The small Orthodox Jewish community in Canvey Island has expanded tenfold in 2.5 years, with a new community centre planned for its 60 families.
Plans to open a new communal office of the Jewish Congregation of Canvey Island (JCoCI) were reported this week by local newspaper The Echo, with the foundation’s income having doubled over the past year.
JCoCI plans to refurbish a former bank on Canvey High Street, after a three-month fundraising led by the charity’s policy director Joel Friedman, a former campaign manager at Interfaith Foundation in London before he moved to the small town on the Thames Estuary in Essex in July 2016.
One of six initial families, Friedman says there are now 60 Orthodox families living there, and Friedman said this week that the new offices were needed “because our community has been expanding”.
He said: “We fundraised everything ourselves, and it was also a good opportunity for us to repair and refurbish some parts of this old building, as it’s been here for a very long time and some parts of it are not in a good condition at all.”
The office is just the start of it, he said, with plans to create a kosher bakery on the same site, pending a change of use planning application. If it goes through, it is highly likely many of the customers will not be Jewish.
“We haven’t submitted the change of use application yet, but we do have someone from Canvey who is interested in starting one [a bakery]. We’ve been getting lots of requests within our community and from those who are not Jewish.
“Serving daily fresh bread with things like the sweet bread challah is something we don’t have a lot of here, hopefully if all goes well we can make it happen.”
The charity already supports a synagogue in the town, and last year secured the use of the three-acre former Castle View School site “with a view to accommodate much of the community services”.