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Arts & Culture Guide to Jewish Sites in England Sells out in Lead-up to Chanukah

December 28, 2006
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A new book documenting sites of Jewish interest in England has sold out its first printing. “Jewish Heritage in England: An Architectural Guide” was published last month to coincide with the 350th anniversary of Jewish resettlement in England.

The guidebook sold thousands of copies in its first month, and publishers have ordered a second print run for January.

Written by Sharman Kadish, an academic in Jewish studies at the University of Manchester, the book showcases more than 300 sites of Jewish interest in Britain, mostly synagogues and cemeteries.

“This is really the first book of its kind in England, and will make the Jewish community feel more a part of the national heritage,” Kadish told JTA.

“These sites are communal property,” she said. “But they are also testimony to the fact that Jewish communities once existed in all these tiny places around the country.”

There are some 350,000 Jews living in England, mostly in London and Manchester. But the book also covers some outlying communities that have disappeared.

“We’ve been all over the country to places where Jews once lived, from Inverness to Southampton, Dublin to Cork and the Isle of Man,” says Kadish, who directs Jewish Heritage U.K., an independent organization set up in 2004 to preserve architectural Jewish heritage.

Kadish has spent much of the past 10 years identifying, researching and visiting sites of Jewish interest in England. She was awarded grants of more than $910,000 by the National Lottery and the University of Manchester to facilitate the survey.

“The guidebook plays an important role in showing for the first time the magnificent contribution Jewish architecture has made to the nation’s heritage,” said Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, an organization dedicated to preserving sites of national importance.

The book also raises concern that Jewish architecture in Britain is more at risk than ever.

Celebrated and decorated buildings like the Singers Hill Synagogue in Birmingham and the Princes Road Synagogue in Liverpool — both more than 100 years old and featured in the book — face uncertain futures as dwindling communities struggle to meet maintenance and repair costs.

But Kadish remains positive about her findings.

“These buildings include some of the finest synagogues in Europe, especially precious because they escaped the ravages of the Second World War,” she said.

“They still have great value, both spiritual and cultural, in providing Anglo Jewry with a sense of history and identity.”

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