Cycling? This was a tour de shul

Riders passing the Chabad on the Hill Synagogue in Essex

Riders passing the Chabad on the Hill Synagogue in Essex

For members of one synagogue there was only one thing to do when the Tour de France came to town - eat.

The riders passing through Essex on Monday were greeted by crowds munching on kosher hotdogs, burgers and cookies.

The Lubavitch Chabad On The Hill Synagogue in Buckhurst Hill was directly on the route of stage three of the Tour, and the congregation turned out to watch, and feed, at the same time

"They are doing the best thing Jews always do - serve food and drink and have a great time," said member Paul Growman-Marks, as he watched the lenghtening queue at the kosher refreshment stall the shul had set up on the pavement.

Getting a good view

Getting a good view

"It is the only place in town that is doing kosher food, it has the best spot on the path, and it also has a minyan," he said.

Spectators equipped with umbrellas and deck chairs arrived early to secure good positions beside the crash
barriers.

Rabbi Odom Brandman opened up the shul for the day to let them come in and have a look around - and take advantage of the facilities during the long wait for the riders to appear from Cambridge.

"It is a great opportunity to welcome the community, and great that they want to come and watch the day's events with us," he said.

Outside, student Daniel Jacobs, 16, was hoping to catch a glimpse of Bradley Wiggins. "I want Wiggo to win" he said.

His enthusiasm was undimmed when told that the 2012 champion was not competing this year. "I still think it is great to be here and get a chance to see the race."

For father and daughter Gideon and Anya Orson the day was marred by a group of onlookers objecting to the Israeli flag they were waving.

Anya said: "It wasn't so much the flag, but what flag it was. They wanted us to move and it wasn't very nice.

But Mr Orson, who works at the JW3 cultural centre, was determined not to let the incident ruin their day: "It doesn't make me feel uncomfortable," he said.

And he was pleased that the synagogue had opened its doors. "For Chabad this is a chance to show people we don't have horns, we don't bite, we are a friendly and welcoming community," he said.

Paul Hill, from nearby Loughton, agreed.

Mr Hill, who was watching with his seven-year-old daughter Becky, said: "It brings everyone together. We're not Jewish but Becky's had a look inside the synagogue and got a hot dog. If you can see the Tour and teach your children about a new community, it is a win-win day out."

Last updated: 4:03pm, July 10 2014