In 1999-2000 the idea of Shenley’s own shul was born. A committee of Shenley residents, helped by the United Synagogue, put leaflets through every door in Shenley that had a mezuzah on it. Shenley residents were invited to a meeting in the Old Chapel, and over 200 people turned up. This led to the start of Friday night and Shabbat morning services being held in people’s homes, and the seeds of our current community were sown! Services were led by lay members from Radlett, and sometimes the Radlett Shul Rabbi, and then later by our first part-time Rabbi – Benjamin Rickman. Rabbi Kass was appointed in 2004 and the Shenley United Jewish Community began to grow.
Shabbat morning services were held in the local primary school, the local old people’s home and Shenley Cricket Club….which once coincided with a visit by a touring West Indies Teams! Social activities were organised, such as the annual barbecue and communal second night Seder. Under Rabbi Kass’ leadership services for all festivals were held, Chanukah and Purim parties for children – and adults – and the Jewish year in Shenley was full.
As the community grew, so did the involvement of Shenley residents. When two Sifrei Torah were inherited from Cricklewood and West Ham, money was needed to pay for the restoration work and to make them kosher. The appeal launched hoped to fund the work on one, but exceeded all expectations and both were fully restored. The Old Chapel became the regular venue for Shabbat morning services, and in January 2006 the then Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, paid his first visit to Shenley to induct Rabbi Kass.
Rabbi Kass was instrumental in the early development of our community, and was a tower of inspiration. He brought his family to live in Shenley, and was a beacon for the development and growth of Jewish life in the village. His leadership allowed the community to thrive, and his death in 2007 was a great loss. In his memory, SUJC helped to launch the Jewish learning centre, HLX.
In 2008 Rabbi Levy moved to Shenley with his wife and young family. Under his guidance, provision for the growing number of young children in the community was improved, with separate services every Shabbat for three age ranges.
The community was delighted when the Garber family arrived in August 2013 to take on the leadership of our community. Rabbi Garber and his wife Tanya have big plans in store to help the Shenley community grow and flourish. This includes new innovative education programmes, warm and welcoming shul services, local Chesed projects, development of children’s and youth programmes in Shenley and social activities for different age groups within the Shenley community.
The Old Chapel is still the scene for our Shabbat morning services, but what a long way we have come since 2000. In 2018, renovations were completed on one end of the building, and Shenley finally has its own shul. The community has continued to grow, and we have seen many bar and bat mitzvahs, auf rufs and weddings, alongside the services for festivals. Our reputation as a warm, welcoming and friendly community is enhanced by the social events organised, including our legendary Shabbat UK Friday night dinners, quiz nights, Sukkah crawls and communal menorah lighting during Chanukah.