Hatfield recruitment drive gathers pace

Digital meeting demonstrates interest in expansion of United Synagogue's Welwyn community


Towards the end of 2019, young rabbinic couple Yakov and Eliana Tatz showed the JC around their burgeoning Hertfordshire community, which was expanding from Welwyn Garden City to cater to young Jewish couples moving to nearby Hatfield.

Now, despite the Covid crisis having precluded a raft of in-person events, the 210-member United Synagogue community is continuing to attract considerable interest from those contemplating making the move.

At a virtual meeting hosted by the US on Monday night, 33 new and potential residents joined the rabbinic couple and others now established in the area. A dozen of the 33 had indicated beforehand that they were seriously considering moving to the area.

“When we’re talking to people outside of Hatfield, the aim to some extent is to show them that what we’re talking about is really happening — a real phenomenon,” explained Ben Vos, strategic projects lead at the US.

The virtue of the online seminar was being able to show anyone interested that “there are other people there and there are other people in the process of going there”.

Rabbi Tatz — who took over the community in 2018 when membership was slightly lower — described the information event as “a lot of fun”, praising the “great energy” of participants.

Predominantly, those involved were young couples currently living in North London Jewish heartlands who were intrigued by the prospect of affordable, larger houses within commuting distance of key business areas.

However, there were also some older potential recruits. One wanted to live somewhere that would make the journey to their son in Leeds a little easier, while not being too far away from other relatives in Southgate. Another was living in Bushey but had friends in Hatfield.

The primary concern for those thinking of moving was the kosher food provision. Although supplies are available at major chain stores, there is currently no kosher deli in the area for fresh produce.

But residents reported that Kosher Deli had recently begun delivering and Mr Vos said he “wouldn’t be surprised to see some retail developments closer to Hatfield in the medium- to long-term”.

Hatfield has been earmarked by the US as a “community of potential” and while the pandemic has impacted on face-to-face activities, it has also made such towns more attractive, given the possibility that many people will continue to work from home beyond the lifting of restrictions. There was also the government’s stamp duty holiday and an encouraging property market.

In 2019, Rabbi Tatz told the JC that his dream was to create a community “centred around people”.

Despite the limitations on physical gatherings over the past year, his vision persists.

Indeed, the pandemic had enabled things “to flourish even more, because you’re stripped down to just the raw connections people have”.

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