By the Jewish Chronicle and COLlive.com
England’s newest Chabad center is in Hampstead Garden Suburb, known for its intellectual, artistic and literary associations but also located in the “Jewish London Heartland” near Hampstead, Highgate and Golders Green.
Shluchim Rabbi Bentzi and Rochie Sudak converted a home decor showroom into an attractive, multi-purpose suite that will be used for an array of activities and services for local Jews whose population is estimated at 6,000.
Building started last March and while activities are increasing, it is still a work in progress, the Jewish Chronicle reported. While there is no sign yet on the outside, the inside has mosaics of little wooden tiles and a heat exchange system that pumps in fresh air every 15 minutes.
The front had a coffee corner on wheels — one of which doubles up as the bimah for Torah reading — and a lounge area with books and colorful contemporary Judaica on sale, the newspaper reported.
Offered at the center are adult education courses from the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, a mother and toddler group, a Sunday morning Tefillin and breakfast drop-in and C-Teen programming for youth.
The hall behind serves as a shul and a shared workspace and can be divided into classrooms. Before opening, Rabbi Sudak said, “we did a lot of research asking how can we cater for what people need in their lives. We’ve created a very flexible space.”
The mechitzah is made up of mobile bookshelves which also contain power points. “During the week, you can come in and reserve a desk,” Rabbi Sudak explained.
“During Covid, we realized that things were going to change. People get isolated working at home,” he told the Chronicle. They will be able to book some workspace and network with others “instead of schlepping into town”.
The multi-functional facility displays more than design neatness; it reflects a deep-rooted philosophy. “Judaism believes that every person has a specific mission for which they were born,” Rabbi Sudak said.
A few dozen people are attending the Friday night and Shabbos morning services. For the first Shabbos, neighboring Shluchim Rabbi Yisroel and Devorah Leah Weisz walked with community members of The Village Shul in Hampstead to support the new minyan. It was an over 2-mile walk, a gesture that touched both communities.