Parents enraged by 'commercial' decision to evict nursery from shul


Parents of children at a synagogue-based West End nursery have expressed outrage that it is being evicted to make room for the expansion of a non-Jewish school on the shul's site.

For the past 11 years, the Beginnings Jewish nursery has operated from premises in West London Synagogue in Marylebone, having first been registered by the Charities Commission as the West London Synagogue Early Childhood Centre. It has received "outstanding" grades from Ofsted inspectors.

But last Thursday, parents of the 56 children were informed it would be closing in June, after the synagogue was offered a deal by the Halcyon London International School to expand its existing facilities on the site. A "Save Beginnings Action Group" is urging the synagogue to reconsider its decision, or to offer help in relocating the nursery. The group claims there was no advance warning of the closure to parents and staff, including nursery head Rabbi Miri Lawrence.

"We are appalled by the news," said Jenny Phillips, whose two children attend Beginnings. "We now need the synagogue's leaders to consider their wider responsibilities to the community and to our children."

West London chief executive Simon Myers argued that the move would "extend our education and youth space for our youth and young adults, which our parents association has been pressing for".

He added that the deal with Halcyon - a "strategic decision on commercial grounds" - held more benefit for West London's future than the nursery's retention. Most parents of Beginnings pupils were not West London members.

A synagogue statement added: "WLS did suggest that they could consider relocation, but the rents in Westminster were considered by the Beginnings trustees to be prohibitive and there was, frankly, no appetite from the chairman of the trustees or the head teacher to do so. There are a number of other Jewish nurseries in St John's Wood and elsewhere so it is hoped that places will be available for those Jewish children affected by the decision."

A petition to save the nursery collected 200 signatures within two days. It will be delivered to synagogue leaders, including senior rabbi Baroness Neuberger, next week.

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