(JHE) — The Langside Synagogue in Glasgow has been granted official protection as a listed building following a three-week public consultation last month and “unprecedented” local and international lobbying on its behalf.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES) announced that it has designated the synagogue, built in 1926-1927, a Grade C listed building. It said:
The building is rare surviving example of a purpose-built synagogue in Scotland and was found to meet our criteria for designation. The use of traditional Eastern European folk-art style elements is particularly rare and reflects the synagogue’s early 20th century congregation. It is of significant historical interest for what it can tell us about the development of the Jewish community in Glasgow in the early 20th century.
HES said the response to its public consultation in August had been “overwhelming,” with more than 840 individuals and groups from all over the world voicing support to list the building.
The level of interest shown both locally and internationally for this building and Scotland’s Jewish heritage was unprecedented. It was especially important to hear your thoughts about the special architectural and historic interest of the building and we took this into account in our decision making.
Designation as a Grade-C category listed building does not prevent development of the structure, but provides more protection regarding what can be done.
The synagogue closed in 2014 and has been under threat of demolition or development as apartments. HES launched its public consultation about the fate of the building after a renewed, non-traditional and LGBTQ-friendly Jewish community in the neighborhood waged a campaign for it to be reopened for their use.
Called Irn-Ju, the community describes its members as “diasporist anarchist Jews in Scotland.”
“Save our synagogue and stop gentrification!” it says on a web site petition. “Don’t let developers turn Glasgow’s Langside Synagogue into flats.”
Not only is it a beautiful building of historic value, but it has great potential to fulfill the local Jewish community’s needs. There are only two shuls [synagogues] with permanent sites in all of Glasgow. [The] Govanhill [neighborhood] is home to a Jewish community which is currently hosting weekly shuls in their living rooms, because they do not have a synagogue. […] We, the undersigned, stand with the local communities in demanding that all plans to turn Langside Synagogue into flats be immediately halted; and that the space be offered to the local Jewish community as a shul and community space; and that it be preserved as a site of historic community and cultural importance.
HES describes the synagogue as designed by the firm Waddell & Young, in 1926-1927, with rare interior features by a Lithuanian-born cabinetmaker named Harris Berkovitch (c. 1876–1956), who was a member of the Langside Hebrew congregation..
Though the Ark and bimah have been removed, the interior fittings and decorations are especially important, it said, providing the only known example in Scotland of East European folk-art style synagogue arrangement and ornamentation.
It said the synagogue meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:
- The simple classical exterior form of the building, typical of synagogue architecture, is largely unaltered.
- The use of traditional Eastern European folk-art style elements in the interior is rare and of interest for its association with the synagogue’s early 20th century congregation.
- Its setting, within an area of Govanhill with a high concentration of later 19th century places of worship, is well retained.
- It is rare as one of a small number of purpose-built synagogues of which few now survive in Scotland.
- It is of significant historical interest for what it can tell us about the development of the Jewish community in Glasgow in the early 20th century.