Welcome to London's newest postcode: JW3. Here, in a suburban side-street just off Finchley Road, you can find exhibitions, take cookery classes, attend book-readings, study martial arts and celebrate the work of Woody Allen, Larry David and Marc Chagall.
Strictly speaking, of course, JW3 isn't a postcode; rather it's the tongue-in-cheek name of a new Jewish cultural centre in leafy London, NW3, which opened on Sunday and which, according to its website, aims to "transform the Jewish landscape in London by helping to create a vibrant, diverse and proud community, inspired by and engaged in Jewish arts, culture and community".
The privately funded centre cost around £50m to build, of which £40m was donated by the Clore Duffield Foundation after Vivien Duffield visited New York's Jewish Community Centre (JCC) and wondered why London did not have its own equivalent.
Visitors to JW3 can enjoy modern takes on kosher food at its own restaurant, attend Hebrew lettering and "Krav Maga" self-defence classes, enjoy exhibitions, and listen to book-readings. There's even a Shabbat-compliant lift, programmed to stop on every floor on a Saturday, the day of the week on which Jews are meant to refrain from operating machinery.
CEO Raymond Simonson hopes the 35,000 square foot JW3 will come to rival other London arts venues like the Barbican and Southbank Centre, and stresses that the centre is open to people of all faiths as well as those of none, and so-called "three times a year" Jews who only attend synagogues on holy days.
Around 1,300 events are planned for the first three months alone, and the opening is expected to be attended by luminaries including Kevin Spacey and Ruby Wax. The hope is that the building will enable people to speak about Judaism in terms other than the ones usually mentioned in the media and focus on the religion's vast contribution to the cultural landscape.
The state-of-the-art building is designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, who also designed Hungerford Bridge and the Oxo Tower. Featuring a screening room, a large hall for weddings and bar mitzvahs, and a wide range of other meeting rooms and classrooms, JW3 is designed to be a buzzing cultural hub for the whole community.
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