Masorti's £7m home comforts

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2011
The ark and stained glass windows

The ark and stained glass windows

The opening of London's newest synagogue building was celebrated in a musical ceremony on Sunday by hundreds of its members and their guests.

When the New North London Synagogue first talked of new premises 15 years ago, congregants were told they faced the prospect of having to raise £1 million.

But ultimately, the Masorti congregation's first purpose-built home cost seven times that figure - of which it has raised £6.2 million to date.

Over that period, the community has doubled to nearly 1,800 adults plus almost 1,000 under the age of 21.

"We want this place to be full of music, full of children, full of Torah and full of lovingkindness," its rabbi, Jonathan Wittenberg, declared.

The main sanctuary - composed of olive wood and metallic-coloured lacquered wood and looking out on the grounds of the Sternberg Centre - provides an airier and brighter place of worship than the former convent in which the congregation was previously housed.

Its imposing ark is flanked by panels of stained glass windows, created by Roman Halter and his daughter Aviva, which feature the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, signifying the Ten Commandments, and images of birds, representing nature - the two languages in which God speaks, Rabbi Wittenberg explained.

The building also incorporates rooms for the two egalitarian minyans which also meet on Shabbat as well as a youth room and the Gan Alon kindergarten.

Its foundation stone bears the motto "olam chesed yiboneh" - "the world is founded on lovingkindness" - chosen by members in an online poll.

"In an age of Facebook and Twitter and Google and emails, nothing but nothing can replace the warmth of the true community where people are together," Rabbi Wittenberg said.

Last updated: 3:23pm, May 19 2011