London lawmakers reject plan for high-rise building next to historic synagogue


(JTA) — City council members in London voted against a controversial plan to build a high-rise building near an 18th-century synagogue.

The plan by developers would have replaced a seven-story building adjacent to the Bevis Marks synagogue in central London with a 48-story tower. The plan was rejected on Tuesday in a vote by a vote of 14-7, the BBC reported.

The custodians of the synagogue, which today serves the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community of London, argued the envisioned building would block sunlight to the synagogue, though the developers disputed this.

As in other large synagogues of communities of Sephardi Jews who left the Iberian Peninsula after the Spanish Inquisition, which began in the 15th century, Bevis Marks depends for lighting on candle and sunlight.

“We already find it difficult at times to read prayers and carry out a normal service due to poor light conditions,” Shalom Morris, a resident rabbi at Bevis Marks, told the BBC. He said he was “delighted” that the plan was canceled.

Several thousand people signed a petition against the plan, including prominent British Jews such as Simon Schama, a renowned historian, author and television presenter.

“Saving the light for Bevis Marks is a matter of the deepest historical and cultural significance,” the Jewish Chronicle quoted Schama as saying.

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