adopted at the first
Annual General Meeting
23rd May, 1965
New London synagogue
33 ABBEY ROAD, LONDON, N.W.8
Preamble to Constitution
“That the members of the New West End Synagogue here assembled reaffirm their desire and determination to follow the spiritual guidance and leadership of Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs.
“That . . . it is hereby resolved to constitute an independent Orthodox congregation under the name of the New London Synagogue, in the tradition of the New West End Synagogue and under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Dr. Jacobs. All members of the community are invited to join in this endeavour to serve Judaism.”
The New London Synagogue was born on 3rd May, 1964, at the meeting in a Kensington hotel at which the above resolutions were passed. It was the child of a controversy that none of its founders had sought but whose consequences may affect the structure of Anglo-Jewry.
* * * *
Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs was minister of the New West End Synagogue from 1954 until 1959. In that period, through his preaching and writings, he propounded a philosophy of religious Judaism which he was later to sum up in these words:
“We can no longer accept the view that Jewish thought is simply a question of direct, automatic, and static transmission of our religious tradition. We must take into account all the influence which time and environment have brought to bear upon this tradition . . .
“Not that a purely intellectual approach to God and faith is sufficient. Religious life must be approached by the human being as a whole, through his emotions, intellect, action, and observances. But if reason is sacrificed, faith might well end in belief in any set of superstitions labelled religion. It is a mistake to assume that because there are things which are above reasoning, we must also accept unreasoningly the things which are below the level of our reason . . . .”
Rabbi Dr. Jacobs resigned from the New West End Synagogue in 1959 to take up an appointment at Jews’ College, an appointment which the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Israel Brodie, had approved. But when, in 1961, Rabbi Dr. Jacobs’ name was put forward as the only candidate for Principal of Jews’ College, Dr. Brodie pronounced himself “unable to accept the recommendation”. No explanation was forthcoming for this refusal. Shortly afterwards, Rabbi Dr. Jacobs resigned from Jews’ College, as did a number of the lay members of its Council who had supported his candidacy.
When, in February 1964, the pulpit at the New West End Synagogue again became vacant, the board of management and a selection committee (which included five members of the United Synagogue panel for the appointment of ministers) unanimously recommended that Rabbi Dr. Jacobs should be recalled to his former position.
As in the case of the Jews’ College recommendation, the Chief Rabbi again refused his approval, again without explanation. But the New West End Synagogue board of management, supported by the congregation, refused to accept the ban.
Behind the scenes, intensive efforts at a rapprochement took place. It became clear, however, that the Chief Rabbi was unbending. The board of management of the New West End Synagogue, acting in the belief that the attitude of the Chief Rabbi and the United Synagogue was devoid of any justification, moral or legal, came to the conclusion that it had no alternative but to resist the arbitrary dictates of authority.
On 18th April, 1964, on the invitation of the board of management, Rabbi Dr. Jacobs returned to the pulpit of the New West End Synagogue. Five days later, at a meeting of the Council of the United Synagogue, the honorary officers and board of management of the New West End Synagogue were dismissed and four “managers” appointed in their stead.
On 3rd May, 1964, the meeting of members of the New West End Synagogue already referred to resolved upon the establishment of the New London Synagogue, pledging themselves at the same time to continue “to work for the return of the United Synagogue to its own traditions of tolerance and the ‘Progressive Conservatism’ referred to in the preamble to its bye-laws”.
Two days later, at a meeting of rabbis and ministers assembled from all over Britain, at which there were neither questions nor discussion, the Chief Rabbi explained for the first time why he had refused to approve Rabbi Dr. Jacobs’ appointment as Principal of Jews’ College and, later, as minister of the New West End Synagogue.
Rabbi Dr. Jacobs’ protest that the statement misrepresented his views and was false on several matters of fact went unheeded and unanswered. Neither the Chief Rabbi nor the United Synagogue appeared to be interested in theological argument. The issue, to their mind, had apparently been settled with the dismissal of the New West End board of management.
On 9th May members of the New London Synagogue worshipped together for the first time. Their service was held in the Montefiore Hall, Maida Vale, which was made available by the lay leadership of the Spanish and Portuguese Community. But representations from their rabbinical authorities led to the withdrawal of these facilities and subsequent services were held in the annex of a Kensington Hotel until 29th August, 1964.
On that day, the congregation met for the first time in its own building in Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood. A week later, on the first day of Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Dr. Jacobs in his sermon reviewed the terms used to describe the New London Synagogue, “an independent Orthodox congregation”.
It was independent, he said, because “we have decided to take our destiny into our own hands, to work it out for ourselves . . . If there is any meaning to Judaism’s boast that there is no priesthood in Judaism and that the Jewish ideal is that of a kingdom of priests, a priestly people, then we cannot afford to maintain the notion of ecclesiastical domination.”
And it was Orthodox, he said, because the congregation believed in God, the Torah and Israel. “We are fully observant in our congregational life; and in our personal lives our members are as observant as members of other congregations in this country who claim to be Orthodox. Where we differ from some other congregations is in our refusal to equate Orthodoxy with the refusal to inquire.”
* * * *
In the course of the controversy, the New West End Synagogue frequently referred to a passage in the preamble to the United Synagogue bye-laws. This no longer appears to express the policy of the United Synagogue and the New London Synagogue can do no better than adopt and apply to itself the religious approach expressed in the forceful language of that passage:
“The spirit which imbues the whole code of bye-laws is that of the Progressive Conservatism which the United Synagogue itself exemplifies, rejecting on the one hand the clamour of those who, in the desire for constant change, would recklessly cast aside tradition, and on the other, the invitation of those who regard all things as settled, deluding themselves with the pretence that time and environment and circumstances are factors of no account, as though our lives and our mutual relationships are not susceptible to change.”
of the New London Synagogue
- Any person of the Jewish faith being not less than eighteen years of age may apply for membership of the New London Synagogue (hereinafter called “the Synagogue”).
- Any such person desiring to become a member of the Synagogue shall apply to the Secretary in such form and shall furnish such particulars as the Council may from time to time determine.
- All applications for membership of the Synagogue shall be presented to the Executive for consideration.
- If the Executive shall not accept an application such application shall at the request of the applicant be presented to the next following meeting of the Council for consideration.
- Upon the acceptance of an application for membership of the Synagogue and upon payment of one half-year’s subscription the applicant shall become a member of the Synagogue.
Termination of Membership
- The Council may in its absolute discretion by simple majority terminate the membership of a member of the Synagogue.
- Not less than 14 days’ notice of the meeting of the Council at which a resolution to terminate the membership of a member of the Synagogue is to be proposed shall be given to the member to whom the resolution refers and such member shall be entitled to be heard on the resolution at the meeting. The Secretary shall forthwith after the meeting at which such a resolution has been proposed give notice in writing to the member to whom the resolution refers of the passing or otherwise of such resolution.
- The subscription payable by a member of the Synagogue shall be such sum as shall from time to time be determined by the Council. Such subscription shall be payable in advance half-yearly on 1st March and 1st September in each year.
Rights of Members
- A member of the Synagogue shall be entitled (subject to these laws) to the following rights:
(a) To be seated in the Synagogue unless the membership shall be accepted without rights to a seat;
(b) To attend and vote at a General Meeting and to nominate a candidate for any honorary office of the Synagogue and for membership of the Council provided that in respect of a General Meeting held after 3rd August, 1965, he shall have been a member for not less than twelve months immediately preceding the notice of such meeting;
(c) To such burial rights as are hereinafter mentioned;
(d) To be eligible for membership of the Council and, if male, for an honorary office;
provided that he shall not be more than twelve months in arrear in making payment of any money due by him to the Synagogue.
Honorary Officers and Council
- The general conduct and management of the affairs of the Synagogue shall be conducted and managed by the Honorary Officers and by the Council.
- (a) Subject as hereinafter provided the number of Honorary Officers shall be three of whom two shall be Wardens and one shall be Warden / Treasurer;
(b) The Warden/Treasurer shall act as Treasurer but may at his discretion at any time cease to act as a Warden, but continue to act as Treasurer;
(c) If the Warden/Treasurer shall cease to act as a Warden there shall be deemed to be a vacancy in the office of Warden and the Council may exercise its power pursuant to Clause 18 hereof, in which event the number of Honorary Officers shall until the next following Annual General Meeting be increased to four.
- The number of elected members of the Council shall not be more than twenty.
- The Council shall have power to appoint any member of the Synagogue either to fill a casual vacancy in their number or as an additional member of the Council but so that the total number of members of the Council, excluding ex-officio members of the Council, shall not at any time exceed twenty-five. Any member of the Council so appointed shall hold office only until the next following Annual General Meeting and shall be eligible for reappointment but shall not be taken into account in determining the members of the Council who are to retire at such meeting.
- The Honorary Officers and the senior Rabbi shall together with not less than three and not more than five members of the Council nominated by the Honorary Officers form the Executive. The Executive shall have only such powers and duties as are hereinafter contained or as the Council shall from time to time delegate to them.
Ex-officio Members of the Council and Sub-Committees
- The Honorary Officers and the senior Rabbi shall be ex-officio members of the Council and of all committees and sub-committees.
Proceedings of the Council
- The Council shall unless otherwise herein prescribed act by a majority of those present and voting at a meeting of the Council.
- The Council may delegate such of its powers to the Executive or to committees as it may from time to time deem necessary. The Executive or any committee so formed shall in the exercise of the powers so delegated conform to any regulations that may be imposed on it by the Council.
- The Council shall have power to appoint any member of the Council who shall have been elected thereto at an Annual General Meeting to fill a vacancy in the office of Warden or Warden/Treasurer.
- A requisition for a meeting of the Council and a notice of a meeting of the Council called to consider the termination of membership of a member of the Synagogue or the vacating of an honorary office or membership of the Council shall specify the matter to be discussed.
- The Council may invite any person to attend a meeting of the Council.
- A meeting of the Council shall be convened by not less than 7 days’ written notice whenever the Honorary Officers shall deem it necessary. A meeting of the Council shall also be likewise convened within 14 days of the delivery of a requisition in writing by any three members of the Council.
- The quorum for meetings of the Council shall be ten of whom at least seven shall be members of the Council who are not members of the Executive.
- No business shall be transacted at a meeting of the Council unless a quorum is present.
- At a meeting of the Council an Honorary Officer shall preside as Chairman but if at such meeting no Honorary Officer shall be present within five minutes after the time appointed for holding the same, the members of the Council present may choose one of their number to be Chairman of the meeting. As between the Honorary Officers the Honorary Officer who shall preside shall (unless they otherwise agree among themselves) be determined by lot.
- Questions arising at a meeting of the Council shall be decided by a majority of votes. In the case of an equality of votes the Chairman shall have a second or casting vote.
- All questions to be voted upon at a meeting of the Council shall be proposed and seconded. No member of the Council may vote by proxy. The declaration of the Chairman shall be conclusive evidence of the result of the vote.
- The conduct of a meeting of the Council shall be in the hands of the Chairman whose ruling (other than the declaration referred to in Clause 26 hereof) may however be overruled on any matter by the members of the Council present at the meeting.
- The accidental omission to give notice of a meeting of the Council to or the non receipt of notice of a meeting of the Council by a member of the Council shall not invalidate the proceedings thereat.
Retirement of the Honorary Officers and Members of Council
- At each Annual General Meeting the Honorary Officers and one-third of the members of the Council for the time being or if their number is not three or a multiple of three, then the number nearest but not exceeding one-third, shall retire from office.
- The members of the Council to retire in each year shall be those who have been longest in office since their last election but as between persons who became members of the Council on the same day those to retire shall (unless they otherwise agree among themselves) be determined by lot.
- The office of an Honorary Officer and membership of the Council shall be vacated either—
(a) if the Honorary Officer or the member of the Council as the case may be shall either—
(i) resign in writing to the Council, or
(ii) be absent from five consecutive meetings of the Council without reasonable cause, or
(b) if the Council shall resolve by a two-thirds majority that it is not in the interests of the Synagogue that such Honorary Officer or member of the Council shall continue to serve as such.
Annual General Meetings and Elections
- An Annual General Meeting of the members of the Synagogue shall be held in the month of May in each year for the purpose of conducting elections of the Honorary Officers and Council, the receipt of accounts and such other business the general nature of which shall have been given in the notice calling the meeting.
- Not less than 28 clear days’ notice in writing thereof shall be given to the members of the Synagogue. Such notice shall specify the day, place and hour of the meeting and shall be accompanied by a nomination paper.
- The last day for nominations of the Honorary Officers and membership of the Council shall be not less than 14 and not more than 21 days before the date of the Annual General Meeting.
- A person shall be deemed to be duly nominated if
(a) he shall have been nominated by at least two members of the Synagogue in writing, and
(b) he shall have been a member of the Synagogue for a period of not less than two years immediately prior to the date of nomination (provided that this sub-clause shall not apply in the years 1965 and 1966)
(i) the Council shall resolve by a two-thirds majority that it is not in the interests of the Synagogue that such person shall serve as an Honorary Officer or member of the Council, or
(ii) immediately preceding the date of nomination, if the nomination is for the office of an Honorary Officer, he shall have served as an Honorary Officer for more than five consecutive years, or
(iii) at the date of nomination, if the nomination is for membership of the Council, he shall be an Honorary Officer or an elected member of the Council.
- Immediately after the last date of nomination, the Secretary shall communicate with every nominee who shall be entitled to decline to accept nomination. If the Secretary shall receive no reply within 3 clear days, it shall be assumed that the nominee accepts nomination.
- At least 8 days before the Annual General Meeting a list of all nominees shall be forwarded to every member.
Extraordinary General Meetings
- The Council may convene an Extraordinary General Meeting at any time. Upon receipt of a requisition addressed to the Secretary signed by not less than twenty members of the Synagogue stating the business to be discussed an Extraordinary General Meeting shall be convened within 21 days of such receipt.
- An Extraordinary General Meeting shall be convened by not less than 14 clear days’ notice in writing given to the members of the Synagogue and such notice shall specify the day, place and hour of the meeting and the general nature of the business proposed to be transacted.
Procedings at General Meetings
- No business shall be transacted at any General Meeting unless a quorum of members of the Synagogue is present at the time when the meeting proceeds to business. Save as herein otherwise provided twenty members present in person shall be a quorum.
- At all General Meetings an Honorary Officer shall preside as Chairman but if at any meeting no Honorary Officer shall be present within fifteen minutes after the time appointed for holding the same, the members of the Council present may choose one of their number to be Chairman of the meeting. As between the Honorary Officers, the Honorary Officer who shall preside shall (unless they otherwise agree among themselves) be determined by lot.
- Every question submitted to a General Meeting after having been proposed and seconded shall be decided in the first instance by a show of hands.
- If a poll be demanded by at least ten of the members of the Synagogue present the same shall be taken at the same or at a further meeting to be called within 14 days when the matter shall be decided by secret ballot. The Chairman shall prior to the poll appoint at least two scrutineers.
- In the case of an equality of votes whether on a show of hands or on a poll the Chairman shall have a second or casting vote.
- Unless a poll be demanded the Chairman’s declaration as to the result of the voting shall be conclusive evidence of such result.
- The accidental omission to give notice of a General Meeting to or the non-receipt of a notice of a General Meeting by a member of the Synagogue shall not invalidate the proceedings thereat.
- A list showing the names of the members of the Synagogue shall be produced at the commencement of each General Meeting and shall remain open and accessible to any member of the Synagogue during the continuance of the meeting.
Divine Services, Marriages and Burials
- The form and conduct of the Services and times and places at which they shall take place shall be as the Council may from time to time determine.
- The Executive may, subject to the consent of the senior Rabbi, invite any Rabbi, minister, preacher, reader or other officiant to take part in any of the Services as it may from time to time think fit.
- Any person desiring a marriage to be solemnized shall give to the Secretary of the Synagogue 21 days’ notice of the same and shall fulfil all civil and legal requirements relating to marriages. No marriage may be solemnized without the prior approval of the senior Rabbi or other person designated by him and the permission of an Honorary Officer or in the absence of the Honorary Officers by the remaining members of the Executive. The fees payable in respect of any marriage shall be such as are from time to time determined by the Council. Nothing herein contained shall be deemed or be construed as departing in any way from strict compliance with the requirements of the law of England.
- Every member of the Synagogue shall have the right to participate in but shall be subject to the rules and regulations of the Burial Scheme of the Synagogue for the time being in force.
- The Honorary Officers, or in their absence such other person or persons as the Executive shall nominate shall be responsible for the proper conduct and decorum of the Services in the Synagogue as laid down from time to time by the Council.
Appointment of Officials
- The Council may appoint such Rabbi, minister and reader at such remunerations and upon such terms (including contributions to any schemes providing for the payment of pensions) as the Council shall determine. In case of a vacancy in the office of Rabbi, minister or reader the Council shall invite and consider applications for the office and shall arrange and settle the terms upon which, if elected, the candidate shall take office. The Council may in their absolute discretion modify the duties of the Rabbi, minister or reader as occasion may demand. Provided always that no Rabbi or minister of the Synagogue shall be appointed without the prior consent in writing of a two-thirds majority of the trustees of the Declaration of Trust dated 2nd November, 1964 (hereinafter called “the Trust Deed”) and made by Oscar Barsach Davis, David Ellis Franklin, Donald Edwin Lewis Samuel, and Bernard Spears (hereinafter called “the Trustees”).
- The Council may engage the Secretary upon such terms and conditions as the Council may from time to time determine. The Secretary shall be subject to the supervision, control and orders of the Council and carry out the secretarial and other duties that the Council may from time to time direct.
- The Council may engage all other officials which it shall deem necessary for the proper conduct of the affairs of the Synagogue upon such terms and conditions as the Council may from time to time determine.
- The Treasurer shall be subject to the directions and policies of the Council as the Council may from time to time determine.
- The receipt of the Treasurer or Secretary shall be sufficient discharge for all moneys paid to the Synagogue.
- The Treasurer shall inspect and initial accounts of all members previously to the delivery thereof.
- The Treasurer shall lay before the Executive a list of the accounts of all members who are more than twelve months in arrear of the amounts thereof and the Executive may require such members to be given notice of the intention to report the same to the Council failing payment within one month.
- All moneys received on behalf of the Synagogue shall be paid to the account of the Synagogue with the Bankers appointed by the Council provided that not more than such sum as the Trustees in consultation with the Council shall determine shall be retained by the Synagogue in such account at any one time and any amount exceeding such sum shall be handed over to the Trustees.
- Subject as above provided all the property of or under the control of the Synagogue shall be held by or invested in the names of the Trustees upon the trusts of the Trust Deed and shall form part of the Trust Fund referred to in the Trust Deed.
- Auditors who shall be practising members of a recognised body of accountants in the United Kingdom shall be appointed by the members of the Synagogue at an Annual General Meeting to hold office until the conclusion of the next Annual General Meeting. Such Auditors shall make a report to the members on the accounts examined by them which are to be laid before the members in General Meeting during their tenure of office and their report shall expressly state whether the accounts are properly drawn up to give a true and fair view of the transaction covered by the accounts and of the financial position of the Synagogue at the date to which the accounts have been made up as shown by the books and in accordance with the information and explanations given them.
- The Auditors shall have a right of access at all times to the books and accounts and vouchers of the Synagogue and shall be entitled to require from the Honorary Officers and other officers of the Synagogue such information and explanations as they think necessary for the performance of the duty of Auditors.
- The Accounts shall be made up to 31st December in each year. The Accounts after approval by the Council shall be circulated among the members at least 8 days before the Annual General Meeting together with a copy of the Auditors’ report.
- Any notice to be given hereunder to any person shall be in writing and may be served either personally or by sending it by prepaid post to the person’s address in the United Kingdom last known to the Secretary of the Synagogue and shall be deemed to have been served on the day after it was posted and proof that such notice was correctly addressed and posted shall be proof of service.
Alterations to the Constitution
- This Constitution may be amended or altered by a three-quarters majority of members of the Synagogue present and voting at a General Meeting duly convened for that purpose and of which notice shall have been given of the proposed amendment or alteration and the effect thereof. The quorum for such meeting shall be not less than fifty members of the Synagogue present in person. Provided that no amendment or alteration shall be made to Clauses 53, 60 or 61 hereof without the consent of two-thirds of the Trustees first had and obtained in writing.
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