The Floating Synagogue
The Queen Mary, the Cunard ocean liner, was the epitome of 1930s luxury and glamour. And amidst the magnificent Art Deco salons and restaurants, was the world’s first floating synagogue. It was officially known as the ‘Scroll Room’ – perhaps the word ‘synagogue’ was too explicit for the times.
Having a synagogue on board was the suggestion of the Jewish Chronicle (this picture and the story are featured in their archives) who felt that Jewish passengers would need somewhere to pray on the four day voyage from Southampton to New York.
At first, the suggestion was politely rejected by Cunard but the Jewish Chronicle persisted and even offered to raise the funds needed to pay for it from within the Anglo-Jewish community. The architect Cecil Epstein offered his services free of charge and the Chief Rabbi and the Chairman of the Jewish Chronicle’s Board made an official approach to Cunard.
Cunard relented (and funded) the ‘Scroll Room’ – the world’s first floating synagogue.
The Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. She was sailed to Long Beach, California where she is permanently moored and is a tourist attraction, with a hotel, restaurants and a museum.
Before COVID-19, an exhibition was being prepared about Jewish passengers on the Queen Mary.
We love this treasure as a worthy addition to our growing collection of unusual synagogues!
Hidden Treasures: Celebrating the documents, photos and artefacts in British archives that tell the story of Jews in Britain