Welcome to Newcastle Reform Synagogue.
We are a Reform Jewish community of around 170 adults and children offering a range of religious services, adult and children's education, social activities and community support.
Regular weekly Shabbat and Festival Services are held.
Our building and classrooms provide a focus for learning and social occasions within a single buiilding which is large enough to accommodate everyone, even at the busiest times.
Welcome from the Chair
As I reflect on recent times and anticipate the forthcoming year in our welcoming and vibrant community I am aware of how fortunate we remain to have such a dedicated group of followers who work so hard to ensure the smooth running of the Synagogue and life of the community. In recent weeks we were able to celebrate many very special occasions, including a baby blessing and a Barmitzvah. We worked together to make Mitzvah Day a successful social communal activity as well as generating resources and funds for our charities supporting refugees, asylum seekers and the homeless. We enjoyed games, activities and latkes during our Chanukah party and the lighting of the first candle and celebrated Havdalah together and the lighting of the seventh candle as well as demolishing even more doughnuts.
In this coming year of 2023 NRS will celebrate our 60th Anniversary. We are so fortunate to have the continued input of Rabbi Sybil Sheridan and welcome Student Rabbi Helen Altorf. I am delighted that we continue to welcome new members, including young families, friends and visitors. We are indeed a community that continues to thrive. We look forward to a range of religious, social, cultural and learning opportunities, including regular and family services, our ever popular communal meals, Kiddushim, communal Seder, Jewish Book Group, The Art Appreciation Group and Adult Education. Music is continuing to be developed within the community and we look forward to the reestablishment of the choir. The Social Action Group works to support local charities and our Environmental Team continues to develop ways that we can be more environmentally friendly as a community. We are building on our achievement of having received a Silver Award under the Eco-Judaism Scheme.
We can arrange lifts for those who find it difficult to attend and we are happy to visit
members in their homes or have a chat on the phone. We contribute to and support joint
activities with our neighbouring Jewish communities and promote positive attitudes and greater understanding of Judaism through a range of interfaith activities, school visits and talks to a variety of organisations. We aim to communicate successfully with members and the wider world through our Website, NRS News, our fortnightly newsletter and Facebook page. We would welcome the involvement of others and all offers of assistance are gratefully received. My thanks and good wishes go to you all. There is so much for us to celebrate as a community and we look forward to a year of continued success. In a year in which we have seen some sad losses as a community and ongoing strife across the world, it is my hope as ever that 2023 will bring peace and joy to the Jewish community in the North East and the wider world.
The Rabbi's Message
Rabbi Sybil Sheridan
Rabbi Sybil Sheridan first came to Newcastle Reform Synagogue as a student Rabbi in 1980. Since then, she has served a number of congregations, including in Ealing, Reading, Wimbledon and West London Synagogue. Now, at the end of her career, she would like to focus on small communities where she hopes she can make a strong and positive contribution to the lives of its members.
Rabbi Sybil has a deep interest in interfaith matters, being one of the very first Jews to study theology in Cambridge. She has served on the committee of the Bishops’ Conference for Catholic Jewish Relations in the UK and teaches Muslim Jewish Text Study seminars along with Sheikha Halima Krausen. She also has a keen interest in social justice issues in this country and abroad. She is on the advisory committee of Tzelem, the cross communal rabbinic forum for social justice, and a founder of the organisation MEKETA supporting Jews living in Ethiopia.
Rabbi Sybil has contributed to, written and edited a number of books, mostly on Bible, but also on the experience of women Rabbis, ‘Hear our Voice,’ - and on liturgy for women entitled ‘Taking up the Timbrel,’
‘ I am very excited to be coming back to a community I loved as a student. It is lovely to reconnect with old friends, sad to see how many of the once familiar faces have passed away, but delighted to meet as many new and interesting people.’
In 1962, the children of some German Jewish refugees were at the age where they needed to attend Cheder (religious instruction, sometimes called Sunday School). All synagogues in Newcastle and Gateshead were very orthodox and different to the Deutsch Liberale practices to which we were accustomed.
This gap in the religious life of the area could only be filled by a Reform Congregation. Advertisements in the local press called some foundation meetings, which were held in hotels. After a few meetings, about 20 families showed their interest.
We approached the Rabbi and lay leaders of the nearest Reform Synagogue, the Sinai Synagogue in Leeds, with a view to assisting us. They were only too happy to do so and came to Newcastle with some Siddurim (prayer books) members and, on several occasions, with their choir, to advise us regarding the foundation and running of a Reform community and its services.
Leeds lent us a Torah Scroll and some prayer books and we held Services in our homes, school rooms and church halls, learning all the time. In 1963 we bought a Methodist chapel in Derby Street, off Barrack Road, in Newcastle. This was converted into a synagogue, function hall, school rooms and a caretaker's flat. The congregation grew during the next 11 years, until we were served with a Compulsory Purchase Order and had to abandon the building.
We were back to where we started and for 10 years we held regular services as before: in our homes, school halls and church halls. On High Holy Days we used the Newcastle City Council Chamber. We had to transport our Torah scroll, books and a very heavy pedal operated harmonium from place to place every weekend.
Fortunately, several of our members were well versed in our tradition and led Services when we did not have a resident Rabbi. We were able to attract many excellent ministers, as well as senior Rabbinic students over the years.
An annually elected executive and council manage the affairs of the Synagogue, with the help of volunteers from the community. Services are held weekly and on all Jewish Festivals.
In 1982 the construction of the present purpose built Synagogue was completed. It has all the amenities required for its many activities. The dedicated cemetery in North Shields has a prayer house, complete with Tahara facilities.
A number of impressive events were held in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this vibrant congregation.
Late Life President of NRS, George Loble, MBE, JP, and his wife Mrs Eve Loble
To become a Member
If you are thinking of becoming a new member, or are just interested in finding out more about us just click on the page headings above to get a better feel for life here at the NRS.
Once you have read enough on our website, please contact us to arrange a meeting. You will be made very welcome.
Please email us to arrange a visit or attend a service for the first time..
The building has access for wheelchair users. There is an induction loop for the hearing impaired in the synagogue itself.
Conversion Candidate Application
School & Group Visits
Here at NRS we please to have the opportunity to welcome visitors
We host visits Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings: 10.00 am – 12.00 and 1.00- 3.00 pm excepting religious festivals that occur at specific times of the year.
Visits are hosted by members of the community. All bookings are initially provisional until we are able to confirm that a member of the community is available for the date requested
Talks about Judaism and tours of the synagogue usually take about 1 ½ hrs; we cover:
religious practice held in the synagogue and in the Jewish home,
show the Torah scrolls,
demonstrate the use of ritual objects and any other topics specifically requested.
Out of respect for our traditions we ask that on visiting the synagogue , male visitors remove outdoor hats and cover their heads with skull caps which we provide
We do not make a charge for visits but a donation of £20-30 is appreciated to cover costs.
No food or drink is allowed to be brought into the synagogue as we observe Jewish dietary laws; we cannot provide refreshments
Photographs are allowed inside the synagogue but for security reasons we do not give permission for the outside of the building to be photographed
To make a booking please email us with
the name of the school / organisation
the name of the lead teacher / organiser of the visit ,
the proposed date and time of the visit
the number and (where appropriate) ages of the children
We will then contact you to discuss your requirements and confirm details.
We look forward to welcoming you
The cycle of festivals, including Shabbat, mark the Jewish year.
We hold services most Shabbat evenings and mornings, and for all major festivals and the High Holydays. We livestresm most services and hold regular services on zoom (please see your newsletter or ask for details)
Our Erev Shabbat (Friday evening) services begin at 8pm except on the last Friday of each month when we start at 6.45pm, usually follwed by a Shabbat meal.
Shabbat morning (Saturday) services begin at 10.30am, and include carrying the Torah scroll in procession around the synagogue and reading the weekly parasha (portion) from it, the first shabbat of each month is our Family Service beginning at 11am, with a service designed to be child friendly and welcoming to all generations.
Marking Life Cycle Events at the NRS
NRS offers all the life stage ceremonies of Judaism
Brit Milot/ Baby Blessings
We help to organise Brit Milot (for boys) and Baby Blessing/Naming ceremonies for both boys and girls.
B'nei Mitzvot - Bar and Bat Mitzvah
We arrange an intensive study period, supervised by the Rabbi, for all young boys and girls approaching 13. The young person then takes responsibility for parts of a Shabbat morning service, as well as reading in Hebrew from the Torah scroll.
Jewish weddings take place under a chuppah (wedding canopy) in our synagogue, and we can arrange both the legal and Jewish aspects.
Our community has its own female and male Chevra Kaddisha. We have our own Cemetery and Prayer House at Preston Cemetery, North Shields. Burial is offered for members of NRS, many of whom belong to our Burial Scheme. Arrangements can be made at the time for others.