Exeter community is on Board for regional showpiece


Hosting the Board of Deputies’ annual regional weekend was one of the biggest events in the 254-year history of the Exeter community.

More than 60 deputies from across the UK attended Shabbat services in Exeter’s shul. A meeting on Sunday was held in the city’s historic Guildhall.

“People came up and told me they were utterly gobsmacked at how beautiful our shul is,” said Exeter deputy Richard Yoffey. “It’s a dream which became a reality and one which has done an awful lot for our community.”

The Board selects a different regional destination for a meeting each year and Exeter is the smallest community chosen.

With more than 100 members, Exeter attracts support from areas including Taunton, Dartmouth and Mr Yoffey’s home town of Ottery St Mary.

“The community is growing,” he reported. “We have just restarted cheder to cater for the young families who have joined the shul.

“We are a vibrant and creative bunch who make sure we cater for all aspects of Jewish life and faith.” Its impressive collection of prayer books cover the Jewish religious spectrum.

Sunday’s meeting was addressed by Exeter University Vice-Chancellor Sir Steve Smith and among workshop leaders was the university’s Dr Siam Bhayro, a world authority on ancient Aramaic bowls.

An Exeter student, Murray Brown, had addressed guests on Shabbat morning and the programme also incorporated a walking tour of historic Exeter and a visit to the Bull Meadow cemetery. One of the oldest in the UK, it is in need of funding for renovation.

Board president Jonathan Arkush said: “We have had the most outstanding Shabbat in Exeter. We have been given the most warm and generous hospitality by the Exeter Jewish community. It was an honour for us to pack out a shul which was opened in 1763.

“All too often I hear people say the Board is a London club. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Board is absolutely relevant to every Jew in this country wherever they may live and however far they are from the major population centres.”

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