Holocaust memorial rescued after Whitechapel shul ceiling collapse
search

Holocaust memorial rescued after Whitechapel shul ceiling collapse

Local community rallies round East London Central Synagogue in wake of damage to historic building, with local shuls and a church offering to host the event

Leon Silver, president of Whitechapel’s East London Synagogue, examines the damage to the historic building. (Credit: Mike Brooke/East London Advertiser)
Leon Silver, president of Whitechapel’s East London Synagogue, examines the damage to the historic building. (Credit: Mike Brooke/East London Advertiser)

The local community rallied round to save the east end’s Holocaust remembrance service, following the ceiling collapse at the East London Central Synagogue.

The Sunday service on January 26 has been switched to Sandys Row Synagogue in Spitalfields, in wake of damage at Nelson Street in Whitechapel.

Two synagogues, including Bevis Marks in Aldgate, and a church, rushed to offer help to save the annual remembrance.

“I am deeply moved by the offers to help,” the Central Synagogue’s president Leon Silver said.

“It would have been disastrous if the East End’s Holocaust Remembrance had to be cancelled, but thanks to Sandys Row it has been saved.”

Surveyors are due to examine the damage to see what caused the ceiling collapse. The building has had a leaking roof for several years. Rainwater is thought to have caused the cornice plaster work to weaken, which crashed down onto the whole length of the aisle—but no worshippers were in the building at the time.

Restoration work is now urgently needed to save the historic building that was opened in 1923, just three years away from its centenary.

The more immediate emergency was transferring next week’s Holocaust Remembrance service in time.

Sandys Row congregation’s president Harvey Rifkin said: “One of our members sent me a link to the online story about the collapse, otherwise we would never have known. We immediately offered to help and told Leon Silver he could use our building. We have also invited the

Nelson Street congregation to come to Sandys Row for their weekly Sabbath service as well.”

Messages of support came from Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum with its chairman, Rector Alan Green, even offering his parish church, St John on Bethnal Green, for the remembrance.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs and Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali made public statements of support.

The Spitalfields Trust, which has been involved in restorations of historic Huguenot buildings, suggested the synagogue be listed and preserved after the story broke.

Sandys Row, where the 2020 Remembrance is now being staged, faced the same crisis 10 years ago when the ceiling crashed down.

That was “good fortune” as it exposed the roof balancing precariously out of alignment on the support walls. The 200-year-old place of worship was partly damaged when a German land-mine exploded close by during an air raid in the London Blitz, causing the roof to shift. The gap was hidden for 70 years until the plasterwork come away.

Restoration was carried out with a £250,000 Heritage Lottery grant—but a similar solution for

Nelson Street would be more costly as it is a larger building.

read more:
comments