Historic Brighton, UK synagogue in desperate need of repair

19th century synagogue, valued for its architecture and religious history, is now crumbling due to water and structural damage.

Dan Verbin ,

Synagogue in England
Synagogue in England

Supporters of a historic synagogue in Brighton, UK are worried that the building is falling into increasing disrepair through lack of upkeep.

Built in 1875, the Middle Street Synagogue was the main synagogue for Brighton and nearby Hove for over a century. While it has not operated as an active synagogue for 17 years, the building is still in use on a part-time basis, and services are still held several times each year.

The building has been listed as “Grade II” by the UK government’s Historic England department for its architectural and historic significance.

The acting curator of the synagogue Vicky Bhogal told the Jewish Chronicle that she had “grave concerns” about the building’s condition after a leaking radiator caused water damage.

There are also pieces of the exterior of the building falling onto the street.

The structural issues led to Brighton and Hove city council’s building inspector contacting the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation (BHHC), the administrators of the Middle Street Synagogue, to give them notice of the issues with the building.

Bhogal, expressed concern that delaying repair work could be catastrophic.

“As one of the most beautiful and significant shuls in the UK, it must be completely restored and reopened to the public,” she said.

Before the pandemic, Bhogal had put together plans to restore the synagogue, including fundraising, with the intent of turning the building into a Jewish heritage center.

Winston Pickett, a member of the Sussex chapter of the Jewish Historical Society of England, told the Chronicle that Middle Street is “saturated with significance because of its outstanding architecture and sheer beauty” and its “role in the story of Brighton and Hove Jewry.”

Brighton and Hove heritage commissioner Roger Amerena said at a meeting three years ago attended by local and national Jewish groups that a trust should be established to fund the synagogue’s renovation, including seeking grants from the World Heritage Fund.

Amerena called Middle Street Synagogue a “national asset, one of the most spectacular synagogues in Europe. It has to be saved.”