London’s Jewish community center breaks ground

Mayor Boris Johnson attends ceremony for £50 million project, says he hopes the project "will inspire other Londoners."

London Mayor Johnson blows the shofar_311 (photo credit: jeremy coleman)
London Mayor Johnson blows the shofar_311
(photo credit: jeremy coleman)
LONDON – The eagerly-anticipated new Jewish community center moved a step closer to completion on Thursday with a ceremony marking the start of building what will be one of the largest Jewish community centers in Europe.
London Mayor Boris Johnson joined guests on Thursday for a formal groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the Jewish community center building in Hampstead, North West London.
The center is the brainchild of Dame Vivien Duffield, who was inspired by her visit to similar community centers in the US and has donated £25 million to realize the project, the largest ever single gift in the history of the London Jewish community.
“The Jewish community center building has been designed to be inspirational – a place where Jewish culture is made as well as enjoyed,” she said. “My aspiration is that the quality of the programming and cultural output produced at the center will rightly earn it a reputation for excellence amongst the wider community, establishing itself as a must-visit destination on the cultural map of London.”
At the ceremony, attended by over 200 people, Johnson and Duffield ceremonially shoveled earth into the foundations of the 35,000-square foot state-of-the-art building, set to be completed in 2013.
With the principle of inclusiveness at its heart, the center is modeled on the Jewish community centers in cities across America. The community centers host an array of events and activities for all ages that invigorate Jewish life and also cater to the local community and other faiths.
Speaking at the event, and after blowing the shofar, the mayor said: “This wonderful building will be a fitting home for London’s Jewish community, as well as an excellent new center for Londoners of all faiths.
“An outstanding example of a community coming together to make things better for the whole city, this is Team London in action – our own program to harness thousands of volunteers to improve quality of life in the capital – and I hope it will inspire other Londoners. What’s more, it’s being built without a penny of public funds,” he added.
The center will have a large multipurpose hall and a kosher café and hub, both opening onto a huge piazza.
There will also be a 60-seat screening room, demonstration kitchen, arts-and-crafts room, rehearsal and dance studios and meeting rooms.
A nursery and 14 apartments will also be a part of the center.