In the early 1960s, a Lubavitch Grammar School was established by Bobby Vogel, a local diamond cutter, in a building he had acquired in the Kingsley Way Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London.

The school's headmaster Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Hertz, encouraged by Freddy Hager and later Gedalia Rutman, allocated a room to hold regular services as a local Chabad synagogue.

The building where the Beth Hamedresh Kingsley Way Synagogue is located.
The building where the Beth Hamedresh Kingsley Way Synagogue is located.

Initially it was difficult to attract enough, even on Shabbat, to complete the ten participants necessary for services. It was my task to persuade two or three of my friends to come to the synagogue.

As the membership increased it was felt that the time had come for our synagogue to have a proper name. At my next audience with the Rebbe, of righteous memory, I requested that he choose a suitable name for our small synagogue.

His response showed how aware he was of local sensitivities, "I do not think there is any hurry in this matter at all. Every name you will choose has a limitation and will, perhaps, be liable to exclude a likely member."

The Rebbe concluded that, "It is enough in three years to find a name."

What about the Ladies?

Then the Rebbe turned to my wife and asked her, "How is the women's section?" Then the Rebbe turned to my wife and asked her, "How is the women's section?" she responded that she was not in the habit of attending, since the women had only the use of the very small headmaster's room across the corridor from the men, which was really not suitable or convenient for the women.

The Rebbe asked if there were services on the holidays. When he heard that there were just five ladies who came on the holiday of Shavuot, he said, this is "all the more reason why they should have a good and convenient place for the women."

He went on to explain that if the mother and father pray in the same synagogue, "the children will come too."

And as the High Holidays are coming soon, "you have three months to prepare something suitable."

I was able to write to the Rebbe that improvements had been carried out, and there was now a regular attendance by women and that more than 150 youngsters had taken part during the Simchat Torah holiday.

The London "Shtiebel"

"It seems you have the atmosphere of a shtiebel," the Rebbe said, referring to the informal and casual synagogue in contrast to a huge intimidating synagogue, "that's good."

The Rebbe then asked, "Who is the leader of the women's section?"

I said that there is no leader, however, Mrs. Hertz and Mrs. Rutman are very active.

The Rebbe said that there should "be more initiatives from those that come to pray there," not just from the leaders or from overseas.

Nowadays, in the totally renovated building, the former school flourishes both as the Yeshiva Gedolah Lubavitch of London and the popular Beth Hamedresh Kingsley Way Synagogue, with Rabbi Hertz serving both as the dean and rabbi.