Kingston’s Jewish History
When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, he brought his Jews, his hunting dogs, and his rabbits as personal assets. Between then and the expulsion of 1290, the Jews of Kingston had underwritten such projects as the maintenance of the local church, the building of the Lovekyn Chapel, and the maintenance of the town school which was later to be refounded by Queen Elizabeth I as Kingston Grammar School.
Jews were again present in Kingston in the 19th and early 20th centuries. During the 1920s, services and a cheder were conducted at a house in Catherine Road, but amid the chaos of pre-war dislocations the group disintegrated.
Then, one post-war Thursday, on their way home from the weekly trek to Richmond where an English butcher had a kosher counter once a week, three ladies were approached in Kingston Market by a fourth. “Are you Jewish? Is there a shul here? Wouldn’t it be nice if…?” In no time they had formed a Ladies’ Guild, and their husbands and sons followed. Not to be outdone, they began to pray, to plan, to run Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at the local Assembly Rooms.
From such human and immediate beginnings our vibrant and thriving community went from strength to strength. By the early 1950s the community owned a site one road north of the original Catherine Road house; they became affiliated to the United Synagogue; and in June 1954 the foundation stone of our present synagogue was laid there in Uxbridge Road by the late Charles Lichtenfeld.
Descendants of many of these old families remain in the community today. One of those three shoppers, the original mothers of the community, Mrs Flora Moss was President of our Ladies’ Guild until she sadly passed away a few years ago.