Ar­rest the slide in pop­u­la­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

re­turned to the town. She is pleased to be back, but with a young son, be­moans the fact that “other than cheder, there is noth­ing for young peo­ple”.

Ralli Hall hosts a va­ri­ety of so­cial and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties and is used by most com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions. It was home to Brighton and Hove Pro­gres­sive con­gre­ga­tion while it awaited the com­ple­tion of a more compact, flexi-space re­de­vel­op­ment of its syn­a­gogue. The first ser­vice in the new premises was held last month.

Its min­is­ter, Rabbi El­iz­a­beth Tik­vah Sarah, says that for her com­mu­nity, the tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion “has been per­fect — and Ralli Hall was not us­ing the space on Shab­bat morn­ing”.

As some­one “all about in­clu­sion and equal­ity” — Rabbi Sarah is a pi­o­neer in ad­vanc­ing Jewish gay and les­bian rights — she is pleased at the di­ver­sity of her 320-mem­ber con­gre­ga­tion and a pro­gram­meof ac­tiv­i­ties­rang­ingfro­maFair­trade week to a thriv­ing “Shab­ba­tots”.

The town’s main Ortho­dox shul, Brighton and Hove He­brew Con­gre­ga­tion, also has am­bi­tious build­ing plans for its New Church Road base that bet­ter re­flects present and fu­ture needs. The shul’s 300 mem­bers could all be ac­com­mo­dated in the cur­rent syn­a­gogue, where the av­er­age Shab­bat at­ten­dance is around 50. BHHC chair­man David Seidel is in dis­cus­sions over a scheme that would see part of the site sold off for hous­ing and the re­main­der con­verted into a site “in keep­ing with cur­rent needs rather than his­tor­i­cal ones”. The in­ten­tion is to pro­vide a more in­ti­mate, ad­justable space for ser­vices, plus fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing a func­tions hall, kitchens, rabbi’s ac­com­mo­da­tion and meet­ing rooms. There is ad­di­tion­ally the pos­si­bil­ity of a kosher café and shop.

A po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ment part­ner has been cho­sen and as­sum­ing that plan­ning con­sent is re­ceived, build­ing work could start early in 2017. Mr Sediel says that as well as fund­ing a more rel­e­vant fa­cil­ity, the prop­erty deal would leave “a sub­stan­tial re­serve. One of the best things we can do is to se­cure the fu­ture.

“There has been a civic re­nais­sance in Brighton. The shuls have to fol­low that with a re­nais­sance of their own.”

BHHC’s Rabbi Her­shel Rader ar­rived from Lon­don six years ago. He prefers it to the cap­i­tal — “it’s more re­laxed, a bet­ter qual­ity of life and there are a lot of cul­tural at­trac­tions.” He is ex­cited by the pro­posed re­de­vel­op­ment, which he be­lieves will make the shul more ap­peal­ing to peo­ple both within and out­side the area. He adds that a key chal­lenge for lo­cal shuls is at­tract­ing Is­raelis who have moved to Brighton and Hove. “They are not used to things that take place around a syn­a­gogue.”

The town’s other Ortho­dox syn­a­gogue, Hove He­brew Con­gre­ga­tion, has been mak­ing its own ad­just­ments to a de­clin­ing com­mu­nity and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of both shuls ac­knowl­edge that talks over a merger have pe­ri­od­i­cally taken place down the years. Mr Seidel says that “un­of­fi­cial dis­cus­sions” have been held in re­cent months. His per­sonal view is that merger “would make sense be­cause we all know each other and it would pro­vide economies of scale”.

BHHC is also re­spon­si­ble for Middle Street and Mr Seidel says it is ex­plor­ing ways of in­creas­ing use of the build­ing, which opened in 1875.

Over at Brighton and Hove Re­form Syn­a­gogue, Rabbi An­drea Za­nardo says that in his three years in Brighton, he has ex­pe­ri­enced “a sense of com­mu­nity that I didn’t find in Lon­don. There’s no com­pe­ti­tion be­tween syn­a­gogues. I some­times at­tend an Ortho­dox minyan and am made wel­come.”

The min­is­ter says the con­gre­ga­tion is on the con­ser­va­tive side of the move­ment (it re­jected Re­form’s new pol­icy to recog­nise the Jewish sta­tus of the chil­dren of Jewish fa­thers and Muriel Lewis is a whisker away at the Hy­man Fine home non-Jewish moth­ers). It is the largest in Sus­sex with around 500 mem­bers and he is en­cour­aged that “we are be­gin­ning to at­tract young fam­i­lies and young adults”. He would also like to in­volve more of the Is­raelis liv­ing in the area and would be in­ter­ested in do­ing “some se­ri­ous re­search with JPR to find out why they don’t reach out”.

Mrs Wilks is also heav­ily in­volved in lo­cal wel­fare pro­vi­sion hav­ing been a founder of Help­ing Hands, pro­vid­ing a range of vol­un­tary ser­vices, at the turn of the cen­tury. “I was just back from Edg­ware and felt there was no Jewish Care-style net­work in Brighton,” she re­calls. The or­gan­i­sa­tion has grown to a three-fig­ure army of vol­un­teers deal­ing with prob­lems such as men­tal health, un­em­ploy­ment and lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion. Fi­nanced by do­na­tions, it has “filled a big gap”.

Jewish Care is rep­re­sented in the town through its care home, Hy­man Fine House, where man­ager Natasha Car­son — who for­merly served the char­ity in north-west Lon­don — con­ducts a proud tour of the site. “We feel very much part of Jewish Care but we live by the sea,” she says. In keep­ing with the more coun­try feel, the home has “hen power”, with chick­ens in the gar­den area.

2016 is a land­mark for the com­mu­nity — the 250th an­niver­sary of the first Jewish pres­ence in Brighton. Mr Seidel hopes it can serve as a spring­board for re­vival. “The Brighton com­mu­nity has an in­cred­i­ble amount of po­ten­tial. It’s heart­en­ing that all con­gre­ga­tions are try­ing to make things hap­pen. You can’t mourn for what was. You have to look at what you can do.”

Weare start­ing to at­tract young­fam­i­lies

Beau­ti­ful but rarely used: Middle Street Syn­a­gogue

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.