An ambitious plan to attract young people to Judaism has been launched by the Jewish Futures group, headed by its founder Rabbi Naftali Schiff.
Our Story, as the project is known, may be realised in a new building in the centre of Hendon, in which a “state-of-the-art” space will be created to offer learning and workshop areas for young people from across denominational backgrounds. It is understood the site is the former sorting office on Brent Street, now demolished.
The campaign to pitch Our Story to the community opens on Friday, with planning applications and fund-raising taking place at the same time. No figures have been given for how much the plan is likely to cost.
Rabbi Schiff described the proposed building as “a cutting-edge space…that will enable young people to experience Jewish life, practices, culture and community in an immersive and relevant way”.
He explained: “Over the last 20 years, the demand for immersive Jewish experiences has grown exponentially. This has informed the work of all the organisations in the Jewish Futures family.
“Our team is passionate about offering diverse and experiential pathways for young people to experience the joy of being Jewish. This ranges from life-changing volunteering opportunities provided by GIFT; Aish UK’s array of education and social programmes; Chazak’s work to enrich and inspire Sephardic communities; Ta’am engaging young Jews with the richness of their heritage through Jewish food and cooking; and JRoots running powerful educational journeys to educate thousands of young people about the Holocaust.
“The Our Story project will bring all this work together, meeting the essential need for a state-of-the-art space for young people to explore Jewish life and identity. As well as a place to chill out and socialise, we want to foster a modern and lively space that will be an inspiration for anyone who enters”.
He said he hoped the project would engage “individuals, schools and groups from all different religious and cultural backgrounds in a welcoming inclusive and non-judgmental fashion”.
Jewish Futures is currently housed in a building on Hendon Way, but the new project envisages a dedicated building with interactive workshop and learning spaces, a communal space with a dedicated area for pre-simcha planning, and separate office facilities “including WeWork-style facilities open to young businesspeople and start-up businesses”.
Rabbi Daniel Rowe, executive director of Jewish Futures’ member organisation Aish UK, highlighted the importance of a venue dedicated to immersive Jewish experiences. He said: “Young people today don’t just want to learn about Judaism, they want to be able to experience what Jewish life really entails. That is why Our Story will be a hub for interactive learning, which goes beyond classes and lectures, and allows young people to gain a deeper understanding of Judaism as a way of life, not just a set of concepts”.
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