Single life may be key to Nottingham’s survival

By Simon Rocker, May 15, 2014

The example of Oxford, where Orthodox and non-Orthodox groups share a single building, is being floated as the way ahead for a second regional community.

A proposal for a single Jewish centre to house Nottingham’s Orthodox and Liberal congregations has been aired at meetings in both synagogues over the past week.

For many years, the Oxford Jewish Congregation has offered Orthodox, Masorti and Progressive services, as well as serving as a base for Jewish students in the city.

But the model has not been emulated elsewhere because of divisions between Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

At Nottingham, the idea would be to use funds from the local Jewish housing association to build a community centre, which could also cater for the large number of Jewish students at the two universities there.

The Orthodox and Liberal communities are currently in locations far less accessible to students.

Declining numbers and mounting financial losses have already led the Orthodox Nottingham Hebrew Congregation to discuss a controversial plan to join the London-based United Synagogue.

The US move is strongly opposed by the congregation’s rabbi, Moshe Perez, who has argued that remaining independent is a better option for the community.

A senior US official outlined the benefits of membership at a meeting at the Orthodox synagogue on Sunday, which also considered the community centre option.

Discussion of the US link “did get het up at times,” according to one member who attended the meeting but did not wish to be named.

In favour of the Oxford model himself, he said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity not to be missed. The future is hopeless unless we go for it. If you want to generate interest in Jewish life in Nottingham, you don’t maintain the status quo.”

Trustees of the Orthodox congregation, who have suggested joining the US, say that would not rule out an eventual move to a community centre, adding that it was “not going to happen overnight”.

The Orthodox congregation has around 250 members, the Liberals around 150.

Last updated: 5:45pm, May 15 2014