At BNJC, the future is Brighton and Hove

The CEO of the Jewish hub looks back on its first year – and looks forward with optimism


Marc Sugarman, CEO of BNJC at the hub's synagogue

Conceived as a beacon of Jewish life in Brighton and Hove, BNJC has made significant strides toward its vision of fostering a thriving Jewish community on the East Sussex coast.

“Our vision is to ensure a vibrant, strong and growing Jewish community in Brighton,” says its CEO Marc Sugarman. “We aspire for BNJC to serve as a valuable resource for the Jewish community nationally and internationally.”

While acknowledging the progress made over the last 12 months – the stylish hub boasts residential and holiday homes, a synagogue, cultural activities and educational programmes – Sugarman remains grounded, recognising that the journey towards fulfilling the dream is ongoing. “On some level, we are only now getting to the starting blocks. For example, we have only learnt through being here, the size of the team we need to run BNJC properly.”

Sugarman says that they are “gearing up” to open the hub’s restaurant, Novellino Brighton, for three meals a day, every day of the week, including Shabbat, from June. “We have not, for a variety of reasons, been able to offer that level of consistency [yet], but I am glad to say that we will soon be in a position to do so. That takes significant resource, teamwork and desire. So, if we are no longer taking baby steps, we are still taking toddler steps”.

In its inaugural year, BNJC has become a multi-faceted centre of Jewish life, offering a diverse array of services and facilities tailored to meet the needs of the local and wider community.

The aforementioned restaurant, led by chefs Yanir Mrejen and George Afentakis, is at the centre of BNJC, blending Mediterranean flavours with Jewish tradition to create a unique dining experience. The Orthodox synagogue, under the guidance of Rabbi Hershel Rader and initiatives like Shoresh Nursery and the gym have catered to the diverse needs of community members of all ages.

The brainchild of Tony Bloom MBE, chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion FC, and Marc Sugarman himself, the BNJC was built on the site of Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation and the idea to redevelop the old shul received the blessing of the Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, in September 2017.

“Tony and I grew up in Brighton, and we are here very often,” says Sugarman. “Jewish Brighton is our identity. Brighton is beautiful and our Jewish heritage is also beautiful – a Jewish Brighton is just too valuable to risk losing. So, to create something unique and inspirational, rather than seeing the community slowly dwindle, seemed the right thing to do. Tony’s financial commitment to the project since its inception in 2015 is extraordinary – I do not think there is anything like it in Europe.”

According to Mr Sugarman, collaboration has been a cornerstone of BNJC’s success, with partnerships extending beyond the Jewish community to include local organisations and institutions, such as the adjacent St. Christopher’s School and various engagements with the broader community through cultural events and educational initiatives. “We have also started to build strong relations with the local council, with our local MP Peter Kyle’s office and with the important forums which represent residential associations in the neighbourhood. They are showing a real interest, and we are excited to try and support them. Our goal is to be a ‘community of communities’, welcoming individuals from all backgrounds.”

The resilience of BNJC was tested in the aftermath of the tragic events of October 7th, a day that both changed – and mobilised – the community.

BNJC opened its doors to provide support to Israeli families and reaffirmed its commitment to solidarity with Israel. “October 7th changed everything,” Sugarman reflects. “It was a defining moment that underscored the importance of our unity and resilience.”

Looking ahead, Sugarman is optimistic about BNJC’s role in shaping the future of Jewish life in Brighton and Hove and he invites people from near and far to experience the warmth and vibrancy of the hub first hand.

As BNJC embarks on its second year, the focus remains on growth, innovation and community building, says Sugarman. “Brighton is more than just a city; it’s a community.

“Our centre embodies the spirit of inclusivity and celebration that defines our identity. Please don’t be a stranger. Come and be a part of something truly special.”


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive