For Jewish News October 2021
A split has emerged in Chelsea between the long-established Chelsea Synagogue, an affiliate of the United Synagogue, and a breakaway group calling itself SW3, which launched a new modern Orthodox minyan last Shabbat.
According to Aron Freedman, the man behind SW3, 83 people took part in the inaugural service, which took place in the private rooms of the Bluebird Cafe in the neighbourhood’s King’s Road. The service, led by Rabbi Yossi Fachler, was followed by a kiddush lunch catered by Tony Page.
Mr Freedman, whose initiative has been quietly supported by the United Synagogue, said: “I was inspired to create SW3 because I felt there was a need for it in this part of London. I wanted to create an authentic Shabbat atmosphere in the heart of SW3, and I was so pleased to see so many men, women and children come and enjoy the service and kiddush-lunch. The fact people stayed to chat for an hour and half showed me how welcome this initiative was”.
He said that people had told him that they were “yearning for Yiddishkeit” in the area. A second Shabbat event will be held to celebrate Chanucah on December 4.
But Mr Freedman also told Jewish News that after repeated unsuccessful attempts to work with the existing Chelsea Synagogue, he had decided to start his own minyan, dispirited at low numbers and a frequent failure to achieve enough men for a minyan at Chelsea’s services.
Nigel Gee, however, Chelsea’s chairman, emphatically denied that there had been too few people. “We have had great turnouts in shul since we re-opened”, he said, adding “there is no bad news in Chelsea”. He explained that concerns about Covid had led the synagogue executive to be “very careful” about the numbers of people attending services.
Rabbi Yossi Efune, Chelsea’s minister, hung up when approached for comment.