Jewish Kent  - KLJC - History

One snowy weekend in 1990, a group of interested Jews from all parts of Kent, all strangers to one another, met in Rochester to listen to speakers from the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (now known as Liberal Judaism) talking about their Outreach Programme and the possibility of starting a new congregation in Kent. The first tentative steps were taken with the support and encouragement of Rosita Rosenberg, then Executive Director of the ULPS, Gerry Dixon z’l, Rabbi Bernard Hooker z’l, Monique Blake, and others. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their inspiration, steadfastness and support through early trials and uncertainties.

A General Meeting on 17th November 1991 passed the resolution formally setting up the Community. Since then we have developed steadily. We now have a faithful and committed membership of around 50, a high proportion of whom attends our monthly Shabbat services, regularly led by our warm and welcoming Ba’alat Tefillah (Lay Reader), Beverley Taylor.  Beverley also conducts our High Holyday services.  Before Beverley, we enjoyed services taken by a variety of Student Rabbis, Lay Readers and senior members of the Community, and we continue to welcome visiting Rabbis and other speakers from time to time.

We hold most of our services at a regular venue in central Maidstone, chosen because it is easily accessible from all parts of the county, but we’ve also held services in different school and village halls and members’ homes.   We have our own Torah with its wonderful vestments housed in its portable Ark, all made or donated by members. We have held Bnei Mitzvot for youngsters as well as an adult.  We have welcomed members who were undergoing tuition, who have become knowledgeable converts.  We have had baby-naming ceremonies and funerals, a Golden Wedding blessing and a marriage blessing for a mixed faith couple.  We just require a wedding to complete all the rites of passage! In addition to a flourishing Cheder, we have held various adult lessons and discussion groups over the years. Our library holds a wide collection of books and our monthly Newsletter is the envy of many other congregations.

Committee members over the years have worked hard to ensure that we are able to pay our way, have a lively social calendar, enjoy the communal Seder, the annual Barbecue and Sunday lunch, and generally try to meet the needs of the Community.  We have good relationships with other Jewish communities in Kent, particularly the Chatham Memorial Synagogue, under the umbrella of "Jewish Kent", on whose website you are reading this.

Sadly, we lost our inspirational Chairman and founder member, Hazel Bishop, in February 2011.  In her honour and memory, we have renamed our Community "Kent Liberal Jewish Community – Ohel Rachel".  "Ohel Rachel" means in Hebrew "the tent of Rachel", Rachel being Hazel's Hebrew name. It is our aim that the Community should continue to flourish as her memorial.

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Jewish Kent - Website last updated 18 March 2014