Holocaust Memorial Day - 27 January 2022
This year, due to the continuing Covid situation, the Medway Holocaust Day Event was a virtual event, hosted on the Medway Libraries YouTube Channel. This year's theme is One Day.
The video is a compilation of presentations by local schools, Kent Police, Medway Youth Council, The Canon Chancellor of Rochester Cathedral, The Bishop of Tonbridge and the Mayor of Medway.
There was a Psalm sung by Rochester Cathedral Choir and prayers by representatives of Chatham memorial Synagogue, Medway Inter-Faith Action and Medway Youth Council.
The link https://youtu.be/YsWPcNMFz-I will be live indefinitely.
Details of the year's event and previous events can be found on the Holocaust Memorial Day page
The 2023 event will be in Rochester Cathedral and the 2024 event will be in the synagogue.
During the pandemic
In line with other Jewish communities around the country, the synagogue closed in March 2020 due to Covid-19. The synagogue remained closed until our first tentative socially distanced Friday evening service on 25 June 2021.
During the closure, we held services on Zoom, initially on Friday evenings, then monthly on Shabbat mornings. These were well attended by our regular congregants, as well as others connected with the synagogue from farther afield. We also held very successful services on Zoom for the 2020 High Holydays, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. A former member joined us regularly from Israel and even led parts of our services from there. Family members and friends have joined our services from France, Portugal, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
Our service on Friday 13 November was expanded to include content for Inter Faith Week and was attended by members of various religious communities. We lit Chanukah candles on Zoom and have made Havdalah on Zoom once a month. On Saturday 2 January, we celebrated an online Bar Mitzvah - a truly historic occasion, which was attended on Zoom by family members in the USA. We also participated in a virtual Medway Holocaust Memorial Day event and celebrated the New Year for trees with a Tu B'Shevat Seder.On Sunday 28 February, we held a virtual Purim party, with a reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther). We also held a virtual communal Seder on the 2nd evening of Passover. On 5 June, we held our first Bat Mitzvah on Zoom, attended by family members in several states in the USA.
When services resumed in the synagogue, for a while they were Covid-safe, with masks, sanitiser and social distancing. Attendance was limited and by prior arrangement only. We continue to make Havdalah on Zoom on the first Saturday of each month.
Damage to graves in the cemetery behind the synagogue
It has been widely reported in both the local and national press that several gravestones have been upended and smashed in the old cemetery behind Chatham Memorial Synagogue.
This was reported to Kent Police on 8 October and we are grateful to them for their swift response to this dreadful crime.
If you have any information that may help the police with their enquiries, you can call them on 01634 792209. The crime reference is 46/194406/19. Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
Photo Credit: Dalia Halpern-Matthews
National Hate Crime Week
At Chatham Memorial Synagogue, we are always grateful for the support of our Community Liaison Officer Bob Mahay and Kent Police and in turn we support the work they do to keep all our communities safe. Last Saturday evening, Bob Mahay organised an event at St Mark's Church in Gillingham, as part of National Hate Crime Week. From the synagogue, Jon Weiner and Dalia Halpern-Matthews took part in this important event. Jon Weiner read a prayer, written for the occasion, alongside representatives of other religions who also read prayers. We stand alongside our brothers and sisters of all faiths, in the face of intolerance and hatred.