The Jewish Chronicle
Welcome to the next Borehamwood
Luton may soon become the new Borehamwood. The Jewish community in this satellite of London is keen to attract young families. The average house price in Luton is 60 per cent cheaper than in London. Typically, a three- or four-bedroom detached house around the popular New or Old Bedford Road would be on the market for around £600,000.
Property in Luton tends to date from the 1920-30s and includes many generously sized family homes. Over the next 20 years there are plans to regenerate the town centre as part of a £1.5 billion investment.
Luton United Synagogue is on the outskirts of the town, in the LU4 area, close to the Chiltern Hills. The area surrounding the synagogue offers attractive, affordable housing, with efficient transport links to central London and to areas with Jewish schools and kosher shops (Edgware is a 25-minute drive away). A direct rail journey to central London takes 24 minutes (trains run 24 hours a day).
Under the leadership of Rabbi Yossi Schwei and his wife Rivkah, Luton United Synagogue offers a busy programme of social activities. The children of members have access to Tribe activities and cheder classes.
The first Jewish family settled in Luton in about 1880 but a congregation was not officially formed until 1923, when the 12 founding members each donated £18. High Holyday services and religion classes were held above a factory in John Street and in 1929, a synagogue was established.
The Second World War brought an enormous influx of families. At the outbreak of the war, there were about 25 families living in Luton but the next 15 years saw numbers increase to more than 2,000, necessitating a move to larger premises in 1953. The community provided a youth club and cheder and held daily services. Rabbi Schwei was inducted in 1992. In November 2001, however, the synagogue building was sold and no new one was opened until 2009.
In 2017, the new synagogue was extensively refurbished. It is not only a shul but a community centre for the wider population, fostering closer relationships within the multi-ethnic local community.
Luton’s current Jewish community is widely dispersed, with several families in the Chiltern villages (Caddington, Slip End, Pulloxhill). In Luton itself, many live around the New Bedford Road between Montrose Avenue and Icknield Way.
The city centre is bustling and the shops are a mix of big-name favourites and local independents. There are restaurants and bars to keep the town alive at night-time, as well as a campus of Bedfordshire University — a big pull for the buy-to-let market. Luton Airport was recently voted best of the six serving the South East and is undergoing a £110 million expansion.
Properties sell fast in Luton, typically in 144 days, says estate agent Benjamin Stevens, which has just opened a “hub” here, above the Mall shopping centre. (The company believes hubs, covering up to a ten-mile radius, are the future of estate agency, rather than traditional branches.)
Benjamin Stevens, a Jewish-run company, is working closely with the Luton congregation to promote the area and help expand its Jewish community. This is the 15-year-old company’s second hub — it also has a thriving presence in Bushey and Edgware.