Muswell Hill Synagogue
Shabbat Behar 20/21 May 2022 8.39pm 9.54pm

Building Committee Update, June 2019


At the AGM in May we updated the community on our progress, and in particular an important activity that we the Committee had been undertaking to draw up a new, evolved, set of plans.  This update sets out and explains these plans.  A set of drawings is also being prepared for display in the Synagogue foyer.

Why have the Plans Evolved?

A great deal of very useful feedback was received on the plans published in July 2018.  This ranged over a number of subjects, but two themes were particularly prominent. One was flexibility.  Enlarging both the Beit Hamidrash and Hall meant reducing the number of separately usable spaces downstairs.   Members wondered if this could somehow be addressed?   A second was the new play deck for the nursery. This was an expensive and disruptive component of the plan and concerns were expressed by Members, and Yeladenu management about the impact as well as cost-effectiveness.

With all of this in mind the Building Committee set out to explore alternatives. An additional feature underpinning everything is budget. We are delighted to report that we have now received commitments of £500,000 from within the community. This is a fantastic achievement, and we are grateful to the generosity of those members that have provided financial support.  We know that there are many more potential donors in the community and believe we can get closer to our original target of £750,000. However, to be prudent, we have taken the view that any alternative plans should be struck at a lower overall cost.  

What Has Changed in the Plans?

Let’s start with what has not changed.

  • We still plan to create a new, enlarged Beit Hamidrash. There is strong appetite in the community to create an additional, inspiring religious space within the building capable of holding inclusive services as well as social and educational events.  A sketch to help visualise this exciting new space can be seen here.
  • Restoration of the Main Synagogue. The Main Synagogue has a unique heritage that we propose to maintain. We want to make it a more comfortable space through the introduction of new LED lighting, additional ventilation in the ladies’ gallery, new windows and a redecoration.  
  • We still plan create an additional door from the lobby into the Main Synagogue which will help with overall flow into and out of Services. This new door will also allow greater flexibility on occasions when Women’s seating is provided downstairs. 
  • We still plan to substantially refurbish the lobby, creating a more appropriately modern and welcoming space visitors enter our building, projecting aspects of our community.  A sketch to help visualise how this might look can be seen below. The additional door to the main synagogue is seen to the right of the picture.  
  • We still plan a full upgrade of the kitchen, which is now old, poorly designed and is increasingly holding back our ambitions for food and catering provision.
  • We still plan to renovate the function hall to create a welcoming space for simchas and shul events. The sliding folding doors between the hall and the main shul will be brought back to life so that the main shul can be enlarged at times of peak capacity. 
  • We still plan a full refurbishment of the ground floor toilets. A sketch of how these could look was previously published here.
  • We still plan a full refurbishment of the youth room on the second floor, and the installation of movable partitions to split this space into two classrooms.
  • We still plan to install a security barrier across the front perimeter of the shul building on the advice of CST.  An image of how this might look previously published although further consultation with the CST will continue before the final design in agreed.

So what has changed.

  • As noted above, the function hall will be fully modernised. Under the revised plans it would remain the same size and layout.  However the plans include a new element of sliding doors at the back of the existing ‘succah’ area which could be fully opened up. This could allow people to spill outdoors for a summer kiddush; or provide facility to construct a marquee in order to temporarily enlarge the function hall.  An idea of how this could look is shown in this sketch.
  • To create this flexibility outside, the fixed nursery equipment will be moved to the far side of the car-park in a new, dedicated area. New storage facilities will also be added, the car-park surface improved, and parking spaces retained.
  • The partitioning in the current ‘succah’ area will be modernised so that it can serve as two distinct classrooms, a single space, or opened up onto the function hall.
  • The side entrance will be upgraded with the installation of a larger porch area.  This sketch shows how this might look.
  • With the construction of a new security barrier the entrance on Tetherdown can start to serve as  a proper main entrance to the building, on weekdays as well as Shabbat and Yom Tov. The front doors and entrance to the building will be modernised, a new security office would be built at the front and the entrance made warmer and more welcoming.  A sketch is shown here.
  • Finally, we retain the important innovation of being able to create a clear passage from the side entrance and back stairs through to the rest of the building without crossing through the Function Hall.  This in an important change that will allow far more flexible use of the Hall for dedicated parallel services and other social and educational events.  When the kitchen is in use it will form a continuous zone with the function hall. When not in use a connecting corridor can be created linking the back stairs with the offices and main synagogue. This is shown more clearly on the plans.


The plans are set out here:

Ground Floor.  The ground floor plan will be modified in a number of ways, as described above.  

In this first drawing the ground floor is shown as it might be set up for a regular Shabbat or a Function, with the kitchen and function hall in use together as a single unit.

In this second drawing the ground floor is shown as it might be set up for everyday access, with the hall being used for a social or educational event. Or perhaps both the main Synagogue and the function hall are both in use, either as one joined-up unit or two rooms in parallel.  We will have far more flexibility than in the past.

First Floor.  The new first floor plan is shown here.  There are only minor modifications to the existing layout, mainly to make better use of the ladies cloakroom space.

Second Floor.  The new second floor plan in shown here.  Again there are only minor modifications, principally the inclusion of new partitions in the Youth Zone.

Next steps

Taken together these changes deliver an alternative plan which we believe is equally viable to the version published in July 2018 and in fact has some significant advantages.  One major advantage is that we have had confirmation from our professional team that this alternative plan can be delivered for £1.25 million. With the community commitment of £500k and the financial backing of the United Synagogue the plan is therefore virtually funded and can hopefully proceed quickly from this point. 

As ever, do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Larger images

You can view larger versions of all of the images and plans above by clicking on the thumbnails below.

MHS 2020 Building Plans

Comments are closed