West End synagogues recognise the benefits of collaborative projects

By Sandy Rashty, March 31, 2014

Three West End Orthodox synagogues have joined forces to plan collaborative events and forge social ties between members.

Representatives from the Western Marble Arch, Central and New West End congregations met this month to "begin to work on many social events", said Beverly Miller, a Western Marble Arch executive board member.

"I thought it was ridiculous to be in competition with our neighbours.There's a natural synergy between us. All three synagogues have agreed that we should continue to work together in the future for the good of the Jewish community in central London." The congregations, which are in walking distance of one another, have already held a "spectacular" joint Purim party.

And Mrs Miller did not rule out the possibility of longer-term merger moves. "The door is always open for discussion," she said.

Central and New West End representatives preferred to focus on the social side. The New West End's Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler said the Purim event had been "a brilliant idea. In communal life, you need to find the right people at the right time to do things.

"Shuls can be very isolationist, anxious to keep their own patch and maintain their own shul.

"But this event had a very positive effect - to get so many British Jews together when there are not so many Jews in the West End."

Central chazan Steven Leas agreed that "anything we can do to get more modern Orthodox Jews together in the West End is a good thing".

Such initiatives could also increase synagogue membership and attendance. "It's part of the idea that shul is not just somewhere to go on Friday night. There are also activities such as concerts going on. It's a chance to see friends."

Last updated: 4:20pm, March 31 2014