Chief Rabbi joins Olympic Park sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor at opening of JW3 centre

From left to right: Debbie Klein, chairman of JW3, Nick Viner, outgoing CEO of JW3, Baroness Neuberg

From left to right: Debbie Klein, chairman of JW3, Nick Viner, outgoing CEO of JW3, Baroness Neuberger, Dame Vivien Duffield, Sir Anish Kapoor and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Picture: Blake Ezra Photography - Credit: � Blake Ezra Photography Ltd. 2013.

The Chief Rabbi thanked the philanthropist founder of a Jewish community and cultural centre for “changing the face of London Jewry” at the glamorous opening ceremony of Hampstead’s JW3 yesterday.

The newly installed Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis unveiled a traditional Jewish mezuzah - prayers inside a decorative case that are fixed to the doors of Jewish homes - at the evening event, which welcomed hundreds through its doors.

The silver mezuzah was based on the Jewish symbol of a Star of David and was designed by world-renowned artist Sir Anish Kapoor, creator of the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Dame Vivien, whose dream of having an American-style Jewish community centre in London has been ten years in the making, said before the ceremony began:

“I’m completely overwhelmed. I nearly burst into tears just now. Everything is lovely.”

More than 6,000 people visited the centre over its first three launch days on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with parents taking children to the nursery, families watching films in the cinema and hundreds taking a variety of different classes, including antenatal crafting, baby yoga and chocolate-making.

CEO of JW3 Raymond Simonson thanked world-renowned sculptor Sir Anish for “making a house into a home” and joined the Chief Rabbi in praising the vision of founder Dame Vivien Duffield.

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He said: “I feel very emotional. A generation of Jews have been waiting for something like this. As a British Jew born and raised in London, I am so proud to open a new, unique arts and culture venue. “It has been built on the shoulders of everything that has come before it but I hope we have laid the foundations of something groundbreaking, new, important and game changing.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis carefully placed a scroll inscribed with the most important Hebrew prayers inside the sleek, modern case that had already been attached to the door.

He said: “Dame Vivien, thank you for changing the face of London Jewry with this marvellous establishment. You are truly remarkable.”

The large crowd cheerfully clapped along to traditional music from a live clarinetist as the Chief Rabbi closed the silver case, making the mezuzah kosher.

After the event, Sir Anish Kapoor said: “The mezuzah is an expanded, twisted Star of David to mark the threshold and as Raymond Simonson said, it makes a house into a home.

“It’s wonderful to be involved as my mother is Jewish and so I am Jewish.”

JW3 first opened its doors to the public on Sunday (September 29), attracting thousands to walk along the bridge into the centre to sit peacefully in the temporary “Garden of Eden” and to enjoy a concert from an Israeli band.

The inaugural launch season, which runs for three months, has a central theme of “In The Beginning”.