Our Way in Prayer

‘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.

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.

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. Sunday and other weekday services are 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…

What is the Service at New London Like?

What follows is a little technical and written for those with particular liturgical expertise and interest.
New London Synagogue’s approach to prayer is classically Anglo-Jewish; Nusach Anglia and Minhag Anglia. Pronunciation is contemporary Sephardi – ‘yitgadal’ rather than ‘yisgadal’. It’s a full traditional service including, for example, traditional blessings on korbanot (Temple sacrifices) in the Amidah, but with some minor alterations. For example we pray she’asani b’tzalmo (…Who has made me in God’s own image) rather than shelo asani ishah (…Who has not made me a woman) in Birkot HaShachar, the preliminary morning prayers.
Many of the classic tunes of Nusach Anglia come from the ‘British Blue Book‘ There are some classically British settings which are part of our liturgical and musical tradition, such as Lewandowski’s Psalm 24, and some Piyutim, such as Omnam Kein, which are part of the Anglo Jewish tradition – Omnam Kein was composed by Yom Tov of Joigny, murdered in the York pogrom of 1190.
We’ve enjoyed cantorial pieces drawn from the great nineteenth century German and British composers; Lewandowski, Sulzer, Mombach and Alman, supplemented with some twentieth century American compositions (e.g. Finkelstein and Zim).
We have a pluralist approach to the role of women in leading prayer services (as above). Rabbi Jeremy Gordon has written responsa (legal papers) looking at the Halachic (legal) issues entailed in women’s participation. They can be read at: