It’s 10.15am on an overcast October morning, but JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre on Finchley Road is buzzing. In the shiny demonstration kitchen a class is learning how to make challah (the sweet plaited Jewish bread), a convoy of buggies has just pulled up at the kid’s soft play centre and technicians carry out sound checks in the plush film theatre as visitors and staff bustle in and out the light and airy lobby area. This sleek, chic building (designed by architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands) has only been open a week but it already seems to have made itself right at home on this (otherwise rather unlovely) north London stretch.
The centre is the first venture of its kind for London’s Jewish community and it aims to deliver top notch culture – with a Jewish twist – alongside community facilities such as a nursery, adult evening classes, dance and drama studios and a youth centre. The programme of autumn events is impressive. Film buffs can choose between a comedy film club, a misogynist film club (‘a feminist celebration of the terrible portrayal of women in cinema,’ including ‘The Three Amigos’ presented by ‘Peep Show’ star Isy Suttie), a foodie film club, and a TV club featuring the latest Israeli TV drama. There’s debate (of course!), including an evening with Kevin Spacey, original theatre, dozens of literary events and an Arab/Israeli book club, and lots and lots of food-related stuff (this is a Jewish initiative, after all): you can learn to cook anything from Macaroons to tagines or north African tapas.
There’s also an inspiring sounding menu from Zest, the centre’s cafe and restaurant, which is run by ex-Ottolenghi duo Josh Katz and Eran Tibi. It opens next week and promises Middle Eastern-style nosh (think mezzes, fish, lots of grains) – but it also happens to be kosher. There’s also a weekly kid’s film club followed by craft workshops – ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, plus chocolate making session, is, unsurprisingly, already sold out. Best of all is the relaxed, accessible feel to the place – and the facilities, membership and events are open to everyone, regardless of background or faith. Mazel tov NW3! Rebecca Taylor
For more info visit jw3.org.uk