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Synagogue angered by Mosque expansion plan in East End

PUBLISHED: 15:14 08 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:40 05 October 2010

Fieldgate synagogue in shadow of East London mosque

Fieldgate synagogue in shadow of East London mosque

EXCLUSIVE ONE of the East End s last remaining synagogues fears it is being pressured into selling up to make way for the expansion of a huge mosque next door. Elders at the tiny Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue in Whitechapel are worried that exp

ONE of the East End's last remaining synagogues fears it is being pressured into selling up to make way for the expansion of a huge mosque next door.

Elders at the tiny Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue in Whitechapel are worried that expansion plans by the East London Mosque would force them out of Tower Hamlets.

But Mosque elders have denied the claims and stressed they enjoyed good relations with all their neighbours.

Jewish concerns have intensified after the Advertiser discovered that Labour councillors are planning to spend £50,000 placing a mosaic on the pavement outside the front door of the synagogue and the rear entrance of the mosque in Fieldgate Street.

Nathaniel Roos, vice-president of the synagogue, said: "If they think that by doing this they can push the Jewish community out of the synagogue to gain an advancement to buy our property, this would not be to their benefit.

"We are the dog in the manger and we can hold out indefinitely."

Built in 1899, the synagogue is a symbol of the changing face of the East End.

Congregations have dwindled over recent decades as Jews move to other parts of London.

Meanwhile, worshippers at the East London Mosque, which dwarfs the synagogue, have multiplied and elders have long earmarked the synagogue as a jigsaw piece in their expansion plans.

With the synagogue now regularly struggling to raise the required minyan, a quorum of 10 Jewish men needed for prayers, several in the Jewish community feel that placing a mosaic on its doorstep would deter new arrivals.

According to papers leaked to the Advertiser, Labour councillors, led by Abdal Ullah, who is in charge of highways and street scenery, have allocated £50,000 to "improve" Fieldgate Street.

The cash would be spent on benches, trees and a mosaic on the pavement, a scheme the council claims would give "local people...greater ownership of the facility".

No designs for the mosaic have yet been drawn up, but the leaked papers say it would be based on "input from local elders' groups".

When asked to guarantee the synagogue would be consulted, the council refused, saying: "No decisions have been made on the artist or consultees at this stage."

That has infuriated the synagogue's Mr Roos.

He said: "I think it would be disgusting. "We would never dream of doing something like this. We were here first, we're not the newcomers. They are going against all the laws of civility, tolerance and respect.

"It would be better to spend the money on all the people of the community, not just one section of it and that section's faith.

"This infringement of our faith would cause distress and tension. We would not dream of putting a Hebrew inscription in front of the mosque."

A spokesman for the mosque, which recently made an approach to buy synagogue, said: "We hope that if a design team is appointed that we alongside our neighbours are consulted and can provide ideas on what we all would like our communal space to look like."

He stressed that the mosque's current expansion plans did not involve the synagogue, with whom they have "an excellent relationship".

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