The Jews came to England in 1657 at the time of Oliver Cromwell.
They arrived in the guise of Spanish Catholics, fleeing persecution as Jews in Spain only to suffer harassment on these shores as Spanish Catholics from a country engaged in a war with Spain.
In actual fact neither Spanish nor Catholic, they decided to try to get permission to live here as Jews.
The Jewish community enlisted Menasseh Ben Israel, the famous Rabbi from Amsterdam, to plead its case with Oliver Cromwell. Although no official permission was given, the Jews were allowed to remain here and they opened a place of worship in Creechurch Lane, near Bevis Marks. In 1664 the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation opened its first school, Shaare Tikvah - Gates of Hope. They built the historic Bevis Marks Synagogue in 1701.
Bevis Marks Synagogue still opens on Shabbat for worship, but the main activities of the Spanish and Portuguese (Sephardi) community of Great Britain are centred around the Lauderdale Road Synagogue which was built in 1896 in Maida Vale; at the time a predominantly Jewish district. The Synagogue is also home to the Sephardi Centre and the Montefiore Rabbinical College.
In 1983 Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy OBE, Spiritual Head of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, founded the Naima Jewish Preparatory School, the first Sephardi school to be opened in England in 100 years. Opened a few streets away from the Lauderdale Road Synagogue, its establishment was enabled by the generosity and vision of a small number of Sephardi benefactors.
This event, along with the arrival to the area of young families, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, has mirrored in Maida Vale the general renaissance of Jewish activity in Anglo Jewry.
In 1998 a major rebuilding programme was undertaken in order to increase teaching space and develop the facilities at Naima JPS. A new assembly hall, Synagogue, mikveh and school library were built onto the main site, as well as music rooms, a state of the art Information Communication Technology suite, sports hall, dining room, art/science room, additional classrooms and a redesigned playground.
The school follows the ethos established during the Golden Age of the Jews in Spain, a time of tolerance during which they managed to synthesise their religious beliefs with secular culture. While established by the Sephardi community, the school caters to the educational, spiritual, and cultural needs of both Sephardi and Ashkenazi children, and both parts of the community are well represented on its roll and its team of teaching staff.