Idea #7 - Share our synagogues and community centres with other religions

November 24, 2016 22:54

During the month of March, I will be publishing a daily proposal to transform the British Jewish community. Email your own idea (up to 350 words) to

Today's idea comes from Keith Kahn-Harris: Share our synagogues and community centres with other religions

It’s hard to build synagogues in this country. Land on which to build is rarely available, particularly in London, and property prices are extortionate. UK synagogues are often ‘stuck’ in buildings that are inappropriate in some way and some have no building at all.

But what if we collaborated with other religions to build synagogues?

There are already models for Jewish communities that encompass different denominations in the same building – the Oxford and Stockholm communities for example. These communities do not simply share buildings for pragmatic reasons, they actively seek to create a community that is bigger than any one denomination. Sharing a building can produce unity amongst the diversity of Judaism.

My idea then is that the idea of the multi-denominational Jewish community should be extended to create a multi-faith community. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and others should collaborate to build a space that can serve for worship and community activities.

More than this, the building could provide the foundation for a community that encompasses different faiths. Synagogues, churches, mosques and temples are all about much more than prayer, they are about building communities and places to feel ‘at home’ in an insecure world.

Why not build this community out of several different communities?

The multi-faith community would allow different groups to pool resources, a worthwhile exercise particularly in areas where these groups are small. It would improve the often strained relations between religions. It could also be opened up to people of no particular religion and provide a foundation stone for a close-knit local community at a time when relations between neighbours are often weak or non-existent.

There would of course be difficulties in making this kind of community, but the process of working through those difficulties would, if handled appropriately, help to create deeper relationships.

How might different religions collectively mark a particular festival? How might a worship space be designed to serve different religions? How might children be raised in such a community?

Dealing with these questions within the ‘safe’ space of the multi-faith community can provide models for addressing them within wider British society.

Dr Keith Kahn-Harris is Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society, Birkbeck College and convenor of New Jewish Thought

Check out our previous ideas:

6 - Establish a Succah in Trafalgar Square

5 - Create a 'community service' programme for young Jews

4 - Recruit older people to volunteer for the community

3 - Establish a fund for the Jewish arts

2 - Pay membership fees to your community, not your shul

1 - Make 2010/11 the year of synagogue renewal




November 24, 2016 22:54

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