What’s special about celebrating Yom Tovim with us in Southend? Here are just a few regular events and customs we have at SWHC, the Shul by the Sea!
Before Rosh HaShana has even started, we can look forward to the beautiful Choral Selichot service held at our Shul with guest chazans and choir, not many Shul’s manage to put on this event, so we are very proud and people come from far and wide (even London) just to attend! The Ladies Guild hold a “Hat Sale” before the High Holy Days and you can purchase the latest London fashions at this event. On Rosh HaShana itself, Shul is always full as family and friends come and visit us for the New Year. Children’s Services cater for ages 0-4, 5-9 and 10+. The real special treat is when we say Tashlich. Every year, we have a communal Tashlich service by the sea which is only a 10 minute walk from Shul. How many other UK Shuls can boast they are the “Shul by the Sea”?
For the last few years, we’ve been honoured to have guest Chazans such as Chazan Gedalya Alaexander and Rabbi Yisroel Newman to help lead some of the services. The combined beautiful davening lifts the congregation on this “Day of Awe”. Also running is Roy Barnes’ most popular Explanatory Service and Children’s Services for all ages. During the break between musaph and mincha in the afternoon, there is a Ladies Only meeting held in the Talmud Torah in which female members of the community take turns to talk about varied and interesting Jewish topics. This has always proved very popular and there is not a spare seat to be seen.
Yom Tov sees our Kiddushim move to the Sukkah. For the year 5776 / 2015, the Shul Sukkah doubled in size and as usual, the Ladies Guild decorated along with the Youth Club and made it extra special! Ever year we hold a free Simchat Beit HaShoeva party with refreshments and a Guest Speaker in the Sukkah and usually we can just about squeeze everyone in (it’s very popular!) The Youth Club also have a very popular “Pizza in the Hut” event.
As with other Shuls, we honour members of our community, two Chatanim, a Lady of the year, and their Youth equivalents. On Simchat Torah evening we have an entertainer for the children and they have a special jelly and ice-cream party and are given goody bags with more sweets, chocolates and little games plus the obligatory flag! Then they join main Shul for dancing, the women come downstairs and have their own singing and dancing in the Shul Hall and there is much merriment aided by Whisky and Wine for the adults (sugar does it for the kids!). The morning of Simchat Torah we have a Kiddush-Brunch which is a lovely way to sit down and have a schmooze over a wonderful spread.
After many years of persistence, Barbara Newman obm finally got Southend Borough Council to agree to the erection of a Public Menorah (it’s called a Chanukiah technically…) in 2004. Every year since we have lit the Menorah in front of large crowds next to the Cliffs Pavilion. You may even be offered a warm doughnut or latke if you’re lucky! Wrap up warm, it’s chilly in the winter next to the sea! SJYC has a Chanukah Party for the children every year with a disco DJ, arts and crafts and Chanukah food! Gala Night is very popular, held on one of the nights of Chanukah. This free event is for all after the lighting of the Menorah we go back to SWHC for food and schmoozing, check the Newsletter for which day it will be this year.
The evening of Purim is celebrated with the reading Megilah Esther to a packed Shul Hall. A Fancy Dress Fashion Parade for those who are in costume (both grown-ups and children!) with prizes awarded. Afterwards there is a free buffet for all. The children are not left out on Purim either, SJYC runs a “Buzz Has Got Talent” contest, there is a Purim Seudah and lots of dressing up, treats and fun!
For Pesach the Shul Kosher Shop is packed with all you need for a kosher Pesach! You can pre-order everything you need. There is a Communal Seder on either 1st or 2nd night of Pesach. The Ladies Guild make up free Pesach parcels for those who are unable to get their own Pesach groceries.
Yom Hazicharon / Yom Ha’atzmaut
These two important days in the Israeli calendar are marked in Shul with an evening of entertainment. Before it starts, there is a short ceremony or rememberance led by the Youth of the community to mark Yom Hazicharon. Falafel and other Israeli treats are served. Entertainment comes from SWHC’s own Ladies Choir “Shirim” and other talented members of the community.
We traditionally celebrate the 33rd day of the Omer with a Community Barbeque that everyone is invited to. There are activities for the children, live music and a wonderful atmosphere.
For Shavuot the Shul is beautifully decorated by our wonderful Ladies Guild. Come and join us for this festival of first fruits where we have cheesecake at every Kiddush!
The Shul has a lovely large Sukkah which is beautifully decorated, again by the Ladies Guild and also the Youth Club who make wonderful posters and signs. We have a Sukkah party for Simchat Beit HaShoeva which is free to all and also a “Pizza in the Hut” party for the children (weather permitting, or we move inside!)
The evening of Simchat Torah, there is a “Jelly & Icecream” party for the children and an entertainer. In main shul there is dancing with the Torah and the ladies also make their own celebration and have a sing and a dance upstairs. There is a lovely kiddush, whiskey galore and lots of rejoicing!
Yom Ha’atzmaut & Yom Hazichron
These two days are bundled into one event where we remember the fallen in Israels defence and also celebrate the founding of Israel. The Youth of our community join in the service for Yom HaZicharon, then there is music from our ladies choir Shirim and a guest musical artist as we celebrate everything Israel.
Added to the above there are learning oppotunities around each festival, special kiddishes and lunches and spare machzorim for those that don’t have their own.
As you can see, we have something on for every chag (festival) throughtout the year. So come and join us to celebrate!