Share deal will pay dividends for four shuls

By Jay Grenby, May 10, 2012

A "trail-blazing" initiative will see the merger of neighbouring Harrow Reform congregations and the sharing of premises and other resources with the local Liberal and Masorti communities.

The chairmen of the Middlesex New and Kol Chai Reform synagogues, Harrow and Wembley Progressive and Hatch End Masorti have signed an accord, backed by their congregations, ministers and movements. The four synagogues have already set up 10 cross-communal workshops, operating under the guidance of a joint steering group, to oversee detailed plans.

Middlesex New currently shares its Bessborough Road site with Harrow and Wembley Progressive. The idea is that both this building and Kol Chai's Uxbridge Road synagogue will be sold to finance new joint premises. Hatch End Masorti does not have its own building.

Project leaders have drawn up a shortlist of sites of suitable size to enable three congregations to pray simultaneously - as well as offering spaces for combined social, cultural and educational activities. The merged Reform congregation would number 900 families and there would be 400 further families from the Masorti and Liberal communities.

Plans are afoot for a joint religion school to open in September. And to foster good relations, social events organised by each of the communities over the coming year will be rebranded to encourage members from the other synagogues to participate. Programmes targeting young families and those in the 18-35 age group are also being developed.

Middlesex New chair Harry Grant said: "We believe we are the first group of synagogues in the UK to be doing anything remotely like this, but it is definitely the way forward. Synagogues should be working more closely together.

"Not only will this initiative benefit our existing members through the pooling of resources. The resulting buzz will provide the rush of adrenalin that will help us attract the substantial number of Jews living locally who are so far not affiliated to any shul."

A year ago, Harrow and Wembley Progressive sold its Preston Road premises for £2 million and moved in with Middlesex New after deciding that it could no longer go it alone in terms of a building.

Once all the working groups have reported back, formal approval of the project will be sought from members at the end of the year.

Last updated: 8:13pm, May 10 2012