Whilst thousands of historic churches are threatened with redundancy and deterioration, a tiny number of historic synagogues also face a continuing battle to survive.
“England’s historic synagogues express the stability of Jewish life in this country, which we are celebrating this year, the 350th year since the re-establishment of the Jewish community in England [1656-2006]”, says Dr Sharman Kadish, Director of Jewish Heritage UK.
Dr Kadish represented Jewish Heritage UK at Inspired! launch events in London: a reception at the House of Commons hosted by the Rt Hon. Frank Dobson MP and a glittering dinner (kosher food kindly provided) presided over by Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage. Guest of Honour was His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester and, in addition to heritage professionals and church leaders, celebrities from politics, the media and entertainment were present, including composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and journalist Simon Jenkins, author of Britain’s 1000 Best Churches.
The Inspired! campaign literature highlights the case of the former New Synagogue, Egerton Road in London’s Stamford Hill. This synagogue has been restored and given a new lease of life as the Hasidic Bobov Synagogue, thanks to grant-aid under the English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund Joint Repair Grant Scheme for Listed Places of Worship.
The Joint Places of Worship Repair Grant Scheme is set to continue and to be enhanced as part of the Inspired! campaign. Indeed, amongst lucky recipients of new grants announced as part of the package is Higher Crumpsall Synagogue in Salford, Greater Manchester which is to receive a further £151,000. This new grant is in addition to an original grant of £130,000 made in 2004.
Ironically, during the very week of the launch of Inspired!, news broke that the former Clapton Federation Synagogue, situated not very far from Egerton Road, had been stripped bare of its fixtures and fittings, including the attractive Ark. This 1930s synagogue was sold in 2005 to a Jewish charitable trust; apparently the new owners were afraid that it was about to be Listed. DEMOLISHED July 2006.