Synagogues and Jewish Cemeteries At Risk
Jewish Heritage's Sites At Risk List began life in response to the initial findings from fieldwork for the original Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage in the UK & Ireland (1996-2001). Synagogues and Jewish cemeteries deemed At Risk were named on the Sites At Risk pages of the original Survey website, launched back in 1999. Sites are eligible for the At Risk List on account of the poor condition of their fabric, or the low level of usage: in the case of historic synagogues the prospect of or actual redundancy; of extreme neglect and abandonment in the case of cemeteries.
Over the years there have been some success stories, where sites have been removed from the At Risk List through restoration and regeneration efforts. Unfortunately, other sites languish on the list for years, whilst a number have been demolished and thus are lost forever to the architectural heritage of Anglo-Jewry.
Jewish Heritage continually monitors the condition of sites all over the country: some 350 sites were visited for the original Survey, from London to Inverness in Scotland; to Southampton and St. Helier in Jersey in the South; to Swansea and Penzance in Wales and the West Country; to Grimsby and Great Yarmouth on the East coast. Thirty-seven Listed and historic synagogues were revisited in 2009 for the Synagogues At Risk report commissioned and published by English Heritage in 2010. Using the overall criteria of 'Condition' and 'Usage' as measurements of Risk, this report found that the condition of one-third of Listed synagogues gave cause for concern. The buildings identified as At Risk were potentially eligible for assistance under the English Heritage/Heritage Lottery Fund Repair Grant Scheme for Listed Places of Worship.
Following this Survey several more synagogues were added to the national Heritage At Risk (HAR) Register (formerly known as the Listed Buildings At Risk Register) maintained by English Heritage, bringing the current total to five. Back in 1999, the Victorian 'cathedral synagogues' were the category of Jewish buildings deemed most At Risk. Thanks to a combination of efforts to upgrade their Listed status and public grant aid, concern for these buildings has largely been superseded by the threat to early 20th century synagogues. Three of the 20th century synagogues currently on the HAR Register are located in the North West of England.
Jewish Heritage now plans to institute a Quinquennial Inspection of Listed synagogues, modelled on the system practised by the Church of England. One of our Consultant Architects is next due to visit each Listed synagogue during 2014.
In the meantime, please alert us if you know of any synagogue or cemetery that is not on the Jewish Heritage At Risk List that you feel would be a candidate for it. In addition, we are now carrying out 'emergency recording' of synagogues dating from after the Second World War (1945+) that are either closing down or being radically redeveloped. Whilst not of sufficient age to be deemed 'historic' buildings, images and documentation of contemporary synagogues are being added to the Survey Database that will eventually be deposited at the National Monuments Record for posterity.