Seeking good home for synagogue bimah, found on eBay

A British Israeli is ‘inundated’ with inquiries from congregations after he snapped up the former centrepiece of Margate shul


An antique bimah recently listed on eBay has sparked a flurry of cross-communal interest after its British Israeli buyer offered to donate the ornate structure to a struggling shul in the UK.
The bimah previously stood in the Margate Hebrew Congregation, a dwindling seaside community sold last year and slated to become a cultural centre.
The bimah’s buyer, Professor David Newman, of Ben Gurion University in the Negev, snapped it up for close to £700 after seeing the listing promoted on Facebook.
“I bought it on the spot, having just seen one picture,” Professor Newman said, adding that he had offered to donate it to a shul in exchange for a small plaque in memory of his father.
His offer to find a new home for the bimah has generated a “huge” level of interest on social media from congregations across the religious spectrum, he said.
“All day long, I've been inundated, between 10 to 12 enquiries from different communities who are interested,” he said. 
Professor Newman, who started the Synagogues of London and the UK Facebook group, said shul furniture should be preserved once congregations shut down. 
“I think there should be some sort of open clearing house where they’re willing to donate or sell at a symbolic price the shul furniture so they don’t just get destroyed,” he said.
The bimah and other furniture items were removed from the shul building and sold to the eBay vendor late last year.
The eBay seller, Patrick Wiseman, said that Torah scrolls and other important religious items had been moved to congregations across the UK. 
The antique dealer in Kent also stressed the importance of safeguarding heritage. “As antique dealers we’re custodians of items of interest and importance,” he told the JC.
The shul building was bought by a private benefactor with a view to converting it into a cultural venue, one of the Cliftonville Cultural Space CIC co-directors Jan Ryan said. 
“One of the criteria is that it retains its Jewish heritage and identity, so although it’s not going to be a synagogue any longer, it’s going to be somewhere that reflects the Jewish heritage of the building and neighbourhood,” she said. 
Ms Ryan, who is Jewish, said she expects the new venue to open by 2024 or 2025 at the earliest.

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