Harrow and Wembley Progressive Synagogue 'Moves in' with Middlesex New Synagogue
Written by Movement for Reform Judaism Monday, 20 June 2011
A red London bus carrying Torah scrolls, accompanied by children from the synagogues' recently combined religion school marked the official arrival of Harrow and Wembley Progressive Synagogue (HWPS) at Middlesex New Synagogue (MNS).
The two communities will be sharing the MNS premises on Bessborough Road in Harrow, although they will continue to hold their own services and follow their own rituals, according to their distinct traditions. HWPS sold its former premises to a Sri Lankan Pentecostal church last year.
A special service which ended with the Torah scrolls being taken upstairs to HWPS' new sanctuary was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Harrow, Cllr Mrinal and Mrs Rama Choudhury and Deputy Lieutenant for Harrow, John Purnell.
Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith, of HWPS, said: "Of course, after more than 60 years on Preston Road, it's a wrench to relocate. But we have no choice given the demographic decline of Jewish people in our area and our ageing membership. We have a choice with MNS to do something really historic. We are from two different movements and have very different histories. We have come together in a kind of co-habitation, not a merger. We can join forces on many activities and some things we will do separately. It's a wonderful, creative experiment which we hope could serve as a model for other communities, both Jewish and non-Jewish, where there is demographic decline."
Rabbi Kathleen de Magtige-Middleton of MNS, added: "I was very aware that our building was underused, so when I heard that HWPS was planning to move I thought it would liven the place up, as well as helping out another community in need. HWPS moving in has brought a sense of energy and renewed initiatives in both communities.
"The site is large enough to accommodate both Liberal and Reform services each Shabbat and at Jewish festivals, whilst enabling the two communities to hold other joint activities and events and share their resources. The initiative follows the successful combining of our two communities' religion schools last year which has resulted in a growth in numbers and a search for additional teaching staff.
"Of course there are differences in approach on matters ritually and halachically, nevertheless the overriding sense of respect for each others’ differences has so far managed to work with and around these. If anything, they give our members a greater and enhanced sense of who they are as Reform Jews and what they stand for."
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