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The town of Southend-on-Sea did not fully encompass all of its smaller districts until 1914, up until that time the area was divided into smaller self-contained area such as Leigh on Sea and Shoeburyness. For the story of Jewish South East Essex, we are including the whole of area from Maplin Sands in the east to Basildon in the west and Canvey Island in the South and to Rayleigh and Rochford in the North.

There are a number of documents which show evidence of a handful Jews living and working in this area during the 18th Century. At that time their main occupation was the manufacture of alcohol and other ancillary services. The next group of Jewish residents started to arrive in the late 1800s when the railway was built to enable Londoners to take day trips and holidays by the sea. Many of those Londoners were Jewish and required Kosher boarding houses, which started to open in the area now known as the Conservation Area of central Southend on Sea. Over time as the London's East End became less desirable more people relocated to Southend increasing the need for formal places of worship and Jewish goods and services.

Initially the owners of the first Kosher boarding houses, together with other Jewish residents and visitors, met together to take part in Jewish services and celebrate Jewish festivals in each other's houses but as the population grew a makeshift synagogue was set up in a tin roofed building in Avenue Road, Westcliff on Sea.


At the turn of the 20th Century there were no more than 15 to 20 Jewish families in Southend and they initially held their services in private residences with High Festival Services being held at the old Masonic Hall in Southend High Street. On the site of the present landmark Cliffs Pavilion Theatre in Westcliff was a disused iron Chapel which some Jewish residents acquired for regular services and this became the first Jewish establishment for communal worship in the area. Reverend Yudelovitch moved into the town and became the community's first paid Minister. In 1905 the community name 'Southend and Westcliff Hebrew Congregation' (SWHC) was officially adopted.

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