Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer was among the guests at the groundbreaking ceremony for the London Jewish Cultural Centre's £1 million youth wing, which will offer activities for children and teens in the grounds of Ivy House, Golders Green.
Named in memory of a young teacher who died of cancer, the Catherine Lewis Centre will open in autumn 2012. Ms Lewis's mother, Hannah, said the project was "a wonderful testament. She was a teacher and cared about young people. She would have loved this place and I also think it's something the community really needs. We need to know our children are somewhere safe."
The 2,500 sq ft building will be the home of LJCC Fusion. It will also host activities and workshops of UJIA, the Union of Jewish Students, the JCC for London, London Maccabi and 80 Israeli scouts. The Catherine Lewis Foundation is one of the major funders of the project, along with the Jewish Youth Fund.
Mr Freer joked that "as a former leader of the council I was worried when I saw one of the activities listed was graffiti".
More seriously, his own experience of being targeted at his constituency office by extremist Islamist groups had made him appreciate the importance of community cohesion. He was particularly pleased that the centre would cater for both Jews and non-Jews. It was a positive factor that "the person who is in the youth club with you cares about the same things you do".
LJCC chief executive Louise Jacobs said: "Today is about taking a concept and turning it into bricks and mortar."