First look at JW3 – London’s new Jewish community centre

First look at JW3 – London’s new Jewish community centre

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

The much-anticipated Jewish community centre on Finchley Road is to open its doors to the public on 29 September, with Hollywood star Kevin Spacey among the headline acts set to take part in a packed launch season, writes Justin Cohen.

A full decade and £50m in the making, the four-storey JW3 building boasts flexible community spaces, a restaurant and bar to be known as Zest, a dance studio and a multi-purpose hall for public or private functions. A piazza fronting the main road will see food markets, outdoor cinema events and even ice skating.

JW3 Test Event
Raymond Simonson, Dame Vivien Duffield and Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks at JW3 ahead of the first event last night
Pic: Blake-Ezra Photography

The centre was inspired by a visit to the JCC in Manhattan by philanthropist Dame Vivian Duffield. She said: “The building has been designed to be inspirational – a place where Jewish culture is made as well as enjoyed.

My aspiration is that the quality of the programming and cultural output produced at JW3 will rightly earn it a reputation for excellence amongst the wider community, establishing itself as a must- visit destination on the cultural map of London.”

JW3 last night held its very first event, one of a series of test events leading up to the opening itself. It saw the Chief Rabbi, hailed for his support for the project from the start in the face of significant opposition elsewhere in the community, and Dame Vivian in conversation with Times associate editor Daniel Finkelstein. The gathering was attended by more than 250 people.

It is announced today that the launch season will kick-off on 1 October with more than 1,000 events and activities.

Artist Impression of JW3 reception (credit Visualhouse)crop
Artist’s Impression of JW3 reception (credit Visualhouse)

The In Conversation series will see Spacey discussing the place of the arts in the community and National Theatre director Sir Nicholas Hytner will reveal the secret to making brilliant theatre.

Ruby Wax will perform her emotional rollercoaster Losing It, while actress Zoe Wanamaker and new BBC news chief James Harding will also make appearances.

The Edible Film format of interactive cinema kicks off with the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, complete with goodie bags and golden tickets. The centre – funded by the Clore Duffield Foundation and other private donors and designed by award-winning architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands – will be open daily from 7.30am to 11pm.

On the mezzanine and first floors are a learning resource centre, a dance studio with sprung floor, an art room and a fully-equipped demonstration kitchen.

The top floor of the building is taken up entirely by a day nursery with its own dedicated outdoor space. Raymond Simonson, JW3’s CEO designate, said: “We will bring Jews of all stripes together by being open and accessible to the widest range of people.”

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