Elstree project captures Herts and minds

By Jay Grenby, April 28, 2011

Multi-million pound development plans have been announced for Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue with the intention of making it "a community centre for the whole of south Herts".

Congregants have been told that after years of debate, research and consultation, two working parties will take the project forward.

The scheme will see the demolition of the scattered buildings which have accumulated on the site over the years. The exception will be the "new" shul itself, which was opened in 1986.

In their stead, a single two-storey building will be erected, which will increase floor space by around 70 per cent and incorporate large, interconnected halls, an extensive lobby area, a permanent succah, office accommodation and meeting rooms for the community's social and educational activities. There will also be space for a community mikveh and nursery.

All areas will be "hard-wearing, low maintenance, bright and inviting".

Borehamwood chair Anthony Arnold said redevelopment was imperative. "No one who has visited our shul premises over the past few years can have failed to notice the condition of our buildings and inadequacy of the facilities. They are unwelcoming, uninspiring, poorly set out and crumbling - hardly a reflection of a US flagship community."

They were expensive to repair and maintain and space was at a premium as membership continued to grow. "We don't even have enough rooms on a Shabbat, let alone festivals, to accommodate all the services we would like to offer," Mr Arnold pointed out. The community currently totals 2,200 members, with the most children at a US congregation.

Mr Arnold added that the project was "a serious attempt to offer our members a real opportunity to build a shul that will benefit the community long-term. Our research has shown that enough of our members are potentially interested in it to make a real difference."

Initial costs of researching the project were met through the community's Kol Nidre appeal in 2009. Now one working party will consider how to fund the project, another - comprising property experts from among the membership - will deal with logistical matters.

"This project is obviously too big for us to be able to fund it ourselves and we shall be approaching numerous funding sources, including the US, so that any call on members is minimised," Mr Arnold added.

"Of course, we may have to modify our plans according to the amount of money we think we may be able to raise."

Last updated: 3:31pm, April 28 2011