Maidenhead builds to a royal opening

Prince Edward became the first member of the royal family to open a UK synagogue when he unveiled a commemorative plaque at the ceremony for Maidenhead Reform's rebuilt premises.


It was also the prince’s first visit to a British synagogue and he complimented the Berkshire congregation on the project and its contribution to the wider community.

He was given a tour of the building by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, experiencing the breadth of activity from playgroup to friendship club.

Rabbi Romain said the new building was essential both to accommodate a growing membership — 822 households, 2,213 individuals — and a burgeoning social, cultural and educational programme.

The shul is also now hosting local groups for post-natal depression and bereavement care and lunches for the homeless.

Rabbi Romain attributed the synagogue’s growth to its repositioning as a community centre, attracting members who do not attend services but enjoy participating in social and cultural events.

In his address, Rabbi Romain pointed out an unusual feature of the new building — the prayer hall was smaller but the communal facilities had been expanded. “Many of today’s Jews want to learn Jewish and mix Jewish but don’t necessarily believe Jewish or pray Jewish. They need a home as much as those that daven do.”

Speaking afterwards, he highlighted the influx of young families to the area. “They have come here because of work or the attraction of living outside London in a Jewish area. There are 164 children in our religion school.”

Whereas a significant number of the congregation once commuted to London, many members now worked locally in the tech industry or professions such as teaching, social work and therapy.

“There is also a milkman, a cattle breeder, people in the Armed Forces. We have a diverse community.”

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