AMERSHAM and Chesham is home to the South Bucks Jewish Community but it is far from a traditionally Jewish area.

In fact, the South Bucks Jewish Community was only formally launched at the beginning of 1990 to provide a focal point for Jewish activity in Amersham, Gerrards Cross and the surrounding areas.

The community itself practises Liberal Judaism within an atmosphere that is warm, traditional, and informal.

Jews living in the area see themselves as being one big happy family with members of all ages, spanning three generations.

Dick Vardy, who lives in Woodside Avenue, Chesham Bois, is a member of the community.

He said that Amersham and Chesham would not necessarily be places traditional Jews would consider moving to because of the difficulties in buying kosher food.

He added: "There is a very small group of us around here. If you are a traditional Jew you probably wouldn't live in this area.

"It is quite difficult to buy kosher meat (which has to be slaughtered and butchered traditionally).

"There are a lot of people who complain about not being able to buy cholla (plaited bread) in the Amersham and Chesham area.

"Even if they don't go to the synagogue, they will do everything they can to get that even if they are not observant about other things.

"I would say it is still important to the Jewish community to spend the Sabbath (which is on a Friday) with family and to light candles and break bread, and drink wine."

He added that he believes it will be hard for the Jewish community to grow in the area.

Mr Vardy said: "I would say there are around 50 plus households that are Jewish in this area. But I would think that if you were traditionally Jewish you would live nearer to Northwood or Edgware, in London, where there are larger communities.

"It will be hard to grow as a community unless people chose to move out here, or if they wanted to move out of London. We have regular services with the rabbi but he is part-time because you just can't justify having one full-time. It is different to the Church of England we have to pay a subscription."

There has been a Jewish community in the Amersham and Chesham area since the last world war as a result of evacuation from London.

A small synagogue was built in Amersham on the site where the Royal British Legion Centre now stands.

Members come from as far afield as Tring, Aylesbury and Rickmansworth to visit the synagogue which is now at Zion Hall, Red Lion Street, Chesham.

David Sacker, a former chairman of South Bucks Jewish Community, said: "It is quite close-knit, but If someone new becomes involved, it is not like a sect.

"We do make an effort to welcome them. The social part is at least as strong as the religion.

"The synagogue is also a meeting place as well. It is social and family based. It is a place to meet and chat. We also have normal things like quiz nights and raise money for local charities."

"It is fair to say a lot of people whose background is Jewish do not necessarily want to belong.

"We are not worried about it but we are here if they want to practise Judaism

"We have times when people come forward and would like their kids to be aware of their background. Their kids may get to 13 and realise that it is time for their Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah. It is an excuse for a party."

The cheder, which is a religious school for children, was established in 1987 before the community was formally founded.

The Cheder has been, and remains one of the most important features of the community.

Student rabbis from the Leo Baeck College in Finchley, North London, and their own lay leaders provide rabbinic leadership and teaching.

The school is run by a team of members of the community, who have been trained on courses by the Centre for Jewish Education.

The community encourages youngsters to take part in the many activities and weekends organised by the ULPS Netzer, which is a national youth movement.

It provides an opportunity for the community's young people to mix with other Jews of their own age.

If you would like more information on the South Bucks Jewish Community, contact David Sacker on (01494) 431885 or email