Established in 1944 by a small, enthusiastic group with determination and vision, mostly refugees from the Nazis, in the midst of a World War… The Progressive Judaism of today is simultaneously the same and very different from the Progressive Judaism of 1944.
That is because new generations take the established principles of Progressive Judaism so dear to the hearts of our founders and mould them to the Jewish lives of their children and grandchildren.’ - Rabbi Ian D Morris
Even though the first service was in January 1944, there had been discussions about having a Reform Jewish community in Leeds. Initially, it was supported by the older Bradford Reform Community. Within a few months there were regular services and by June a voluntary choir.
Sinai’s first Bar Mitzvah was as early as January 1945. Sinai was looking forward and growing, with, in 1947, over 100 members, its first youth club, a ladies’ guild, and Hebrew classes.
Our first full time rabbi was appointed in 1948; a year also notable for the first communal Passover Seder.
In 1950 member and community leader Malcolm Featherman had the foresight to buy the Roman Avenue plot on which Sinai stands. Services continued in Spencer Place, Chapeltown, then moved to 21 Leopold Street, the site of the former Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. A momentous occasion was Sinai acquiring its first Torah scroll, rescued from the Continent. Until then, one owned by Rabbi L Gerhardt Graf, our first (part time) rabbi, was used.
1960 was a most significant year for Sinai, with our new building in Roman Avenue completed just in time for the High Holydays. Land for a cemetery is made available in part of Harehills Cemetery – Sinai became a full community, looking after members from cradle to grave.
There were many social and fundraising events to furnish and furbish the new building, from the appeal to raise money for a proper floor to cover the concrete. The parquet flooring is the result.
Since then, Sinai has continued to grow and develop, with an extension and classrooms built in the 1980s, a full range of religious services on Shabbat and festivals, and social and educational events for all. Our Director of Education organises and coordinates events for members and friends from pre-school to adult education on topical or traditional themes. Rabbi Ian Morris was with us from 1996-2017. From 2013 to 2017 he was supported by an Associate Rabbi, Esther Hugenholtz, who has now moved to her own congregation in Iowa City, USA.
There are monthly Friday night suppers, catered by members, and a monthly lunch mainly for our older members. We are now a strong and vibrant community with a significant number of third generation members, offering a wide range of services and activities for all ages. Sinai is indeed a Jewish home for all.