Leeds' Orthodox synagogues to come under just one roof

Etz Chaim and Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogues have been in talks to create a new shul


Leaders of the two major synagogues in Leeds have announced that both communities would move into the Etz Chaim Synagogue building should a proposed merger go ahead.

Congregants would move out of Beth Hamidrash Hagadol on Street Lane in Leeds and into an adapted Etz Chaim building on Harrogate Road.

In a letter to congregants, Martin Port, president of Beth Hamidrash Hagadol, Paul Gross, president of Etz Chaim, and the merger committee wrote that their plans included “substantially modernising the existing shul ie not demolishing it, along with increasing the flexibility of the space outside the synagogue area in order to produce an inviting environment”.

Talks for the merger began before the pandemic, but in December last year, it was announced that discussions had fallen through. However, merger talks were revived earlier this year.

The letter also touched on plans to change synagogue services, stating:

“There are some areas where we are bringing together two different sets of practices and good progress has been made in reaching a halachically acceptable agreement that is in the context of the 21st century.”

While the majority of members at both synagogues appear to agree to a merger, one Etz Chaim member told the JC: “We all know it makes sense as our community is much smaller than it was, but there really hasn’t been a lot of asking for input from us, the members.”

Allan Taylor of the merger committee said: “We are hoping to finalise the details of the voting process very soon and provide answers (to congregants’ questions) in our presentation in November at the latest.”

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