Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue

IN the mere three months since Rabbi Rafi Goodwin was appointed senior rabbi at Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue, exciting plans for 2023 and beyond are already taking shape.

Included are a multi-million pound building and renovation project that aims to bring more families into the synagogue more often.

In an exclusive interview, Rabbi Rafi told the Essex Jewish News: “Our existing building is old and dilapidated, the heating and lighting don’t work properly and we need to make this a warm, welcoming place where all can feel at home.”

In six years as assistant to Rabbi Baruch Davis, Rabbi Rafi began to realise that despite having a large membership – at current count more than 870 families – only a fraction of Chigwell’s community are strictly observant or coming to the synagogue as regularly as in the past.

That is why he and wife Rebbetzin Chaya Goodwin – along with co-chairs Colin Franklin and Lindsay Shure and the shul’s lay leadership team – set about a plan to draw in younger familie with an expanding variety of different activities.

Rabbi Rafi added: “Over Sukkot we had seven different events including a Play Your Cards Right evening and three separate Sukkah crawls.

“In recent months, we held a pub quiz for under 50s that attracted over 100 people. This was arranged by a newly formed Young Families Committee who have really invested their time and energy.

“More recently, we held a flagship Virtual Reality Holocaust educational event which was the most emotional and inspiring experience for the 140 that attended.

“There are over 100 booked in for another quiz over Chanukah led by Martin Cohen for a different demographic.

“Plans are in place for a bingo night at the end of January and in February there will be a men’s trip to Amsterdam. Thank G-d, it really is non-stop!”

Going one step further, the new building will include a soundproofed youth space complete with a pool table, games areas and more.

Meanwhile, Rebbitzen Chaya is spearheading a revival of the shul’s ladies’ committee and 15 girls are currently in the batmizvah group.

Rabbi Rafi said: “We are an orthodox community with Judaism at its heart but we live in a world that is now very different.

“By finding out and providing what members want, we can build further on the strong community spirit here.”

All at Chigwell agree there is much potential in the community and these steps are only the beginning. The builders aim to start in January so watch this space…

Rabbi Rafi and Rebbitzen Chaya Goodwin



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