A body composed of sixteen synagogues in London, England, constituted in 1870 by Act of Parliament (33 and 34 Victoria, cap. 116). Originally the "city" synagogues, as the Jewish places of worship within the borders of the city of London were called, were independent of one another, and each one had its own chief rabbi and charity organization. This led to considerable duplication of charity. In 1802 Solomon Herschell was appointed chief rabbi of the Great and Hambro' synagogues; and shortly after his accession to office he induced the three German congregations to come to an agreement for charitable purposes. This agreement continued in force until the year 1834, when a new compact was made and the scope of action was enlarged. The Great Synagogue agreed to contribute one-half, and the Hambro' and New synagogues one-quarter each, toward general and communal expenditure, both charitable and religious.
The migration of Jews westward, however, made the continued force of this agreement impracticable; and the late Chief Rabbi N. M. Adler suggested an amalgamation of the three synagogues and the Central and Bayswater synagogues in the western part of London. The project was taken up by Lionel L. Cohen, who energetically championed it; and a union was agreed to April 19, 1868. The consolidation was further strengthened and legalized by the passing of an "Act for Confirming a Scheme for the Charity Commissioners for the Jewish United Synagogues," which received the royal assent July 14, 1870. The Borough Synagogue, in the south of London, entered the union in 1873; and the North London Synagogue in 1878. The other nine synagogues have been built under the auspices of the United Synagogue. The first secretary of the United Synagogue was Dr. A. Asher. Subsequently another act was passed for the definition of the rights of the chief rabbi and the bet din and of the powers of the chief rabbi.
Each constituent synagogue controls its own surplus (if any), and pays 40 per cent of its income from seat rentals for communal purposes. In 1904 a scheme providing for "Associate Synagogues" was adopted, whereby synagogues in poorer neighborhoods might enter the union without assuming all the burdens of the fully constituent synagogues. The first synagogue to enter on such terms was the South-East London Synagogue.
The United Synagogue is governed by a council constituted of: (a) life-members and certain officials; (b) the wardens of the constituent synagogues for the time being; (c) a certain number of representatives according to the number of members of the constituent synagogues, one in each case being the financial representative who acts as treasurer. The total number of members of the council is 150. Lord Rothschild is (1905) the president.