Shanghai Jew, 42 bottles of Wine, and 48 Young Jewish Professionals in Buckhurst Hill

What happens when a successful Jewish businessman from Essex has moved to Shanghai and leaves two daughters, in their mid-20’s living in Buckhurst Hill, Essex whom he would love to see a little more involved in the local Shul and Community? He calls the Rabbi, tells him to put on an event, perhaps a Friday Night Dinner, and he would cover the expenses – “just make it first class”, was the remit.

So, when Rabbi Odom Brandman of Chabad Buckhurst Hill got that call, together with his team, they thought about how they could attract the “Young Jewish Professional” age demographic to a Friday Night Dinner, when many of them were not Shul regulars, even on the High Holy Days….

Then the idea came! A Wine Tasting Friday Night Dinner – so, it all came together. Chabad started networking with the local community, sorting through past Bar & Bat Mitzvahs, Teen Programs and other events over the past 13 years and quickly put together a target list of over 150 locals between the ages of 20-35.

Yishai Steinberg from Kedem Wines, came with his wife to stay for the weekend, 5 different wines were selected to suit the menu that was planned and the Chabad styling and catering team all got to work to put together the most exquisite event. A gourmet four dinner was served, just the fish course included sushi, gefiltle fish, teriyaki salmon and smoked salmon – with different wines carefully pre-selected to go with the menu.

The event certainly captured everyone’s imagination as 48 young professionals booked in for the event. They were certainly all extremely impressed as they walked into the Shul which had almost been turned into a Wine Cellar, a huge barrel from Herzog Winery formed the centre of a display with wine glasses and all the wine laid out ready to be served.

The evening was full of lively conversation, interactive games to get everyone into the spirit, lots of amazing food and really delicious wines.

Yishai of Kedem gave a captivating introduction to wine in general, the history of kosher wine production and then some explanations of different wine types and even a brief history of each winery that they were drinking the wine from!

Laraine Warren and her team put on the most exquisite meal while Leah Sacks and Sheina Edelman, two Shluchos who work with Chabad Buckhurst Hill, worked on the room layout. Attention to detail was very important to make the event truly first class, each place card was hand written and propped up by a hand carved cork which acted as name places.

The traditional Shabbat atmosphere and singing was combined with enjoyment of the wine, good food and lively welcoming atmosphere.

Jodeci Joseph, one participant said “It was so incredible to see the young Essex community uniting over their roots. Many people there I spoke to said it was their first Shabbat Dinner in quite a while, by being here, they realised how much they missed it”.

A mother whose daughter came along called Rabbi Brandman on Monday and was saying how much her daughter with her boyfriend really enjoyed it “they can’t stop raving about it” she said.

Kevin Benham-Whyte, the sponsor of the evening, flew in from Shanghai to join the event, combining his trip with other business and was so taken by the huge numbers and success of the event, has already pledged to sponsor another one and to even make it an annual event.

Yishai from Kedem said “we import over 600 kosher wines, so we could easily make this an annual event and select different wines each time”.

Rabbi Odom Brandman, who directs the Buckhurst Hill Chabad with his wife Henny was also extremely taken by the huge interest and turnout of the evening. “There are so many young Jewish people in the area not currently affiliated or engaged that much with the community, we are here to reach out to them and help them to understand that they are always welcome here, they are an important segment of our community and we are ready, willing and able to put on real first class events for them!”

Plans are currently being worked on for a social event in the summer and another Shabbat dinner next year!

In 2005 Rabbi Odom & Henny Brandman moved to Buckhurst Hill to found a new community and begin building in an area where there are significant numbers of Jewish People living, but no Orthodox infrastructure to service their religious and spiritual needs. They moved as a young couple, married for just under a year, without children and full of energy and enthusiasm to reach out to the community; by 2017, they have a family of 7 children, a large 3 storey building on Epping New Road which houses a Synagogue, Meeting Rooms, Offices, Storage, Class Rooms, Kosher Kitchen and a huge host of activities and programs engaging hundreds of people throughout the community.

Established as a branch of Chabad North East London and Essex, which is directed by Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin MBE, the Buckhurst Hill Centre and its activities has built up a database of over 600 local families, many unaffiliated to other communities and runs a host of activities including a Synagogue with up to 70 attendees on a regular weekend and over 250 on special occasions, weekday Cheder Hebrew Classes, Adult Education classes, Kids Cookery Clubs, Ladies Evenings, One-on-One learning, Pastoral care, Kosher Restaurant Nights and In-house catering in addition to catering to the needs of many who come for assistance in an array of situations.

The Jewish Center has provided hundreds of Jewish families with a vibrant and inclusive community in which they are unequivocally accepted and embraced.    

The Chabad Jewish Center is not funded by any central organization rather all its running costs are met by local donations. It’s a real community, by the community for the community project and Rabbi & Mrs Brandman are always open to help, suggestions and available to give help, guidance or advice.

Contact:   Rabbi Odom Brandman

Mobile:    07903 771 683