Shabbat services are back at East End shul

By Isabel Janner, May 7, 2009

Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue in London’s East End has held its first Shabbat service in 18 months as it fights for its future.

The 110-year-old shul has been under threat of closure because of the dwindling local Jewish population.

But president Raymond Singer was heartened by the attendance of 20 men and eight women at the weekend service.

“There are four other shuls in the East End, all fighting for a congregation, and it is survival of the fittest,” Mr Singer said.

The survival plan includes developing relations with the wider East End community by opening its doors to schoolchildren from different faiths. Police recruits have also visited the premises.

The shul is additionally planning to transform a redundant function room into a museum dedicated to the history of East End Jewry.

Mr Singer added that the importance of family ties to the area should not be underestimated. “I don’t live in the East End, but I still feel strongly about this shul because my great-grandfather, grandfather and father all played a big part in the running of it.”

And although an Orthodox shul, he was pragmatic about congregants travelling to services by car or by public transport, given the distance from their homes.

“We don’t see cars inside a synagogue, only people. How they get there is their choice.”

The intention is to hold monthly services but to increase the frequency if the demand justifies.

Last updated: 3:41pm, July 16 2009