Rabbi Ilan Halberstadt has been Rav since the spring of 2018 and is passionate about Machzike Hadath and what it can achieve. Rabbi Halberstadt has learned at some of Israel’s finest yeshivas and is popular for his unique delivery style and warm personality. He graduated from University College London with a degree in psychology. Prior to joining Machzike Hadath, Rabbi Halberstadt led the Nefesh Hatorah community in Edgware.
The Rav is supported by his wife, Rebbetzin Ruthie Halberstadt who grew up in Israel, South Africa and England. She studied at Gateshead Teacher’s College and has taught at several seminaries in Jerusalem. She is known for her thought provoking educational women’s programs.
The Chevra Machzike Hadath was founded in 1891 and was made up principally of members of the Machzike Shomrei Shabbat Synagogue in Booth Street, Spitalfields and the North London Beth Hamedrash in Newington Green Road.
The main purpose for which the Chevra was established was to secure an improvement in kashrut. The shechita dispute, which engaged many of the leading gedolim of the age, started in 1891 and raged until 1904. Agreement was finally reached in 1905 between the Board of Shechita, the Machzike Hadath & the Federation of Synagogues. North London Beth Hamedrash did not subscribe to the agreement and several years later in 1909 became the Adath Yisroel Community under Rabbi Dr Victor Schonfeld in Green Lanes.
Membership grew, but not until 1898 did it find a new impressive premises at the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. The Machzike Hadath Synagogue became known also as the Spitalfields Great Synagogue. The synagogue became affiliated to the Federation of Synagogues in 1905, when it had 215 members (Jewish Year Book 1906). In 1915 ut numbered 325 members (Jewish Year Book 1916). A Talmud Torah opening in 1895 at 59 Brick Lane. At one time the Machzike Hadath was responsible for the kashrut of 10 butcher shops and 2 poultry yards. The synagogue was open continuously from day-break to very late at night for tefillos and learning. Even during the darkest periods of both World Wars, there was never a day that the Synagogue was closed. During World War 2, the synagogue miraculously escaped major damage but it was reconsecrated in 1951 after repairs were completed.
The first Rav of the community was Rabbi Avraham Aba Werner (1837-1912). He was succeeded by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook who was Rav from 1916 until he left in 1919 to become Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisroel. The search for a successor took a long time and it was not until 1932 that Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky was appointed. He left to become senior Dayan of the London Beth Din in 1935.
In the late 1920s the Machzike Hadath sponsored the publication of an edition of the Mishna Berura.
As the Jewish population migrated from the East End post-war, the membership declined but it was not until 1975 that the Spitalfields premises were eventually sold. In 1956 a branch of the synagogue had been opened in 215 Golders Green Road in the home of Rabbi Simcha Lopian (1900-71) who was appointed as Rav. With the gradual decline of the attendances in the East End through the 1960s this branch functioned as the Machzike Hadath Synagogue.
When the new building was opened in 1983, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Yehuda Wiesenberg (1910-2000) served as Rabbi of the community. He was succeeded in 1986 by Rabbi Chaim Zundel Pearlman, a great grandson of the famed Kamenitzer Maggid, the first and only maggid of the Federation of Synagogues. The Machzike Hadath became fully affiliated to the Federation of Synagogues in 1999. Rabbi Pearlman retired from his post in the spring of 2018 and was succeeded by Rabbi Ilan Halberstadt.