GRS is the only Reform synagogue in Scotland and is one of the oldest continuous congregations in the local Jewish community.
Originally named the Glasgow Progressive Synagogue, this was later changed to the Glasgow New Synagogue. The current name was adopted in 2014.
The synagogue was founded in 1933 by Samuel Ginsburg, a Glasgow printer who decided to set up his own synagogue following an argument about the cost of his son’s Bar Mitzvah. By 1934 Mr Ginsberg’s Reform congregants were meeting in various halls and homes for services and the movement’s first synagogue established at 39 Queen Square, Strathbungo in 1936.
Rabbi Joseph Levine became the first minister at the synagogue, when it was was consecrated. Rabbi Levine was succeeded in 1937 by Rabbi Halevi Barron, who stayed until 1939 – but before he left, the congregation moved to a fine stone-built, double-fronted mansion on Albert Road, Crosshill.
The Rev S. Mendoza came from London to act as rabbi during the early war years when women members were also beginning to play an ever more active role in synagogue. Rabbi C. E. Cassell was the minister of the synagogue, first as a visiting rabbi in 1943, and then as full-time resident minister in 1945.
By 1947, services were held in Langside halls because due to the poor state of the Albert Road building and a lack of funds. In 1950, the Glasgow New Synagogue opened its doors at 306 Albert Drive, Pollokshields (see photos) and the congregation began to grow. However, by 1964 the building was in need of structural repairs; it was decided that it was time to look for another building and the premises at Ayr Road–a listed, former municipal building–was purchased. The congregation took possession on July 3, 1968. In 2002 the building was fully refurbished.
Rabbi Nigel Atkins served the GRS community from 1961 until 1967, then—following a period in Israel—returned to GRS as Rabbi Hillel Avidan from 1970 until June 1974.
Rabbi Sion David led the congregation between 1967 and 1970 following his ordination from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati Ohio.
Rabbi Simon Franses was rabbi at GRS between 1974 and 1987, followed by a period where we were supported by several student rabbis. In September 1990 Rabbi David Kunin joined us, remaining until 1995, when Rabbi Pete Tobias arrived and was in post until 2003.
Rabbi Nancy Morris, the first female rabbi in Scotland, was our rabbi between 2003 and 2011 and Rabbi Kate Briggs served the community during the the period 2014 to 2016.
This short of history of Glasgow Reform Synagogue is based on the very considerable research of Miriam ‘Mamie’ Shenkin and Lilah Newman.