Two cultural institutions with very different stories


The amalgamation of JW3 and the London Jewish Cultural Centre marks the coming together of Anglo-Jewry's cultural newcomer and one of its longest-standing arts and education establishments.

The LJCC was born out of the Institute for the Study of Jewish History and Culture, set up by educators Robin and Nitza Spiro in the early 1980s.

Concerned at the rate of assimilation among London's Jews, the Spiros set about raising funds and training teachers to provide educational opportunities aimed at secular members of the community.

Nitza Spiro quit in 1998 after opposing substantial budgeting cuts, months after her husband had left the organisation, saying it was "time to hand over to other people".

The institute was relaunched as the LJCC 18 months later with a broader mission to cover culture and the arts as well as education.

LJCC spent £5 million move to Ivy House. JW3 cost £40m

In 2002, then chairman Allan Morgenthau floated the idea of a move to a purpose-built £11m centre near Cricklewood, but the project was dropped after Dame Vivian Duffield announced her intention to fund a new centre a few months later.

Instead, LJCC's biggest leap came in 2005, with a £5 million move from its Hampstead venue to Ivy House, in Golders Green - the elegant former home of ballerina Anna Pavlova.

Along with the bigger premises came a vast expansion of its programmes to include a variety of courses, exhibitions and events with leading speakers, artists and academics.

The purpose-built youth centre, added in 2012, extended services even further, but also increased the demands on the centre's finances.

LJCC president Clive Marks was a long-term backer, through the Ashdown Trusts. Among other financial supporters were Dame Vivien herself, as well as Diana and Allan Morgenthau's charitable trust.

The centre is now a leader in Holocaust education programmes and has held a series of seminars in eastern Europe and as far afield as China.

Ivy House hosts annual events such as Gefiltefest food festival and arts fairs and had maintained its position as a leading Jewish cultural hubs, with more than 1,700 people visiting every week.

The project to bring JW3 to life was one of the most financially challenging ever envisaged by British Jewry.

The razing of an old Mercedes showroom to make way for the state-of-the-art community centre was backed by an enormous £25m donation from the Clore Duffield Foundation - the largest one-off sum it has ever given, Dame Vivien said. Even so, it only accounted for half of the money needed. The foundation has contributed £40m so far.

It was a visit to the Manhattan JCC in New York more than a decade ago which inspired her to create a centre in London appealing to a cross-communal audience. Opened last year, its programme ranges from film screenings in its own cinema to cooking lessons and krav maga classes.

A real draw has been its Zest restaurant, a haunt of celebrities such as actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

JW3's benefactors have included the great and good of Anglo-Jewry. Sir Trevor Chinn, Mick Davis, Naim Dangoor, and the Pears and Rothschild Foundations have all contributed hefty sums.

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