Finchley Reform Synagogue: Growing with the community

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Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS) has seen membership grow from 20 families in 1960 to 900 today. It badly needed a new place to worship. With the help of a Charity Bank loan, FRS is building a brand-new synagogue offering twice as much space.

Social Problem

Many religious buildings are decades (if not hundreds) of years old. They’re often poorly insulated, draughty, expensive to run and not exactly welcoming to worshippers. Maintaining such a building can feel like one patch-up job after another. Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS) used to be one of these buildings. Built in the 70s, it had seen repair and running costs increase year by year. What’s more, the local Jewish community has grown considerably since the synagogue was built. There are now 2,000 members – far too many to cram into the old hall for celebrations and festivals.

Solution

The old synagogue is being replaced by a brand-new building offering twice as much space. There will be a much larger main hall, as well as offices and a dedicated space for youth activities. The design will also allow the synagogue to move its popular kindergarten into the main building (previously, some of the children were taught in old portacabins). It will also enable the synagogue to not only continue its winter homeless shelter, but to offer people a much nicer stay, with hot showers and better facilities. The synagogue is being built to BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standards and will be carbon neutral. Solar panels and energy efficiency measures will reduce the amount of energy drawn from the national grid by at least 50%. The carbon that is used will be offset, both for the build itself and the running of it.

Loan

While around half of the build cost has been donated by members, FRS still needed to borrow up to £3.5 million for the project. Charity Bank was chosen both because it understands the sector and because it offered a competitive package.

Impact

FRS will have its new home by the end of March 2022, just in time for Passover. As well as religious services and festivals, the building will also host many secular activities, from Girl Guides meetings and bridge clubs to writing workshops and dementia awareness sessions. It will also welcome other faiths – the previous building was often used for joint services with Christian and Muslim communities, and as a venue for Ramadan prayers. Members and visitors alike will be able to enjoy a light, bright, welcoming atmosphere, and space to gather together. In short, the synagogue will better represent the progressive, vibrant community it serves.

“Other banks struggle to understand what charities are all about. We felt that Charity Bank would better understand our proposal because it works in the charity sector. We also thought that it would be well-placed to make us a competitive offer. Both of those things have proven to be true. And, genuinely, we’ve had a good relationship with everyone we’ve spoken to at the bank. They have a trusting, respectful way of working with clients. I’d have no hesitation at all in recommending Charity Bank.”

Bob Humphreys, Chair of Finchley Reform Synagogue

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,000 loans totalling over £350m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.