Chatham shul in major art launch


An independent synagogue in the south-east of England has launched a national arts campaign, in a bid to bring more attention to regional Jewish communities.

Jo Freeman and Dalia Halpern Matthews, who are trustees of the Orthodox Chatham Memorial Synagogue in Kent, launched the campaign. Using social media for publicity, they have encouraged Jewish communities to submit a picture of a painting, sculpture or even a clip of someone singing, to their online forum.

The best pieces will then be shown at the synagogue, as part of the “celebration of Jewish Arts and Culture” exhibit.

“There is neglect of the regional communities,” said Mrs Freeman, who lives in Carluke in Scotland. “We want to bring them to the forefront.

“We want to raise our profile and show that our magnificent little synagogue is more than a place to go for services; its about building a social, cultural and religious focus. It’s a way of bringing the young [families and their children] to the synagogue, who are not engaged with the Jewish community.

She has encouraged British Jewry to submit “art or even songs, poetry, anything. We want Jewish artists to submit paintings and sculpture, or non-Jews to submit pieces about Jews,” added Mrs Freeman, who is seeing the event as a way to introduce Judaism to other faith groups.

The submitted pieces will be posted online and shown at the exhibit on September 20-21, held in memory of the synagogue’s life president, Hilary Halpern, who died last year.

His son Adam has submitted a piece of ceramic art and his granddaughter Ella, 15, has posted a clip of herself singing an Amy Winehouse song. “He was a patron of the arts and always wanted the synagogue to be more than services,” added Mrs Freeman.

She said there will be a donation appeal at the two-day event — which will be held in the same month as English Heritage Day — in order to fund a “new lift” for the 19th-century synagogue. “We have 60 members, but 80 per cent are pensioners,” she added.

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