Essex teens say: Join our club

With support from Chabad Epping, Ayton Cohen and Joel Hart want to start a club 'with a nice Jewish feel'


Some of the £70,000-plus earned by Chabad Epping from a recent fundraising campaign will go towards establishing a club for Essex Jewish teens.

Rabbi Yossi Posen, who leads the fledgling Essex community, explained that before the pandemic, 17-year-olds Aytan Cohen from Theydon Bois and Joel Hart from Gants Hill had enlisted his help to set up a club.

Aytan, a pupil at Davenant Foundation School, accepted that many teens considered the idea of Jewish clubs “quite boring”. The challenge was to make something that was enjoyable, “a nice interactive club, a nice environment and also incorporate a nice Jewish feel to it”.

Before the first lockdown, the two had planned weekly meet-ups at the Chabad centre, as well as go-karting and golfing days out. “We wanted to make it fun, so it’s more attractive,” added Joel, who attends JCoSS.

As the Covid crisis unfolded, plans were put on hold as the prospect of Zoom get-togethers was unappealing. “We don’t want kids our age to dread these meetings — we want them to enjoy it,” Aytan said. They now intend to “start with a bang” with a Covid-secure barbecue when government restrictions allow.

With the financial support, the pair have been compiling a shopping list for a “chill out” area within the Chabad, starting with a pool table, table tennis table and bean bags. There will be separate meetings for years 10-11 and 12-13 so the teens can mix with others of a similar age.

Rabbi Posen — who established the Chabad centre with wife Rivka in September 2019 — said the backing had been made possible by the fundraising drive exceeding its £50,000 target.

The fundraiser was itself a response to the growth the community had experienced, with the proceeds also going towards celebratory events and educational provisions.

Chabad Epping has been attracting increasing numbers to events. When the rabbinic couple first spoke to the JC in February last year, they reported 30-40 regular attendees. A Purim “drive through” the Posens staged last week attracted a turnout of around 100.

Rabbi Posen expressed “immense appreciation and gratitude” to all those who had donated, saying the financial support had been a “real blessing”.


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