London's New American-Style JW3 Community Center Opens to Great Expectations

Can Hotspot Lure 60,000 Paying Members?

Grand Opening: Models portraying Adam and Eve at the Genesis-themed opening of London’s JW3 Jewish community center.
(Blake Ezra Photography
Grand Opening: Models portraying Adam and Eve at the Genesis-themed opening of London’s JW3 Jewish community center.

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published October 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

“Twenty-five years ago, I would have been very pessimistic, but a corner has been turned,” said Geoffrey Alderman, an expert on British Jewry at the University of Buckingham. “There is no doubt that there is a cultural renaissance within Anglo Jewry at the moment.”

Exhibit A of the Anglo renaissance is Simonson’s own Limmud, which started 30 years ago as a professional forum for teachers and now draws thousands of participants to a Jewish learning festival each December.

Beyond that there is London’s Jewish Book Week, which grew from a small get-together into a nine-day festival with appearances by best-selling novelists held at the spacious Royal National Hotel. The U.K. Jewish Film Festival breaks attendance records annually, according to organizers.

And then there is the London Jewish Cultural Centre, a highbrow institution and lecture forum with an annual membership fee of $2,000 — meaning it caters to a more select clientele.

“There is scarcely a single British university that doesn’t offer at least one course related to Jewish studies,” Alderman said. “This is unprecedented.”

But while the proliferation of options suggests that British Jews have an appetite for cultural offerings, it also means JW3 will have some serious competition as it tries to inject itself into an already crammed Jewish calendar.

“We’ll have to wait and see how it goes with JW3, but it’s obvious that it only has a chance to succeed if it appeals to the widest possible audience,” Alderman said.

Simonson says his organization is committed to offering a diverse menu of programming. Visitors on Oct. 9, for example, will have a choice of 25 activities ranging from a macaroon baking class to a talk featuring author Thomas Harding and his cousin, BBC News director James Harding, about the capture of Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess.

Kevin Spacey, the Hollywood actor, is scheduled to make an appearance at the center later this year.

“Through JW3, we’re telling people who don’t go to shul or have non-Jewish partners to not disappear from the radar, not to be lost, but to put their toes in the water,” Simonson said. “Come and taste something Jewish that might excite them, that meets the other parts of their identity.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.