Share dealers reap rewards
In a ground-breaking home-share, Harrow and Wembley Progressive Synagogue will be moving into the nearby Middlesex New Reform premises in Bessborough Road.
Both communities are delighted with the arrangement, which will see the Harrow community becoming tenants of Middlesex New, one of the largest synagogues in the Reform movement. The congregations will retain their separate identities.
The initial contract is for a minimum two-year period with an option to renew, with the costs of the building being shared.
Harrow and Wembley has sold the Preston Road premises it has occupied for 60 years for use as a church. Its final service at Preston Road will be held in mid-June and the Progressive congregation will ceremonially consecrate its new sanctuary upstairs at MNS the following day.
"The move has been made out of necessity," explained Harrow and Wembley chair Adrian Cohen, whose board has been has been seeking a way to stop the community "withering on the vine".
With 70 per cent of the 450 members aged 65 and above, the synagogue - once at the heart of a thriving Jewish population - is now in decline.
Talks about a possible merger with Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue two years ago came to nothing. "The shared premises arrangement with MNS is the best possible outcome for us," Mr Cohen said, "and one which will allow us to grow, both spiritually and socially".
The communities' religion schools have already been successfully merged with Reform and Liberal pupils taught side-by-side and Harrow's Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith and MNS's Rabbi Kathleen de Magtige-Middleton co-operating closely on the curriculum. Further joint religious and social activities are being planned.
"To be in one building and doing the same thing, as it were, differently, can only add to our mutual respect and understanding," Rabbi de Magtige-Middleton observed.
Excited about the future, Mr Cohen spoke of the chance to create "a new template for Progressive Judaism in England - a community centre where there is a choice of services and affiliation, as well as shared activities."