London rejects 48-story skyscraper threatening UK’s oldest synagogue

It is not Jerusalem balancing history and progress. Plans to build a 48-story skyscraper on London’s Bury Street south of the Bevis Marks Synagogue, which dates back to 1701 and is the oldest Jewish house of worship in continuous use in Britain, were recently rejected.

The October 5 vote by the City of London Corporation Planning Committee was 14 to 7. But a planned 21-story tower in nearby Creechurch Lane that would also outshine the iconic Spanish and Portuguese congregation is still standing. under consideration.

“The Planning Committee has recognized the special status of Bevis Marks and common sense has prevailed,” Dame Helen Hyde, president of the Jewish Heritage Foundation, said in a statement. “We hope the committee will make the same decision with the second request, which is equally unacceptable.”

Bevis Marks, a Grade I Historic Site in Britain and the only synagogue in Europe to have held regular services continuously for over 300 years, today continues to serve Sephardic descendants of persecuted Portuguese and Spanish Jews who found refuge in England after the uprising. under the power of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), who in 1656 welcomed the Jews to the country from which they were expelled by King Edward I in 1290. In its design and decoration, the house of worship has been strongly influenced by the Spaniards and the Spaniards of Amsterdam. Portuguese synagogue, which opened 26 years earlier. In addition to being modernized with electric lighting in 1929, Bevis Marks has remained virtually unchanged for three centuries. The synagogue is still lit by 240 candles in huge bronze chandeliers, making the issue of the availability of natural light especially sensitive.

The rejected skyscraper would have involved the “demolition of the existing building and the construction of a new building comprising 2 basement levels (plus 2 mezzanines) and ground floor plus 48 upper floors for office use, flexible use of shops / cafes, storage space. internal public access services and community space; a new pedestrian route and a new and improved public space; parking, service and bicycle plant in the auxiliary basement, ”according to the London-based architecture blog Dezeen.com.

London’s BEVIS Marks Synagogue, founded in 1701 by crypto-Jews who had fled Spain and Portugal via the Netherlands, is considered the cathedral house of prayer for British Jews in the pomp of circumstances. The synagogue is lit by 240 candles placed in its huge bronze chandeliers. (credit: BEVIS MARKS SYNAGOGUE HERITAGE FOUNDATION)

Critics protested to the committee session that if the two planned skyscrapers were to be built in the City of London’s financial district, not far from Liverpool Street station, a key transit junction on the Elizabeth Line was planning to open here in 2022, they, along with existing buildings: would block sunlight to the synagogue for nearly an hour a day, affecting religious observance and other functions of the synagogue. Being in near permanent shadow would also affect Bevis Marks’ role as a tourist attraction and the Square Mile synagogue.

The meeting heard objections from Sarah Sackman and Rabbi Shalom Morris of the synagogue, who expressed concern that the tower would block sunlight and make worship difficult.

“Bevis Marks is where I got married. I speak alongside thousands of British Jews who are concerned about this application, ”said Sackman, a planning attorney who spoke in a personal capacity.

    London's BEVIS Marks Synagogue, founded in 1701 by crypto-Jews who had fled Spain and Portugal via the Netherlands, is considered the cathedral house of prayer for British Jews in the pomp of circumstances.  The synagogue is lit by 240 candles placed in its huge bronze chandeliers.  (credit: BEVIS MARKS SYNAGOGUE HERITAGE FOUNDATION) London’s BEVIS Marks Synagogue, founded in 1701 by crypto-Jews who had fled Spain and Portugal via the Netherlands, is considered the cathedral house of prayer for British Jews in the pomp of circumstances. The synagogue is lit by 240 candles placed in its huge bronze chandeliers. (credit: BEVIS MARKS SYNAGOGUE HERITAGE FOUNDATION)

“The true extent of the damage to Bevis Marks is being overlooked. Considered both individually and cumulatively, the impact of this scheme is the last straw “.

RABBI MORRIS added: “The only reason I am speaking to you today is because the Jewish community believes that the future of Bevis Marks, our cathedral synagogue, is at risk if they approve this plan. That is not hyperbole or theater. Our actual experience of the site informs our keen awareness that placing a 48-story tower on our southern exposure will cause us harm. “

He added: “It will diminish the spiritually uplifting and practically necessary light that seeps into the synagogue… There is jpost.com/jerusalem-report/londons-jews-split-into-east-and-west-now-theyve-reconciled-684704 Bevis Marks he will be hurt by this plan and I’m surprised we even have this meeting, but here we are. “

Among the 1,800 comments submitted on the Bury Street plan were concerns that the excavation could cause structural damage to the historic building.

Protesters, including historian Sir Simon Schama, lent their voice to the campaign, asking: “High-rise office buildings would never be considered four miles away from St. Paul’s Cathedral, so why should it be? acceptable here? “

The UK’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, and the chairwoman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, voiced their objections to the project. The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America wrote to the British Ambassador in Washington, DC, Dame Karen Pierce, calling the proposed building “a shocking disregard for the needs and historical rights of the Sephardic Jewish community.”

The heir to the throne of Great Britain, Prince Charles, also supported the campaign to cancel the tower.

In 2019, the synagogue received a £ 2.8 million grant from the UK National Heritage Lottery Fund for “vital restoration and conservation work on its collections” so that they can be displayed in a new section of the synagogue complex. In February, Bevis Marks received £ 497,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to kick-start renovation and other work that had been hampered over the previous year by the pandemic.

    Plans to build a 48-story skyscraper on Bury Street immediately south of Bevis Marks in London's financial district, called The City, were rejected last month by a vote of the Planning Committee of the City of London Corporation.  But a planned 21-story tower on nearby Creechurch Lane would do it (credit: BEVIS MARKS SYNAGOGUE HERITAGE FOUNDATION) Plans to build a 48-story skyscraper on Bury Street immediately south of Bevis Marks in London’s financial district, called The City, were rejected last month by a vote of the Planning Committee of the City of London Corporation. But a planned 21-story tower on nearby Creechurch Lane would do it (credit: BEVIS MARKS SYNAGOGUE HERITAGE FOUNDATION)

The work is being overseen by the Bevis Marks Synagogue Heritage Foundation, which was established in 2019, with Prince Charles as a sponsor.

Bevis Marks emerged unscathed from World War I and the 1940-1941 Luftwaffe bombing of Nazi Germany’s air force that pulverized the nearby East End where many London Jews lived at the time. In 1992, the building was severely damaged by an IRA bomb aimed at the nearby Baltic Exchange that caused extensive damage to the surrounding historic neighborhood. The restored synagogue was damaged by a second IRA bomb in 1993.



Reference-www.jpost.com

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