Kevin Spacey and Ruby Wax to launch £50million Jewish community centre in Finchley Road

Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey will give a talk at the new Jewish community centre

Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey will give a talk at the new Jewish community centre - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Hollywood legend Kevin Spacey and comedian Ruby Wax are among top names who will appear at a new £50million Jewish community and cultural centre which has been 10 years in the making.

An artist's mock-up of the JW3 building

An artist's mock-up of the JW3 building - Credit: Archant

The stars are just two of the big names featured in the JW3 centre’s inaugural season, running from October until December this year, to celebrate the centre opening its doors in Finchley Road on Sunday, September 29.

Actress Zoë Wanamaker and director of the National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner, will also talk about the highs and lows of their careers as part of the launch programme of more than 1,000 events.

With the Camden Arts Centre just across the road, the team behind JW3 are hopeful that Finchley Road will become a new destination for culture.

JW3 chief executive officer Raymond Simonson said: “It’s unbelievable that London with its population of 200,000 Jews doesn’t have a place like JW3.

“There are two parts of what this centre is about. First, it’s an arts and culture venue and then the other part of it is a community centre. We want the two to work in synchronicity. It should bring people, who may not usually sit down and have a conversation with each other, together in one space.”

The four-storey building has an open piazza and will also house a kosher meat-free restaurant, Zest, on its ground floor, run by acclaimed chefs Josh Katz and Eran Tibi, formerly of Ottolenghi and Made in Camden.

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Ice-skating, bar mitzvahs, an outdoor cinema and food markets will be hosted on the piazza throughout the year.

A nursery for 85 children, aged between six months and five years, will be based on the fourth floor.

The architects behind JW3, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, also designed London’s Oxo Tower and the building will be naturally ventilated with only a few rooms air conditioned, including the 250-seat auditorium and 60-seat cinema.

JW3 founder and philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield was inspired to create a large, inclusive Jewish community centre almost 10 years ago after visiting the Jewish Community Centre in New York.

“There really wasn’t a place 10 years ago where Jews of all strands could meet and where people who were Jewish, but had forgotten they were Jewish, or who wanted to dip in and out of Jewish culture, could come,” she said. “There were centres but they were linked to synagogues or a certain place and I wanted to have a place where everybody could come.

“My idea was we could have a place where we can have open debate about everything, where people could take the odd class, come to engaging Jewish events and, hopefully, they could find again the Judaism that they might either have lost or never had.”

She joked that “an X Factor for retired chief rabbis” would be her dream event for the new centre.

Dame Vivien was in discussion with Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs about the meaning of Community, Culture and Jewish Identity at the centre’s first ever event last Thursday chaired by executive editor of The Times Daniel Finkelstein. Despite their divergent views on religion, Dame Vivien and Lord Sacks shared a deep commitment to JW3, speaking eloquently about their visions for its future.

Lord Sacks, at one of his last public engagements before his retirement, thanked Dame Vivien for an “extraordinary act of visionary generosity” and described the centre as a “paradigm shifting institution”.

He said: “You come into this place and you say, wow, let’s do something nobody ever did before. “This is a place that is going to expand our horizons as Jews, it will bring Jews together in unexpected and creative ways.

“It is going to be a source of endless renewal for our community.”

JW3 opens on September 29 with events from October 1.