Originally from Manchester, Ronnie Taylor and his wife Linda moved to Brighton in 1978 and on to Eastbourne in 1982 for his job as an adviser to the then Dental Estimates Board. They immediately became involved in the Eastbourne shul, which Mr Taylor, 74, now chairs. The synagogue currently has 60 members, including Sally Brown, one of the Taylors’ three children, who is security officer and events organiser. The batmitzvah of Mrs Brown’s daughter Cleo was believed to be the first at the shul
- Tell us a little about your community
Eastbourne Hebrew Congregation was founded in 1918 and the synagogue building in the town centre was acquired in 1922. When we became members, the synagogue was on the first floor with a hall on the ground floor. The congregation was led by Reverend Chaim Zack, who when he retired in 1998, had been the minister for over 50 years. In an attempt to encourage members to attend more regularly, the synagogue was moved to the ground floor in a 2001 refurbishment. However, we struggle to get a minyan for our regular Shabbat services. The format of services depends on those leading them and the make-up of the congregation. If we fail to get a minyan, the ladies read the sedrah in English. With a minyan, we hold a more traditional Orthodox service. It is very rewarding to see a “full house” enjoying a lavish kiddush, as occurred on the 85th birthday of our president Menashe Harounoff last year. We try to get all the Jews in the area together and there are joint events with the local Progressive community. A ladies’ committee called Eastbourne Jewish Social Scene has made great strides in bringing people together.
- Is it easy to maintain Jewish life?
Yes if you are not strictly Orthodox, as the town centre synagogue is not within walking distance for most people. The local Sainsbury carries a small selection of kosher food and frozen poultry. However Brighton is 25 miles away, where more foodstuffs are available and kosher meat can be sourced from London and Manchester. A self-catered communal Seder was attended by 30 people. Small communities minister Reverend Malcolm Weisman is a good friend of the congregation and his visits are much appreciated. We also have a good relationship with the Christian Friends of Israel, whose offices are in Eastbourne and whose members enjoy their visits to the synagogue. We also welcome schoolchildren from the area as we do our best to promote interfaith harmony.
- What do you like about living where you do?
There can’t be many more attractive places to live than Eastbourne. We have one of the highest sunshine records in the country, an elegant seafront, the wonderful Sussex downs, Beachy Head cliffs, a fabulous marina, ferries to France from down the road in Newhaven and Gatwick just an hour away. What more could one want in retirement?
- How can people find out more about your community?
Through our website — escis.org.uk/view/eastbourne_hebrew_congregation or by ringing 01323 484135.