From pub to shtiebl in Elstree
Along for the ride: Mendel Tajtelbaum has high hopes for the shtiebl
A former Elstree pub is to be converted into the area's first shtiebl, complementing an already extensive choice of minyanim.
Communal philanthropist Mendel Tajtelbaum is behind the £1.5 million project, which he believes will justify his belief that "Elstree will soon become the new Edgware".
He is known to the more Orthodox elements of the local community because of the sponsorship of the Elstree and Borehamwood eruv by the Tajtelbaum Charitable Trust, established by his late father, Reb Yitzchok Dovid Tajtelbaum.
Describing himself as a "very open-minded and modern Gerer Chasid", Mr Tajtelbaum lives with his wife and six children in the heart of the Golders Green Charedi community.
He has long cherished the idea of moving to a more rural environment, and has spent two years searching for a home for his family and another for the shtiebl.
Having found the latter on the site of the historic Artichoke pub in Elstree Hill North, he has received planning permission to start reconstruction work immediately after the festivals and anticipates holding the first services there by spring.
The ground floor will be gutted and a prayer hall built which will feature an eastern wall made almost entirely of glass, allowing worshippers to face the Ark and look out over the green fields beyond it. "It will be a very relaxing place in which to daven," he said.
A core of 15 families disposed towards a more Chasidic style of prayer have indicated their intention to join the new minyan, which may hold services in a marquee or other temporary premises before its permanent home is ready.
But Mr Tajtelbaum's principal motive in establishing the shtiebl is "to get people from the Chasidishe world and the more secular world together".
He is already involved in outreach work among the non-Orthodox, travelling regularly to Eton College to teach Jewish pupils.
A keen horseman, another potential project is starting a local riding school providing therapeutic activities for disabled Jewish children.