LONDON – After a decade of planning, London’s first Jewish community center opened Sunday, attracting over 5,000 people to its inaugural events.
The £50 million ($81 million) venture is expected to dramatically enhance Jewish life in North London, offering over 1,300 activities in its first three months alone. Many of the events at JW3 – a play on the local zip code — feature recognizable names such as actor Kevin Spacey, National Theatre director Sir Nicholas Hytner and comedian Ruby Wax.
“With programming of this standard, JW3 will be a catalyst for the continued revitalization of London’s Jewish community, filling it with a fresh sense of unity, focus and purpose, and increasing the quality, variety and volume of Jewish conversation in London and beyond. In 20 years from now we’ll be wondering how we ever managed without JW3 at the heart of our community,” said CEO Raymond Simonson.
The project, which took 10 years to come to fruition, was initiated by philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield after she visited JCC Manhattan in 2002. She also provided the bulk of the funding.
Unlike most American JCCs, JW3 does not have a gym or pool, but will rather concentrate on arts, culture and Jewish learning. The purpose-built, four-story, 3,250-square-meter (35,000-sq.-ft.) building is equipped with a nursery school, auditorium, restaurant, movie theater, demonstration kitchen and dance studio. Its offerings in its launch season include a look at “Big British Broiguses,” a monthly comedy night called “Havanagiggle!,” an evening with actress Zoe Wanamaker and regular family fun days.
Last month, newly installed Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis affixed a mezuzah designed by sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor on the front door of the building.