Historic Scottish shul acts in self-preservation

By Cathy Forman, November 16, 2012

Garnethill Hebrew Congregation has “gifted” ownership of its historic Glasgow city centre building to the Garnethill Synagogue Preservation Trust to save members from having to foot a £50,000 repair bill.

Built in 1879, the Scottish Grade A-listed “cathedral” synagogue was damaged by storms in January.
Synagogue co-chair Bernard Goodman said the trust had been established because “we did not want to take funds from the congregation for the work. The building has been passed over to the trust, leaving members to concentrate on the religious running of the synagogue.”

Long-time member Laurence Polli said the storms caused “a fair bit of damage to the stonework and roof slates and a large window above the aron chodesh [ark]”.

Although the roof has been fixed, the internal paintwork is flaking and the stonework has become porous.
Members unanimously supported the trust’s creation at an EGM and specialist heritage architects have been commissioned to assess the damage and to “give us a five-year plan”. Lottery funding is also being sought.
Mr Polli stressed that the shul was “carrying on as before. But the building has to be checked out to see how we can preserve its heritage”.

The 550-capacity synagogue has 200 members, having gained 30 since the closure in July of Glasgow’s Netherlee, Clarkston and Queens Park Synagogue. More membership inquiries have been received since the High Holy-Days.
Following the departure of Rev Aharon Soudry two years ago to Newton Mearns Hebrew Congregation — which is currently in merger talks with Giffnock and Newlands Synagogue — services have been conducted by lay leaders.

Garnethill’s building is also home to the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, which pays rent to the synagogue.

In 2011, Garnethill was named as one of the 10 finest British synagogues by Jewish Heritage UK as part of a “Jewish route” across Europe.

Last updated: 12:54pm, November 16 2012