Norwich pleads for funds to refurbish 'grim' premises


Norwich Hebrew Congregation has issued an SOS for communal support towards refurbishing its "grim, demoralising" synagogue hall, having exhausted aid possibilities from the non-Jewish market.

Despite having fewer than 100 members, the independent Orthodox community has raised nearly half the £400,000 it needs to renovate its hall, install better heating and lighting and build a disabled toilet and ramp.

Shul president Dr Marian Prinsley revealed that £107,000 had come through local non-Jewish sources - and just £7,500 from the wider Jewish community.

Money allocated from the shul's reserves has boosted the total to £187,500.

But £50,000 of the money from non-Jews was pledged on condition of the shortfall being raised over the next few months.

£400,000 scheme has received just £7,500 from Jewish donors

Dr Prinsley attributed the lack of communal support to the small size of the congregation but argued that the city's Jewish history - dating back to the 12th century and including the first blood libel in Europe - deserved recognition.

"I know we're a small community and some people think that because we're small we're going to die. That's definitely not the case," she insisted. "We've survived in small numbers for centuries with an ongoing minyan since the 1700s.

"But the feeling I get from the big communal organisations is that we're not worth it."

The shul hosts 3,500 schoolchildren annually as part of the religious education curriculum. But it is currently unable to cater for disabled pupils.

"Never mind the davening on Saturday mornings," Dr Prinsley said. "We fulfil a really crucial role in interfaith education for a very large region of England."

She added that, in an ageing community, there were also wheelchair-bound members who could not come to the building. "You cannot get a disabled person into the gents. It's physically too small."

In general, the shul hall was "not a proud place to be. It's grim - a dark, gloomy, cold space. We've got space heaters that don't heat up the place properly and cost a fortune.

"I come home blue from working in there and our old congregants get really cold, too. We need to make it a place people can feel proud of and we need to rent it out so we gain some more revenue."

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