Major projects requiring a £2.5 million expenditure were outlined to Belsize Square Synagogue members at the shul’s annual meeting.
An estimated £1.8 million rebuilding plan will open up the ground floor of the original vicarage house bought by the congregation 70 years ago into the adjacent 1950s-built synagogue. The enlarged area and extended gallery will allow the synagogue to house over 600 people for festival services, rather than have to move members out en masse to hired premises.
Appealing for support from the 200-plus attendance at the meeting, new chairman Paul Burger said the scheme would regenerate the congregation and attract new members. “The board has discussed this fully and approved it,” he said. “We need to invest in the future and this is our best opportunity.”
Board member and head of the rebuilding group Jonathan Joseph said the target finishing date was Rosh Hashanah 2010. “We want to use the 70th anniversary year as a deadline,” he explained.
Fellow board member Keith Conway reported on difficult negotiations to purchase land adjacent to the cemetery at Edgwarebury Lane in Barnet to provide up to 70 years of additional burial space.
However, the area includes a 600-year-old bridle path and an undisturbed hedgerow of equal vintage, as well as protected trees. “The ecology issues are complex and the cost is estimated at £770,000,” he said.
Local planning committee meetings over the cemetery proposal will be held in the summer.