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Jewish Brighton and Hove from the 1990s

Aileen Hill

Aileen Hill remembers Jewish Brighton and Hove from her arrival in the 1990s and some of the relative decline in Jewish life.

Can you tell me a little about your background?

I was born in Glasgow in June 1954. Married with 3 sons. Trained as a Dispensing Optician, but helped out in the family businesses since the 1990s. I have recently retrained as a Domestic Energy Assessor.

How long have you lived in Brighton or Hove?

Since November 1981

When and why did you or your family move here?

Husband became involved with a clothing manufacturing company whose offices were based in the West End of London.

What are your earliest or first memories?

Brighton was far more cosmopolitan than I expected. However, in Hove I remember how quiet it was in the evenings. There were very few people around after 8.00 pm!

Also Marrocco's ice cream parlour on Hove seafront was a great attraction. Not to mention the novelty of being so close to the sea as well as the South Downs, n particular Devil's Dyke, and the country pubs especially the Shepherd and Dog, in Fulking.

How does Brighton and Hove compare to where you moved from?

Firstly, the climate - much milder than Glasgow!! The houses are built much closer to each other down here. The people are very much more reserved: for example,in Scotland people will always have a little chat to you, in the supermarket, or at a bus stop. Not so in Brighton. Also terminology is different: eg in England you go "food shopping" in Scotland you go "messages"!

What do you like about Brighton and Hove - generally and in terms of Jewish life here?

I like the cosmopolitan atmosphere and the feeling one is closer to the to the heart of the UK as well as mainland Europe. This makes your attitude less insular.
In terms of Jewish life, I feel the on the positive side, the Community tends to be less judgemental than in other places.

How involved are you in Jewish community life?

Less so now than when my children were growing up. I am involved with Hillel and local Jewish Students. I drive when I can for Helping Hands, but that's about it.

Do you have a particular memory or story of Brighton and Hove that you could share?

I remember the day the West Pier burnt down; I was in the area and actually saw the flames as depicted in many photos. The smoke and smell lasted for ages after that.

What was Brighton and Hove like in the 80's?

I only arrived in the 80s. I worked in for an Optical Company which was on the site where La Piazza Restaurant on the corner of Church Road and 3rd Avenue. I distinctly remember that most of the patients were very elderly, many in their 90, often still driving. A lot of the men were ex-army...Major someone or other and the women had obviously come from well to do families Lady someone or other!

Brighton itself was on a decline and Churchill Square was one of these horrible 60s built shopping malls. It was a miserably grey place which was always very cold and windy. I do remember however that it had the most fantastic Tesco Home and Wear Department.

On the other hand George Street in Hove was really fantastic, with lots of interesting individual shops and a department store.

What did you get up to?

We had 2 young children at the time, so it was very much based on them. We went to Hove Park a lot which looked very different then before the Hurricane.

Are there any particular places in Brighton and Hove you have fond memories of and why is this?

I like where we live now in Adelaide Crescent. We look out every day on to the Crescent and towards the sea. I don't think I shall ever tire of the view. I really like walking in towards Brighton around 8.00 am on a summer's morning and watch all the traders and restaurants setting up for the day.

How have things changed both generally and within the Jewish community over the years?

Very much so, the whole area has become very much busier and there are a lot more unsavoury people around. The town is very full of young, drunk people in the evenings especially at weekends. On the plus side the whole area along the seafront has been regenerated and in the main, there is a very exciting and cosmopolitan atmosphere.

From the Jewish point of view, unfortunately ,there are a lot less people who identify. Many of our children's generation have either gone to live elsewhere, particularly London, or simply assimilated.
Tell me about your working life in Brighton and Hove? Did or do you work at a Jewish business?
We don't work in a Jewish business. We have either been in the wholesale clothing or property business and have not ever had many dealings in the town.
Where you part of the Maccabi Beach set, or one of the sports or other social groups? If so tell me about that?

Before my time. Don't play golf or tennis. Used to help out with the Cub pack in the '90s

Where you involved in any other aspects of Jewish social life?

Only through the children; through the Jewish Day School, Cheder and Torah Academy.

Brighton and Hove has produced a number of important Jewish figures, such as Lord Cohen. Did you meet or know any of these?


Are there any other local characters who deserve a mention?

The recently deceased Stanley Jackson, he knew such a lot about the history of the area, both in terms of general life and Jewish life.

What do you think of Brighton and Hove's Jewish heritage - including famous names on the buses?
I believe it is vital for Middle Street Synagogue to be preserved, in my opinion, that era was probably the most important and the most significant part of the local heritage (So far!). It is wonderful that the famous names are on the buses.

As a final thought who would you sum up Jewish Life in Brighton and Hove today?
Not marvellous at the moment, there are simply not enough people, but I do know that many of our children that have moved away would really love to come back and live here...perhaps one day!

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