12:52PM, Tuesday 17 January 2017
Prince Edward was in Maidenhead this morning to officially open a significant extension to Maidenhead Synagogue.
The Queen's youngest son paid a visit to the synagogue, in Ray Park Road, to open new facilities which have been built to accommodate the growth in membership and activities within the Jewish community in Maidenhead and the surrounding area.
The synagogue has, according to Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, grown from a prayer hall into a community centre and now attracts visitors who may not attend services but wish to participate in social and cultural life.
He said it is now the largest non-metropolitan synagogue in the country.
The new facilities also host local charities and community groups, including a post-natal depression support group and Cruse Bereavement Care, and lunches for the homeless.
After being greeted by a blast from a traditional ram’s horn,the prince was treated to a performance of Psalm 150 by the synagogue’s choir before being taken on a tour by Dr Romain.
The Earl of Wessex was joined by the Mayor of Windsor and Maidenhead, Cllr Sayonara Luxton, and representatives from other local faith groups including the Rev Sally Lynch, of St Luke's Church, Saghir Ahmed of Maidenhead Mosque, and Karnail Pannu, of Maidenhead Gurdwara.
“Having the prince visit was the icing on the cake,” Dr Romain said after the visit.
“There’s a lot of hard work and arranging to do for something like this, but it really paid off – there was a real buzz about the place and he is a very personable man.”
Building work took about six months and finished late last year.
On top of services, educational classes, knitting groups, film and quiz nights are also on offer, while many organisations previously based at York House have started making use of the facilities.
“There’s a lot of different ways of being Jewish,” the rabbi said, “and we particularly feel in the social climate we’re in, with pubs closing and the internet, that social interaction and opportunities to meet people are declining.
“I think all religious houses, not just synagogues, are moving towards that.”
Visit www.maidenheadsynagogue.org.uk to find out more about the synagogue and its facilities.
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