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Emergency fund-raising campaign for Brighton’s historic Middle street synagogue extended

An emergency crowd-funding appeal is under way to repair recent serious water damage to the the Middle Street Synagogue in Brighton and also carry out wider restoration work on the building, named by Historic England in 2015 as one of the 10 most beautiful synagogues in Great Britain.

Designed by Thomas Lainson and opened in 1875, the Grade II* listed building, with its highly ornate interior, was closed for regular worship nearly 20 years ago. It hosts community events, but closed in early 2020 because of the pandemic and remains closed because of its deteriorating condition, in part the result of water damage that took place during the pandemic lockdown.

Campaign organizers say insurance is covering the repair, but having the scaffolding up and workers on-site presents a “golden opportunity” to carry out other needed renovation at the same time.

“The building had deteriorated over the years and then, during the Covid lockdown, suffered water damage from a leak,” Rabbi Hershel Rader of the Brighton & Hove Hebrew Congregation (BHHC), which administers the synagogue, told JHE in an email. “Insurers are paying for a considerable amount of repair work and, while the builders are already on site, we have the opportunity to complete the synagogue’s restoration.” Long-term plans are to use the synagogue as a Center for Charity, Education, and Prayer once restoration is carried out.

Launched by the BHHC and backed by civic authorities, the three-day emergency fund-raising appeal , Sept. 18-20, aims to raise £250,000.

The crowd-funding site posts videos by Brighton’s mayor and two Members of Parliament urging the public to donate.

“Brighton’s Middle Street Synagogue is recognised as one of the most beautiful in the country.” the fund-raiser web page says.

It has hosted so many wonderful events attended by all sections of the community. BUT IT IS CRUMBLING AND NEEDS YOUR HELP! During lockdown it suffered serious water damage. Our insurance company has agreed to cover repairs to that damage and we now have a golden opportunity to restore the entire synagogue while our contractors are already on site.

After its restoration we will use Middle Street as a centre for Education, Prayer and Social Action; including Holocaust Studies and providing soup kitchen facilities for the many homeless and deprived in the area.

At the end of 2019, just before the pandemic lockdowns, a £100,000 crowdfunding campaign was launched “to raise funds to address urgent remedial care to the building to make it safe for the winter, to obtain professional advice to develop the wider strategy for restoring the building, to upgrade the electrics and to make the building accessible to all and fully compliant with DDA and Health and Safety requirements” and “to evolve [the synagogue] into an occasional use synagogue with a fully inclusive Jewish Heritage Centre for Brighton.”

This failed to achieve its goal, and lockdown prevented further action.

An article in the Jewish Chronicle in August 2021 detailed concerns over the deteriorating condition of the building.

It quoted Brighton and Hove heritage commissioner Roger Amerena, joint chair of the city council’s Conservation Advisory Group, as saying: “The synagogue is running into further disrepair as a result of the water ingress, the crumbling of the front corners and general erosion on the western facade facing the street. This building is a national asset, one of the most spectacular synagogues in Europe. It has to be saved.”

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