Troubled Redbridge shul decides against leaving home

After financial problems and the mass resignation of lay leaders, Reform synagogue members opt to stay put in Newbury Park


After a “year of uncertainty”, congregants of the troubled South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue (Swesrs) have rejected a suggestion that the shul should relocate from Newbury Park.

The synagogue has experienced financial problems following the decision of Norwood to close the centre it ran from rented premises on the Swesrs site. Last month, the JC reported that nine lay leaders had resigned en masse, citing “deep divisions” within the congregation.

Around 180 of the 1,000-strong congregation packed the synagogue’s function hall on Sunday to discuss the shul’s future direction — and specifically, ways to attract young families.

When relocation was mooted, “almost three-quarters” of attendees expressed a desire to stay put.

Shul chairman Steve Robbins told the JC: “The discussion was about how people would like to see the synagogue in five years.

“For years Jewish families have been moving away and so it was about how we cope with that and how we make sure young families want to join.

“Of course we talked about whether we should sell up and be somewhere else.

“But an overwhelming majority chose to stay in Newbury Park.

“We have a beautiful, completely circular sanctuary — one of the only ones in the country — and we wouldn’t want to lose it.

“So if we can, we are going to try to rent the premises [formerly let to Norwood] to a new tenant. But if we don’t find someone, we would be running a deficit, one big enough to worry about.”

An emergency fundraising appeal last year has left Swesrs financially viable for the time being, although Mr Robbins said it was “just a stop-gap”.

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