150-year old Bristol, UK synagogue saved thanks to renovation

The historic Orthodox synagogue was given a life saving renovation in large part due to generous donations from its aging congregants.

Dan Verbin, Canada ,

Bristol, UK
Bristol, UK

One of the oldest synagogues in the United Kingdom is about to celebrate its 150th anniversary in large part due to a recent renovation that saved the previously crumbling building from being sold by its few remaining members.

Bristol’s Orthodox Park Row Synagogue synagogue, dating back to 1871 and given a Grade 2 classification by the British government as a structure that is "of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it,” was in trouble a decade ago, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

The aging congregation was becoming smaller in size, and the building was falling apart. Some of the elderly members had moved away to be close to their families. There was no longer a regular rabbi available, so congregants began leading services.

Synagogue members were discussing selling the building and relocating to some place smaller.

“There were cracks in the walls, paint peeling from the main prayer hall, from the ceiling and from the walls, there was damp in some of the walls,” Bristol Hebrew Congregation president David Turns told the Chronicle.

Membership dwindled to the point where they were rarely getting a minyan.

Thanks to a series of generous donations from the members and the local Jewish community, along with a substantial grant from the Bristol Jewish burial society, a wholesale renovation of the building has been completed in time for the historic synagogue’s 150th anniversary.

Park Row Synagogue member Samuel Waite described the newly renovated building as “stunning.”

A city ceremony will take place in early October to celebrate the synagogue’s anniversary and its re-opening. Attendees will include the mayor of Bristol and national Jewish leaders.

The synagogue also has plans to build a mikvah, as there is not one presently in the area.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)