At Fieldgate St Great Synagogue
There is an overwhelming melancholy at Fieldgate St Great Synagogue. A place of reverence for over a century, it is no longer required now the congregation has departed. It closed for regular services in 2007.
When the synagogue was founded in 1899, Whitechapel was defined by the Jewish community that filled the surrounding streets, yet they dwindled away through the second half of the last century, moving to better housing and better lives in the newly-built suburbs.
After bomb damage in World War II, Fieldgate St Synagogue was rebuilt and reopened in 1959, retaining significant features from the earlier building. There is a lonely grandeur to the place today, worn and dusty now but still with evidence of the attention exercised in its care. Fine gilt texts upon panels around the balcony record benefactors and commemorate loved ones, never to be forgotten. A cotton roller towel still hangs by the sink in the hallway, stale matzos sit in a cupboard upstairs and tablecloths grace abandoned tables, awaiting those who will not return.
Sold last summer to the East London Mosque, which has extended itself upon three sides of the building in recent years, the empty structure sits in limbo awaiting an uncertain future yet, for the meantime, Fieldgate St Great Synagogue harbours the lingering presence of all the worshippers who passed through.
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