Bucking the trend with growth - now we need a home


Some shuls maintain cavernous premises for a dwindling membership. South Bucks Jewish Community has the opposite problem - a young and growing congregation but the financial and practical difficulties of finding a permanent home.

The congregation currently convenes weekly in the Quaker meeting house in Amersham, switching to a roomier village hall for the High Holy-Days.

However, as congregant Toby Friedner reflected, "a building of our own would take us to the next level".

Rabbi Charley Baginsky - who dovetails her part-time ministership with a number of senior roles within Progressive Judaism - said a permanent home would enable South Bucks to "offer a Jewish life to so many more people. We can grow, develop and thrive together."

The community was established in 1990 as a benign breakaway from Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue. It started out with 40 people and now numbers more than 230, including 80 children, from South Bucks and West Herts. There is a thriving cheder.

"In the last couple of years it's gone up hugely," says Amanda McFeeters, the synagogue chair. "More and more people are moving out of north London, a lot of young families." Rabbi Baginsky cited cheaper housing as a factor.

In addition, for those working in central London, Amersham is a Metropolitan line terminus.

Mr Friedner said the commitment of members - "whenever we have a community event, people throw themselves into it" - will be crucial to the fundraising drive for a synagogue building.

Although there is no formal target, he estimated that £500,000 would be the bare minimum - and around £150,000 has been brought in through donations and events. "We're going to have to work really hard in the next few years."

The next fundraiser is a kosher comedy night in Rickmansworth in September with a bill including Sol Bernstein and Mark Maier. Mr Friedner hopes for a turnout of at least 400.

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