Leicester starts the sales to secure a viable future

By Cathy Forman and Sue Jacobs, October 11, 2011
The Grade II-listed synagogue

The Grade II-listed synagogue

Leicester Hebrew Congregation's city centre synagogue and communal hall are up for sale.

The Grade II-listed two-storey Highfield Street building, which dates back to 1898, was put on the market by the dwindling congregation after difficulties in paying for its upkeep. The communal hall, built in 1950, is a much larger two-storey building opposite which houses a kitchen, classrooms, and a large space for celebrations and sports.

It is also used by Maccabi and the Shalom club for the elderly. The total asking price is nearly £1 million.

If there are takers for the properties, the rabbi's house in nearby Stanley Road will be put up for sale for £350,000.

The idea is to find a large property in the suburbs of Stoneygate or Oadby, where most Leicester Jews live, for conversion into a shul, community centre and rabbi's flat. Proceeds from the sale of the rabbi's house would assure the community's financial security.

"It's sad to part with the synagogue," said Rabbi Shmuli Pink, who has served the congregation for 10 years. "But it's the people who make the community, not the building. The reason for the sale is the changing demographic. Young Jews are gravitating towards places like London and Manchester and there aren't enough new members coming in to fill the deficit."

Synagogue management committee member Sandra Cohen added: "We need to be able to buy a building which can be used for worship and communal activities and have enough money over for the upkeep of the synagogue and the community."

At its peak, the local Jewish population numbered more than 1,000 after many refugees and evacuees came to the area during the war. The Orthodox shul now has just 87 members, most of them elderly. There is also a Progressive congregation in Stoneygate.

Last updated: 12:09pm, October 11 2011