The congregation was founded in 1957 by Rabbi Dr Harold Reinhart, who resigned from his position as Senior Minister of the West London Synagogue and, accompanied by 80 former members of that synagogue, established the New London Synagogue. Shortly afterwards it was renamed Westminster Synagogue.
The congregation's earliest services were held at Caxton Hall, Westminster, from whose location the Synagogue derives its name. In 1960 the congregation acquired Kent House opposite Hyde Park in Knightsbridge.
Westminster Synagogue has, in religious terms, remained largely in tune with the progressive movements in Britain. Although not affiliated to the Movement for Reform Judaism, Westminster Synagogue is served by the Movement's Beth Din and has links with the West London Synagogue's burial facilities. The congregation aims to give equality to all members, and women play a full part in congregational life.
Westminster Synagogue has been closely involved in the Czech Memorial Scrolls Centre, located on the top floor of Kent House, which holds and cares for the Torah scrolls that originally served the Czech Jewish communities in Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia until the tragic events of the Holocaust.The Scrolls arrived at Westminster Synagogue in 1964, and the Czech Scrolls Museum was established in 1988 to display the work of the Centre and tell the history of the scrolls. Click here for information about the Czech Scrolls Museum including its opening hours.
Rabbi Reinhart died in 1969 and was succeeded by Rabbi Dr Albert Friedlander in 1971. Rabbi Friedlander, who retired in 1997, combined his ministry for some years with his post as Director of Rabbinical Studies at the Leo Baeck College.
The current rabbi of the community, Rabbi Dr Thomas Salamon succeeded Rabbi Friedlander in 1997.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Synagogue, you may wish to purchase a copy of “The History of Westminster Synagogue” by Philippa Bernard, or a photographic memories book of the community, "Westminster Synagogue: The first 50 Years" by Evelyn Friedlander. Both are available from the Synagogue office at £20.