REDEDICATION AND RENEWAL – Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah – SJN, December 2015

This year Chanukkah will take on a special meaning for the members and friends of Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue. After more than four years away, we shall be returning to 6 Lansdowne Road.

6 Lansdowne Road has not simply been restored and refurbished, it has been completely rebuilt: the 1930s facade and the eastern wall adjoining a small block of Victorian mansion flats, the only remnant of the building’s previous incarnation. And so, more accurately, the congregation will not be returning to its old abode, it will be taking up residence in a completely new home. As the builder’s logo displayed outside for the past few months, put it: ‘same place, better space.’

Chanukkah begins on the evening of December 6, and on Shabbat Chanukkah, we shall be holding our first service, and a day of celebratory and learning activities that will conclude after havdalah, and Chanukkah candle-lighting, with the fixing of m’zuzot. The synagogue redevelopment, having taken so long, it has only been in recent months that we have been able to set our sights on a date for its completion. What could be better than to return home on Shabbat Chanukkah and rededicate the synagogue at a time when we celebrate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees on 25 Kislev 164 BCE.

Nevertheless, apart from the obvious differences in historical context – not least that our synagogue has not been occupied these past four years by an imperial power – there is another crucial difference between the Temple, ultimately destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, and the institution of the synagogue that emerged to take its place. The Temple, Beit ha-Mikdash, ‘the Holy House’, was a sacred edifice, its construction guided by the details set out in the Torah, in the last five portions of the Book of Exodus. By contrast, a ‘synagogue’ – a name derived from the Greek, which itself is a translation of the Hebrew word k’hillah – refers, not to a building, but to the congregation, who ‘assemble’ for sacred purposes, in particular, for study and for prayer. On Shabbat Chanukkah, rather than rededicate the building, we shall be rededicating the congregation for the future. It is for this reason that all the features of our fine new building have been designed to create a context for the present needs and future development of the congregation, allowing for the flexible use of space, and for spaces of different dimensions to accommodate a variety of activities.

In the coming months and years, we look forward to welcoming visitors to 6 Lansdowne Road from the Jewish community and from the wider community of Brighton and Hove. In the meantime, it remains for us to say a huge thank you to Ralli Hall for providing us with a temporary home, while we worked towards our goal of rededication and renewal.