Essex and Isle of Wight congregations join Reform

Additions to movement announced at online AGM


The number of Movement for Reform Judaism communities has increased to 44 with the acceptance of the Isle of Wight Jewish Society in Cowes and Tikvah Chadasha in Brentwood, Essex, at its annual meeting, held online.

Now an associate MRJ congregation, the Isle of Wight Society was formed in 2005 when a minyan was needed for prayers following the death of a Jewish resident. It holds regular services and festival celebrations.

Its chair, Jonathan Bluestone, recalled that on moving to the island, “we put an ad in the paper to see if there was a community. We discovered that there were Jewish families but nothing organised.

“We have worked hard since then to put roots down in a formalised way but we are an ageing congregation because people mainly come to the island to retire.”

Although still awaiting its first bar- or batmitzvah, “we’ve covered pretty much everything else with help from MRJ and some of the communities on the south coast”.

Tikvah Chadasha was formerly known as the Shenfield and Brentwood Synagogue and was originally affiliated to Liberal Judaism. But the community favours the more traditional side of Progressive Judaism and after leaving the Liberal movement two years ago has now committed its future to MRJ, joining as a full member.

It has around 100 members and, like Isle of Wight, is a lay-led congregation assisted regularly by visiting rabbis and students from Leo Baeck College.

Community leader Natasha Radford was “enormously proud of the way things have developed in recent years. We have our own rescued scroll which we reckon is at least 150 years old. We had it shipped over from the Czech Republic, carried out extensive repairs and it now takes pride of place in our ark, which is based in my parents’ conservatory!

“We’re conscious of the age of our group so we include the children in our services as much as possible. We want them to grow what we have started here.”

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