Sandys Row is fully restored to its former glory

By Jessica Elgot, January 12, 2012
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An historic east London congregation is looking to the future after extensive synagogue restorations.

Grade II-listed Sandys Row in Spitalfields has spent £400,000 on repairs to its leaky roof, rotting windows and Huguenot plastering.

The Heritage Lottery Fund contributed £250,000 to the restoration project.

Now the synagogue intends to continue to fundraise in order to transform its large basement into a cultural centre or café for the many visitors who take tours of the Jewish East End.

Events for young people were proving 'extremely popular'

Sandys Row board member Jeremy Freedman said the synagogue had hosted its first wedding since the restoration.

The board hoped to continue attracting members from the influx of young people to the area.

Another board member, Jack Gilbert, said that a government about-turn over VAT had been a frustrating part of the building project. "When we signed the contract for the grant, it was on the basis that we could get VAT recovered," he explained.

"But the government changed the law half way through the works. It could mean we recover less money than anticipated."

The independent synagogue dates back to the 19th century. The building was originally constructed as a chapel in 1766 by Dutch immigrants working in the tobacco industry.

Mr Freedman, 24, a sixth-generation member of the congregation, reported that Sandys Row had been holding "extremely popular Friday-night dinners for young people.

"We are open for business," he added. "The synagogue is the most beautiful venue."

    Last updated: 1:07pm, January 12 2012