Guildford High Street today
 
Modern History
Jews come back to Surrey and North East Hampshire...
 
Jews returned to England in the 1660s. Cromwell decided that the 13th Century expulsion did not prevent Jews from coming back again. It is possible that Jews came to Guildford as they did to other market towns in the nineteenth century. According to the Surrey Archaeological Society, it was sometime during this period Guildford decided to wash out the last anti-Judaic mural from St Mary’s Church, though this was due to a dose of iconoclasm rather than liberal tendencies.
 
By the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century Jews had returned to Surrey and North East Hampshire. It seems that the biggest local community in this area in the late nineteenth century was the Aldershot Synagogue which seems to have catered for Jews in the army. All that remains today is a cemetery though there are links between Guildford Jewish Community with members of the community being lecturers and cadets at Sandhurst Military Academy.  In the early twentieth century there were communities in Guildford, Woking and Dorking.
 
War changes everything...
 
The Second World War transformed the Guildford Jewish Community. Guildford became the dominant community in West Surrey with an influx of both evacuees from London and refugees from Europe. During the war Guildford had a minister, Rev Clayman, who wrote about his Guildford Experience in his memoirs. After the war some other refugees who survived the Nazi Concentration camps arrived.
 
The community did not change that much during the 1950s and 1960s but did age. Meanwhile the communities in Aldershot, Woking and Dorking (except for a Jewish Blind Home) had disappeared.
 
The new community: University academics, engineers, professionals and commuters…
 
A number of factors resulted in new Jews coming to the town. Certainly, the establishment of the University of Surrey and its move to Guildford helped to attract Jews to the town and in the 1970s there was a Kosher Flat on campus. Another factor was Guildford’s status as a growing commuter town and regional centre. This resulted in academics, scientists/engineers (located at a number of institutions) and professionals flowing into the community.  The writer Chaim Bermant had alternative theory that the community was made up of people who failed to escape Guildford’s one way system!
 
1979—a permanent synagogue at last…
 
The new community and older wartime arrivals merged into a modern orthodox Jewish community. In 1979, having borrowed halls for years, land was bought and the community modified the building on the site to build its own synagogue… literally … it became a weekend DIY project. Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits Z’’L opened / consecrated the synagogue.
 
1990s… early 21st Century…
 
In the 1990s an archaeological dig in the High St led to the discovery of a Medieval synagogue. The community is growing again with an influx of new arrivals. On the synagogue’s 25th anniversary in 2004 Guildford hosted the Board of Deputies Plenary for the first time in history. The University has a Chaplaincy and Community members are elected to Guildford Borough and Woking Borough Councils… So what’s next… Plans are there to ensure a community for another 700 years...
 
 
Guildford