‘Why bother to come to the Synagogue for prayer?’
So opens Louis Jacobs’ chapter on ‘Congregational Prayer and the Synagogue’ in his work, Jewish Prayer.
He notes the Talmudic antiquity of the question - it's always been possible to pray alone - and goes on to say,
“While it is possible for a man to pray anywhere, while God can be worshiped outside the Synagogue, it is much more difficult if the atmosphere of devotion has to be created by a person’s unaided efforts. On his own a person has to be in the mood for prayer; they have to struggle, to get in tune with the Infinite amid the many distractions of modern life. In the Synagogues, in which generations of Jews have poured out their hearts in worship and in which many like-minded people pray, the atmosphere is there already.” (slightly reworded).
The Synagogue is also the place where we come together, the weak to gain strength and the strong to remind themselves of the fragility of what they possess. The old come to remember, the young come to learn. Everyone enjoys the celebrations, everyone observes the moments of mourning; burdens are lightened and highs are heightened because we pray as a community.
At New London we enjoy the traditional liturgy done well. The moments when the community comes together in prayerful song are very special to us and we’ve been blessed to have been led by great Ba'alei T'filah – masters of prayer – in our 50 year history. Chazan George Rothschild and Chazan Stephen Cotsen have both led this community in prayer with distinction. And in August 2013 we were joined by Cantor Jason Green. Cantor Jason has brought his love and deep knowledge of Jewish prayer to New London Synagogue and we are enjoying his leadership of the community enormously. Sometimes on a Shabbat morning, Cantor Jason takes the congregation on a musical journey by teaching a new melody or experimenting with different ways of achieving spirituality through t'filah.
As well as our Chazan we have a growing number of members who regularly lead services, read from the Torah and chant Haftarah. There are often courses and other opportunities to develop skills. Anyone keen to participate in services is encouraged to contact Rabbi Jeremy Gordon or Cantor Jason Green.
New London follows the traditional Synagogue service. Prayers are almost exclusively in Hebrew and are led classically, using the correct Nusach, or modes. We use the Singer's prayer book and both the Hertz and Etz Hayyim Chumashim. Our main service, led by our Chazan, is traditional in nature; it is generally male-led and aliyot, Torah readings and Haftarot are roles occupied by men. Women are counted in the Minyan and encouraged to participate fully in the communal and personal prayers. We also have a monthly second service - Minyan Chadash - that is egalitarian, less formal and more participatory. Sunday and other weekday services are also egalitarian.
Outside of prayer services we are a community with a rich tradition in music. Daniel Barenboim has played here, as did his wife, Jacqueline du Pré. We have a number of classical musicians and singers in the community and our annual S'lichot concert/service is one of the highlights of the Synagogue year.
To hear more, just come to services. But if you want more information about our services...