A celebration of 125 years of the Jewish community in Northampton today has been honoured with an unannounced visit by the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom.
Ephraim Mirvis told the congregation in the synagogue in Overstone Road, The Mounts, that they should be very proud of what their community has achieved since the Northampton Hebrew Congregation began in 1888.
Giving a brief history, Mr Mirvis said: “Abraham set the prime example of hospitality, the importance of bringing people into one’s home and showering them with love and affection.
“And this is exactly what has happened within this community. During the First World War quite a number of he men of the Northampton Hebrew Congregation gave up their lives in battle in the name of King and country.
“And during the Second World War there were many refugees who came to Northampton from Europe fleeing for their lives the dangers that beset them there.
“This community opened it doors to one and all, giving them a safe haven and a new home.
“This ladies in this community over many years selflessly provided meals and other facilities for people.
“Anyone who has ever comes this way for a service that is taking place on the Sabbath, or a festival, has always been warmly recieved with open arms.
“This is a community which rightfully has prided itself upon the warmth and generosity it has given to others.”
Jewish people started living in Northampton about 1,000 years ago, but, along with other places across England, they were forced to leave the country by the King in 1290. Jewish people avoided England for 350 years before returning.
After World War Two, the Jewish population in Northampton was about 2,000 people but has fallen to around 350 today.
Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, said: “The congregation is rather small now but 125 years on from the foundation of the modern congregation, it is a great honour to have visted the town only a few weeks after his installation.”