Synagogue, The Village Shul, waits in wings for co-star role at New End Theatre

Published: July 28, 2011
by JOSH LOEB

IT is a stage synonymous with Jewish culture, but now one of Camden’s most prominent theatres is in talks about sharing its home with a synagogue.

Brian Daniels, chief executive of New End Theatre in Hampstead, has told the New Journal he is considering letting out the venue to Hampstead-based The Village Shul. He described the idea as an innovative way of generating cash at a time when many theatres are suffering due to the recession.

Mr Daniels said: “This is an expensive building in the middle of Hampstead and it needs a steady rental stream. We may have some shared usage with the synagogue. It’s about creative thinking.”

However, he stressed discussions were in the early stages and that planning permission may be needed for the New End building.

The announcement will come as little surprise to some. The Jewish Chronicle once called the New End Theatre “a playhouse that’s so Jewish it’s like going to synagogue”.

Emma Klein, founder of Cafe Philo, a Jewish-themed lecture-series in Hampstead, said: “I prefer shared usage to the idea of the New End closing. It’s not bad having another synagogue in the area but it would be a shame to lose a cultural facility.

“If the New End does not have performances on Saturdays it would not be the end of the world. As long as some modus vivendi can be found it is no bad thing.”

Rabbi Yisroel Weisz, who leads services at The Village Shul, said: “We’ve been doing stuff in Hampstead for a while and have been looking for a permanent venue. One hundred and fifty people attended our Purim parties and we run lots of events for young people and kids.

“It’s not just a synagogue, it’s community-based and children-based. As well as cheder [Jewish sunday school], we offer ways for people to connect with Judaism.”

The Village Shul is aligned with the Chabad-Labavitch orthodox branch of Judaism.

Rabbi Weisz said he hoped to have arrangements finalised by September, in time for the high holy days, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.