaskow MBE for recently introducing me to Cyril who was on the Board of Management  at WPS  in 1944 and Financial Representative for two years, 1945/1946 and 1946/1947. In this interesting article Cyril gives his recollections of the development of the fledgling community from 1943 to 1947.


Photos supplied from a book enttled "The Story of a Community" by Reverend Michael Plaskow. This can be found in the WPS library.


My wife Irene and I were married in July 1943 and were fortunate enough to be able to rent our first home at Finchley Court in Ballards Lane, in view of the housing shortage at that time. This was price controlled at £102 pounds per annum with a garage at an additional £40. I recollect that as at the time I was still under the age of 21, the lease had to be guaranteed by a close relative!


At that time I was living in Bancroft Avenue in N2 and our Aufruf was in Norrice Lea Shul with wedding at the New West End Synagogue with a luncheon following in Bayswater.


We immediately joined the then fledgling forerunner to the present Shul in Woodside Park, situated in a substantial rented two storied house in Alexandra Grove, just off Ballards Lane. The ground floor had two intercommunicating rooms on one side, which provided space for about fifty worshippers with a smallish Aron Kodesh and a movable Bimah. There was no Mechitza. A separate room was opposite convenient for Kiddushim and a kitchen was at the rear. Limited Hebrew Classes were held on the premises but in view of the on-going hostilities and other factors, there was then unfortunately no great demand for this essential facility.

The first floor provided the home of the then Minister to the congregation and his wife, Rabbi and Rebbitzen K Peritz. They left the Community after the war years, migrating to Canada. High festival Services were held annually in a nearby Hall. For an extended time we were without a permanent Minister until Rabbi Jonah Indek and his wife moved back to London from Buxton, to where  my family  had also evacuated. For several reasons, certainly the distance from Beechwood Avenue to North Finchley where they were living  proving difficult and as the Bournemouth Congregation Ministry became vacant it, was inevitable that we lost the highly regarded and esteemed Indek family.


At the time my wife and I became members, the Blitz was of course no longer its earlier problem, and although little did we imagine the damage and threatened terrors to follow with the V1 flying bombs and the V2 rockets during the final phases of the war. Although earlier air raids with high explosive bombs, land mines and incendiaries wrought much devastation to Greater London fortunately our area was spared much of the tribulation.


The Woodside Park district was developed in the late thirties and there became a growing need to cater for an expanding Jewish population north of the existing communal facilities at Henley’s Corner and later at Finchley Central.   A number of interested residents in both areas, North Finchley and particularly Woodside Park, were motivated to provide a new Community facility, hopefully to be under the aegis and the assistance of the United Synagogue, to meet the developing need at that time, just prior to the war.


This successful pioneering was well established in 1943 when my wife and I made our home in the area and were privileged to be warmly welcomed by the enthusiastic Community leaders.


At that time the then Senior Warden, Maurice Wingate and his able and supportive wife Bella whose home in Cissbury Ring South,, was the pivotal centre of activity, headed a dedicated committee following in the footsteps of the Michaels family, the pioneers of the developing community.


Maurice Sefton was the Junior Warden and Sidney Samson was the Secretary. Some of the prominent members of the Committee, who with their wives contributed so much to all the expanding activities were Louis Taub, a later Warden, David Woolfe, Sam Sebba, Gordon Dollow whom I succeeded as Financial representative, Frank Schama, Louis Fishburn, Alfred Finer , Mr Hankin was prominent with regards to hebrew classes and Mr Fass was the local butcher and many whose names sadly now with the passing of the years have escaped me.


It had already been realised before my joining in 1943,  that the Alexandra Grove premises would need replacing because of the rapid growth of the Community, now around 180 members and the need for the future of the Shul status moving up from an Affiliated Synagogue to that of a District component  which had to be earned, .


Accordingly apart from the continuous need to raise funds for Synagogue purposes, the creation of a new Building Fund became an urgent necessity and many and various social activities were pursued. Dinner dances at the old Brent Bridge Hotel were popular, garden parties in the delightful gardens of Hadar in Totteridge Lane, the home of Sam Sebba were very successful sources of revenue as were many others apart from the usual run of raffles and enhanced regularly by the much needed weekly services prayer offerings.


In conclusion I have to say that although my tenure at North Finchley was a relatively brief one spanning just four years from1943 to 1947, they were probably the most momentous of my life (apart from wartime duties).Marriage at twenty one, two sons born in1945 and 1947,first Synagogue membership on own account, 1943, Board of Management election in 1944 and Financial Representative for two years, 1945/1946 and 1946/1947 the year we moved from Finchley to Willesden because of the need for more living space.


Looking back now in my ninety first year, I am deeply conscious of gratitude due to the many friends made whilst residing in North Finchley sadly now no longer living, and the debt I owe to the then North Finchley and Woodside Park Synagogue members, for electing me at the age of twenty three as their financial representative and the pleasure I derive from knowing how the Community has developed to the stage when further enlargement of the premises is now necessitated. I wish it well for the future


Cyril L.Blake (JP)

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