Southampton Hebrew Congregation held its first barmitzvah in over a decade.
Winchester-based Jon and Sharon Rachman had to create Sam’s barmitzvah from scratch because the Jewish community in their area is so small.
Southampton Hebrew Congregation president Martyn Rose said: “Sam’s was the first barmitzvah in the synagogue in over a decade, and we were delighted to see so many people, including so many youngsters, in the shul.”
Mr Rose welcomed Sam and his parents, and presented him with a gift of a siddur on behalf of the shul.
Mr Rachman said: “We wanted to do something for his barmitzvah, but there is no big Jewish community near us.
“We planned every detail, we couldn’t get kosher food in Southampton, so we got it sent all the way from Golders Green. My wife had been down to the Southampton synagogue a few times, but it doesn’t have a permanent rabbi.
“We met by chance Rabbi Zalman Lewis of Brighton-based Chabad and he said he would help us. He began teaching Sam one day a week in preparation for his barmitzvah; it was his first experience of Jewish life.”
Mr and Dr Rachman moved to Southampton from South Africa and took up jobs in medicine. They later married and started a family.
The barmitzvah was attended by over 70 guests, including friends and family who had come from as far as Canada, Israel and South Africa, and a small number from the congregation.
Mr Rachman said: “Most of our friends are not Jewish and they got to experience Jewish culture for the first time. It was a very spiritual and warm day, and Sam loved it. He was able to show his friends who aren’t Jewish a real religious experience, and it was educational.”