Britain’s oldest synagogue has been awarded a £2.7m National Lottery windfall for conservation work and to build a new religious and cultural centre in London.
Bevis Marks Synagogue near Aldgate was one of six projects awarded a share of an £8 million grant by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The Grade I listed building administered by the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community opened in 1701 after the readmission of Jews to Britain in 1656.
The grant will fund conservation work and go towards the costs of opening a new centre to tell the story of its congregation within the context of its neighbourhood and nearby East End of London and the broader British Jewish experience.
It will also showcase the shul’s array of historical Judaica in one place for the first time, relay oral histories, feature an accessible digital archive, and a partnership with the Jewish Museum will facilitate school visits.
Items displayed will include a priceless collection of silver, textiles and archives dating back to 1656, providing a unique continuous record of Jewish life in Britain
Senior rabbi Joseph Dweck, of the S&P Sephardi Community, said: “Bevis Marks is the cradle of British Jewry. The members who built that synagogue laid the foundations of Jewish life in this country and I believe that every Jewish person in this country should know its story. This generous grant from the NLHF will give us the ability to tell the story in its fullness.”
Rony Sabah, chairman of the Bevis Marks project committee, added in a statement that the team was “delighted” by the news.
He added: “The National Lottery Heritage Fund has recognised that this is a vitally important project for the preservation of British Jewish heritage, as well as telling the story about the interconnectivity between British Jews and their neighbours. The British Jewish history of integration and innovation will be brought to life through this new endeavour”.
Sabah Zubaida, chairman of the S&P Sephardi Community said the synagogue was the “jewel” of the congregation and wider British Jewish Community.
“Its future will now be secure for many years to come, and its impact recognised beyond our community and into the wider British world,” he said.
The grant covers just under half of the total costs of the total centre, with other grants and donations expected to make up the remaining shortfall.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s area director Stuart Hobley, said: “Bevis Marks has a long and fascinating history as part of London’s life and cityscape for over 300 years. We’re thrilled that thanks to National Lottery players, we can secure the future of the UK’s