Bridge Lane Beth Hamedrash grew out of the Minyan started in 1948 by Rabbi Ehrentreu ZT"L in the lounge of his house at 85 Bridge Lane, which he put at the entire disposal of the Minyan. During the next 25 years the Minyan grew and even although it was extended into the garden by means of a patio and conservatory, this proved inadequate for the growing number of families that sought to daven there.
The Yeshiva Etz Chaim left Whitechapel and bought 83 Bridge Lane. It made overtures to Rabbi Ehrentreu and purchased 85 from him, leaving the Minyan at the mercy of the Yeshiva. By this time the Minyan had extended into the entrance hall and even up the stairs; the situation was desperate. At this stage Mrs Frankel came to the rescue. She began leaving home mysteriously early on Sunday mornings. All she would say was that it was on an important mission.
Apparently she decided to visit each of the three churches housed in Bridge Lane, at the peak times of their services. At the Crusaders Chapel there was a fair attendance; similarly at the Bridge Lane Chapel. However, at the third, the Ebenezer Baptist Chapel – to use her words, “my heart was uplifted! The congregation consisted of four old ladies and a minister!”. Rev. Green, seeing her as prospective member, greeted her warmly and she listened respectfully to his words of wisdom. At the end of the service, she told him she had been assigned to research the degree of religious attendance in the vicinity. She also told him that her research had revealed that there was a thriving and enthusiastic congregation in the same road, which was bursting at the seams and desperate for an adequate house of prayer. She secured a promise from him that if he were ever to close down, she would have first refusal and they exchanged references to create goodwill.
Throughout 1975 they were in frequent communication until on one visit Rev. Green confided in her that he had received an enquiry from a commercial concern for the premises and that his trustees were interested. With what can only be described as Divine inspiration, Mrs Frankel replied “Surely, Mr. Green, would you not feel happier for this holy place to remain a house of worship?”. He was so taken by her sincerity that he allowed her to negotiate a price there and then, subject to the approval of her trustees. A secret meeting attended by Morty Rabin, Eric Graus, Gerald Yarrow, Malcolm Wulwick, Norman Lopian and Jack Kramar was held at the Frankel’s home when Mrs Frankel revealed her efforts on behalf of the Minyan. Such was the delight felt by everyone that the deposit was there and then laid on the table for the purchase to go ahead.
A deal was done and the premises were acquired for £17,000 and on Rosh Chodesh Nissan 1976 the congregation moved in. The first Gabboim were Norman Lopian Z"L and Lou Edel Z"L. By coincidence, they had both been Gabboim at the Minyan in Willesden presided over by Rabbi Finkelstein ZT"L.
The first Rabbi was Yechiel Gallas ZT"L, a local optician, who, although never officially inducted into office as Rabbi, gave regular Shiurim, spoke on many occasions and was looked to by the members for advice. Mr Shaiky Bakst, a local dentist, gave a weekly Gemorah Shiur on Shabbos afternoon. He was also a Mohel and on many occasions would walk to and from Stamford Hill and other areas in order to perform a Bris and be back in time for the Shiur.
In 1979 Rabbi Gallas announced his intention to make Aliyah and a committee was formed to find a Rov for the Kehilloh. Candidates were to address the Kehilloh and give Shiurim, and after due deliberation an invitation was extended to Rabbi Shimon Winegarten to accept the position.
During the last twenty-five years, under his dynamic leadership, the Beth Hamedrash has gone from strength to strength and is now a vibrant part of North West London. For a long time it was the only Shul in Bridge Lane, but now B"H there are regular Minyanim at Rabbi Chaim Halpern’s, the Yeshiva at 85 and Ger.
Our Beth Hamedrash is a hub of Torah learning and its many activities include:- Daf Yomi, now on its fourth cycle which is given by the Rov twice a day; a shiur for ladies given by the Rov every Monday evening, attended not only by our own ladies but also by many others from the area, and a well-attended and thriving Avos and Bonim session which meets every Motzei Sabbos. At one time a Cheder met every Sunday morning until it outgrew our premises and a group of young men, who for a variety of reasons had never had the opportunity to learn, met every morning in the Beth Hamedrash.
The Kehilloh has been well served by various Gabboim over the years. When Lou Edel Z"L went to live in Eretz Yisroel, he was replaced by Zisha Fluss kwwz a man steeped in the traditions of Orthodox Judaism and who knew Nusach to the nth degree ensuring that it was followed on all occasions. When he retired, Sidney Faber took over the reins after which, Mr. Lopian Z"L and I replaced him serving in office together for nearly 10 years. When Mr Lopian stood down, the Gabbous was held by, Leo Noé, Sonny Bauernfruend and subsequently Johnny Wachsmann.