The Ark celebrates 60th anniversary with packed civic service

15 May 2024 – 7 Iyyar 5784

The Ark's Civic Service

A packed sanctuary of local dignitaries, MPs, clergy from other faiths and leaders and members from across Progressive Judaism helped The Ark Synagogue mark its 60th anniversary in style.

A special Shabbat celebrated the history and future of the congregation, which began in May 1964 when 30 families gathered for the first time to pray together as a new community – then called Pinner and District Liberal Synagogue.

The service, which you can watch here, was led by The Ark’s Rabbis Aaron Goldstein, Lea Mühlstein and Andrew Goldstein – with those in attendance including the Mayor of Hillingdon Cllr Colleen Sullivan, Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ramji Chauhan and Progressive Judaism Co-Lead Rabbi Charley Baginsky.

They heard how the congregation really took off in the mid-1960s after recruiting a young Student Rabbi, Andrew Goldstein, moving to a former Methodist Church in Northwood and becoming Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue. In 1981, the community then moved to its new and current building on Oaklands Gate.

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein became the synagogue’s Senior Rabbi in 2008 – following the retirement of his father, now The Ark’s Emeritus Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein – with Rabbi Lea Mühlstein appointed Senior Rabbi alongside him in 2017.

Another key moment came in 2020 when, following a reflective period triggered by the pandemic, the community adopted its new name The Ark Synagogue.

Today, 60 years after its formation, the congregation has grown from 30 to 860 families – including a dedicated group of supporters from all over the world who actively participate in the life of the synagogue through the programming and services available online.

In her sermon, Rabbi Lea Mühlstein reflected: “Becoming The Ark Synagogue was not just an act of adopting a new name and logo but rather, it allowed us to reflect deeply on our core values.

“As a community, we show up – for each other, for the wider Jewish community in the UK, for our siblings in Ukraine and Israel and for the Czech and Slovak communities tied to us through the legacies of their Torah scrolls. And we show up in civic society.”

A highlight of the service was the moment when everyone in the congregation who had ever taken on the mantle of civic leadership was asked to stand up – and almost everyone there stood.

Cllr Narinder Sian was among the guests. He said: “This was a beautiful service and a wonderful day. The choir were absolutely brilliant. Huge congratulations to the Rabbis, the congregation and all the volunteers who made it possible.”

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