London lawmakers reject high-rise plan next to historic synagogue

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(JTA) – Members of London City Council have voted against a controversial plan to build a skyscraper near an 18th-century synagogue.

The developers’ plan would have replaced a seven-story building adjacent to the Bevis Marks Synagogue in central London with a 48-story tower. The plan was rejected in a vote on Tuesday by a 14-7 vote, the BBC reported.

Guardians at the synagogue, which today serves London’s Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community, argued that the proposed building would block sunlight on the synagogue, although the developers have disputed this.

As in other large synagogues of the communities of Sephardic Jews who left the Iberian Peninsula after the Spanish Inquisition, which began in the 15th century, Bevis Marks depends for the lighting of candles and sunlight.

“We already have difficulty reading prayers and performing normal service at times due to poor lighting conditions,” Shalom Morris, a resident rabbi of Bevis Marks, told the BBC. He said he was “delighted” that the plan was canceled.

Several thousand people have signed a petition against the plan, including prominent British Jews such as renowned historian, author and television presenter Simon Schama.

“Saving the light for Bevis Marks is a matter of the greatest historical and cultural significance”, the Jewish Chronicle cited Schama as saying.


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