Chatham and Rochester
Marcus Roberts


Bookmark this page |  E-mail this page to a friend

Pages < 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   > 

In more recent years the community has declined again due to economic decline in the area and general recession causing members to leave. Also many of the numerous children of the post war families have grown up and moved away leaving a mostly older and smaller congregation - a phenomenon that has been often repeated elsewhere in the provinces and which is also a commentary on the fact that the post war generation of Jews have gained a complete freedom of educational and employment opportunities. The economic and social needs and pressures to join family businesses or "Jewish" occupations have largely disappeared. Additionally the relatively recent economic independence and therefore increased mobility of Jewish women must be a factor that has to be taken into account.

The community has like many of the provincial communities lost its kosher butchers. A Quaker owned butchers - Gurrs - had a kosher section from the 1950s, which was maintained more out of benevolent consideration for the community than for profit. When the business was brought out by Dewhurst in the later 1970s the section was dropped as uncommercial. In the social histories of Jewish communities the loss of the kosher butchers is a useful barometer of communal decline.

The synagogue is active and services are held regularly though a Saturday minyan is arranged about once a month. Chatham synagogue is now the only mid-Kent synagogue which gives it its present strategic importance. Members live in a wide area but mainly the Medway Towns. Members follow a variety of occupations though many are increasingly retired.

Weddings are conducted in the synagogue from time to time. There have been some nine weddings in the last 30 years, though not all have been of members of the local community - the shule is recognized as an attractive wedding venue. A more recent one (1997) was of Elizabeth and Alan Karsberg's - a North London couple in their later 20s, who married in the schule to be nearer the brides' family who are members of the modern Canterbury community. The wedding was reported as a matter of local interest in a wedding feature printed by the local paper.

The members continue to play an active part in the life of the area as District Judges, JPs, School Governors etc. The warden of the synagogue Gabriel Lancaster, is a member of the Kent Advisory Council for Religious Education determining the agreed local syllabus and helping training teachers in multi-faith education. The synagogue is a very popular for school RE visits from as far away as the edge of London, there are some two visits per week on average. Such inter-faith initiatives and educational activities are not untypical of a number of the provincial communities which play a very useful role in this respect. The community is small but active and takes evident pride in continuing to maintain Jewish life and tradition in western Kent.

Post a Comment
Submit to this trail