IHBC features ‘Heritage from the doorstep’: Fears over the future of historic Brighton shul

The JC reports on ‘Grave concerns’ over repair issues at Brighton’s Middle Street Synagogue, ‘one of the most beautiful and significant in the UK’.

… the delaying of the necessary work could have serious consequences…

The JC writes:

The acting curator of Brighton’s historic Middle Street Synagogue has voiced “grave concerns” about the condition of the building following damage caused by a leak from a radiator.

In addition, loose debris falling from the top of the Grade II*-listed shul prompted Brighton and Hove Council’s building control surveyor to write to Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation (BHHC), which administers Middle Street, highlighting issues which required urgent attention.

Middle Street has not operated as an active synagogue for around 17 years but has continued to host visiting groups and special activities. Its current closure has prevented involvement in events such as the Brighton Fringe Festival.

Vicky Bhogal, Middle Street’s voluntary events co-ordinator, fundraiser and acting curator, claims the delaying of the necessary work could have serious consequences.

Pre-pandemic, Mrs Bhogal, a property developer, initiated a successful series of fundraisers in the city centre shul, among them a Fiddler on the Roof singalong and an evening focusing on Jews from Arab lands. “Middle Street shul is such an important part of our Jewish heritage, both in Brighton and globally,” she said. “As one of the most beautiful and significant shuls in the UK, it must be completely restored and reopened to the public….

Her concerns about the building’s future were echoed by Winston Pickett of the Sussex branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England….

Meanwhile, Brighton and Hove heritage commissioner Roger Amerena, joint chair of the city council’s Conservation Advisory Group, has expressed concern about the state of the building and the lack of action to secure its future.

Mr Amerena organised a meeting three years ago, attended by local and national Jewish representatives, recommending at the time that a separate trust should be established to attract funds for the synagogue’s restoration from bodies such as the World Heritage Fund.

“Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission regrets that there has been no decision or action made regarding the sustainable future of the synagogue,” he said. “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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