The Jewish Chronicle

Prince backs shul’s heritage appeal


THE PRINCE of Wales has agreed to become the patron of an appeal to develop Britain’s oldest synagogue as a heritage centre.

Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London, which was opened in 1701, last month received a lottery grant of nearly £2.8 million.

The proceeds of the appeal will support conservati­on work as well as create a visitor experience that will tell the synagogue’s story for the first time.

Rabbi Abraham Levy, Emeritus Spiritual Leader of the S & P Sephardi Community, said: “The Prince of Wales’ support for this project is a welcome boost for the synagogue where the British Jewish experience has played out for over 300 years.”

Adam Musikant, co-ordinator of the appeal, said he was delighted to secure royal support for “a funding appeal of national importance.

“Bevis Marks has not just been a focal point for Jewish life in the UK, but for the wider communitie­s with which it has interacted. We look forward to developing a religious, cultural and educationa­l centre to tell its unique story.”

Apart from its historic Jewish significan­ce, the Grade 1-listed building is a symbol of integratio­n, believed to be the country’s oldest functionin­g non-Christian place of worship.

Some of its historic artefacts will be on display in one venue for the first time, while oral histories and digital archives will help to put the story of the synagogue in a wider London context. A partnershi­p has been announced with the Jewish Museum to run school visits. As the patron of the Jewish Museum, Prince Charles has already demonstrat­ed his interest in Jewish history. When he attended the synagogue’s 300th anniversar­y service in 2001, Rabbi Levy reminded him that it was the last King Charles, Charles II, who had confirmed the legal status of Jews in the City in 1664 — as long as they conducted themselves “peaceably and quietly” and “without scandal” to the government. It is understood that Rabbi Levy approached a former pupil, the historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore, who is a friend of the Prince, about whether the heir to the throne might be interested. The constructi­on of the original building may have been the occasion of one of the country’s first acts of interfaith benevolenc­e. The architect Joseph Avis, who is thought to have been a Quaker, reputedly refused to make any profit and returned any money once his costs had been met. According to tradition, there is even an early royal link to the building. Queen Anne is said to have donated an oak beam from a Royal Navy ship for the synagogue’s roof. While many European synagogues were silenced in the Second World War, Bevis Marks has provided regular services for more than three centuries.

But while it escaped untouched in the Blitz, it was damaged in the 1990s by IRA bombs.

 ??  ?? The exterior of Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London
The exterior of Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London
 ?? PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES ?? Support: Prince Charles
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES Support: Prince Charles

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