Yael Breuer meets Gweni Sorokin – Brighton Reform Synagogue Anniversary Interview
Synagogue of Light
Brighton Reform Synagoue marks 57 years since its Foundation Stone was laid in Palmeira Avenue in Hove. Synagogue member Gweni Sorokin was at the ceremony and today talks to Latest TV reporter Yael Breuer about the significance of the synagogue and its features. Rare footage of the event is included too.
Brighton & Hove Reform Synagogue is home to a warm community of 400 members and draws its congregation from miles around. The original community was founded in 1955, meeting in temporary accommodation, and eventually grew so large that a permanent Synagogue was required. On 17th July 1966, the foundation stone was laid for the building – designed by Derek Sharp. The plans were overseen by the visionary Rabbi Erwin Rosenblum.
Many founder members had lost large swathes of their families to the systemic extermination wrought upon the Jewish people by the Nazis in WWII. Rabbi Rosenblum himself was born in Bratislava and sought refuge in the UK from Nazis in 1938. His entire family died in Auschwitz. The Synagogue was therefore expressly dedicated to the six million who had perished in the Holocaust – “a testament to the dead… an inspiration to the living”. It is written clearly on a plaque for all to see the moment you come into the building.
Precisely because of its designation as a Holocaust memorial – and as a testament to survival – light was an important theme. There are an extraordinary number of windows throughout the building. Even the external cladding design – a kind of unusual ‘chain mail in concrete’ – gives a sense of protection whilst allowing the light to come through.
Within this scheme, at the heart of the building, the Prayer Hall is home to the most fantastic work of light of all: A magnificent triptych in stained glass – with the burning bush at its centre.
These are the John Petts Holocaust Memorial Windows, considered one of his greatest works.
Each year hundreds pupils come from local schools to gain knowledge about Judaism. Alongside these visits, the synagogue runs an active social and welfare department, with a book club and members teas. There are regular discussion groups led by the Rabbi and a thriving cheder (religion school) the attracts families from far and wide.
The current rabbi is Dr Andrea Zanardo.