Advertising magnates to open Orthodox synagogue in London

LONDON, Sept. 23 (JTA) – Two brothers known here for the advertising firm they founded are now applying their creative talents to a new subject: Jewish outreach. Charles and Maurice Saatchi, whose campaigns helped former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher win three electoral races, have launched a full- blown advertising campaign for their own, brand-name Orthodox synagogue. The Saatchi Synagogue is due to open its doors in a predominantly Jewish district of northwest London in October. The first advertisement for the synagogue, which appeared in the Jewish media last weekend, depicts a piece of gefilte fish with the slogan: “At our new synagogue, this is the only thing that gets rammed down someone’s throat.” Subsequent advertising campaigns will be aimed at Jewish travelers in London’s subway system. According to Rabbi Pini Dunner, who formerly ran a Jewish radio station in London, the $400,000 synagogue will attract “the many disenfranchised singles and young marrieds.” The Saatchi brothers, who are not known to be observant, say the establishment of the synagogue is, in part, an act of atonement to their parents, who were upset that their sons married non-Jewish partners. But Jonathan Romain, a spokesman for the Reform movement in Britain, objects to the synagogue’s name: “It’s a deterrent to name it Saatchi,” he says. “Even if they might say it is in honor of their parents, everybody will think of Maurice and Charles, which makes it exclusive rather than inclusive.” While the Saatchi Synagogue will be Orthodox, its services will be more relaxed than those in conventional British Orthodox synagogues. A clue to this fact comes in the advertising campaign, which castigates established synagogues for “being too formal and having boring services.” Among the attractions at the synagogue will be a four-course Friday evening dinner and a kosher cooking course taught by best-selling cookbook writer Claudia Roden. While the new venture has failed to win plaudits from the Reform movement, which is a minority in Britain, the synagogue has the won the support of British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. It is also supported by Rabbi Abraham Levy, who runs the nearby Sephardi synagogue, which the Saatchis’ parents have attended for more than 50 years.

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