Saving our heritage

May 17, 2012

The 250th anniversary of Plymouth Synagogue is a remarkable event that should make all of Anglo-Jewry proud. But while we celebrate, it also highlights one of the more troubling aspects of communal life in the twenty-first century.

Increasingly, smaller communities are finding it hard - impossible in many places - to sustain the full panoply of Jewish existence. Plymouth has barely 100 members. It is immensely to their credit that they manage to keep the shul open and still have a vibrant Jewish life. But elsewhere, the economics of running communities with shrinking numbers can be overwhelming. Leicester, for instance, which has seen its younger members leave for London and Manchester, has had to put its synagogue up for sale. Others must contemplate the same. And yet far from being dormant, these are usually vibrant communities. Often their size means they pull even closer together.

At the service last weekend, Plymouth trustee Adam Jacobson issued a plea:
"If only a fraction of the funding that goes into communities in London came out across the country it would be enormously beneficial." It is up to us: if we want our shuls - our history and heritage - to disappear, then so be it. But if we think it worth preserving, we need to take heed of Mr Jacobson and do something about it before it is too late.

Last updated: 11:53am, May 17 2012