The tiny, disused Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue, one of the few remaining synagogues in London’s East End, has been bought by the East London Mosque, an enormous complex built in the 1980s that already surrounds the building on three sides.
The web site of the Mosque, which serves a mainly south Asian community, says the sale was completed before July 15, for £1.5 million — the purchase price was raised primarily by loans and via a Ramadan fund-raising campaign.
The Mosque said on its web site that no decision had yet been made about how the site will be redeveloped, but “initial ideas are for a balanced development, which include community use, as well as to help income generate for the Mosque’s sustainability and its debt repayment.”
The sale vividly demonstrates the changing demographic dynamic in the East End — the historic London neighborhood that once was heavily populated by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Several years ago, the Mosque gave a grant to fund repairs on the synagogue roof.
The synagogue, which was built in 1899 and restored after WW2 to repair bomb damage, has a small sanctuary resembling orthodox synagogues in Eastern Europe. Its exterior looks like a residential building.
The synagogue had sharply curtailed operations over the past few years because of a dwindling congregation. It closed for good in January, transferring ownership to the Federation of Synagogues, which put it up for sale.
According to an article in Prospect Magazine, when the mosque was being built in the 1980s, “care was taken not to enshroud the synagogue in darkness, and so it included specially designed skylights and openings to allow light to shine from the mosque through the synagogue window, illuminating the Star of David.”
See a talk about the synagogue and its history: