Brighton & Hove Hebrew Congregation (BHHC), the owners of Middle Street synagogue in Brighton, has commissioned the Foundation for Jewish Heritage (FJH) to conduct a review process in order to assess what future function the opulent but disused synagogue could serve.
The FJH said a Steering Committee has been formed and plans “to commission a Feasibility Study to research and evaluate the various options that could bring the building back into regular use and provide a sustainable future.”
The Grade II* listed building was designed by Thomas Lainson and opened in 1875. It is located in a Brighton city centre conservation area.
Named by Historic England in 2015 as one of the 10 most beautiful synagogues in Great Britain, it was closed for regular worship nearly 20 years ago.
Since then it had hosted community events, but it 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.
An emergency fundraising campaign last year to carry out repairs and restoration only raised around 35 percent of the £250,000 goal.
With the fund-raiser, the BHHC said it wanted to restore the synagogue and use it “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 time, the Jewish Chronicle wrote that some potential stakeholders or concerned individuals had raised concerns about the BHHC’s plans and felt that an independent charitable trust should be set up to manage the synagogue.
An earlier fundraising campaign had been launched in November 2019 “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. ”