Orthodox Jews’ annual getaway to Aberystwyth falls foul of health and safety

University authorities have said the holidaymakers are no longer allowed to light candles on a Friday night to usher in Shabbat

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The Independent Online

For almost 20 years hundreds of Orthodox Jews have shunned the busy seaside resorts of Brighton and Blackpool for quieter breaks on the Welsh coast. But now, after weathering anti-Semitic attacks and the death of a prominent rabbi last year, their holiday is under threat again.

Members of London and Manchester’s Jewish communities said they were “very disappointed and upset” at a decision from the University of Aberystwyth that has forced them to look elsewhere for accommodation this August.

Jewish families descend on the seaside town for two weeks each summer and rent small houses in the empty student accommodation on the hill, with a yellow and white striped tent acting as a makeshift synagogue.

But this summer university authorities have said the holidaymakers are no longer allowed to light candles in the Pentre Jane Morgan campus of more than 100 properties as they have done every Friday night to usher in Shabbat – the Jewish day of rest.

One holidaymaker, Mrs Brander, said: “It is a summer home to us and we all love it – good air, sea and wonderful views. We are very disappointed and upset by the university’s decision.

“As we left last year, we were told about this condition but, at the time, did not think it a serious threat to our visit. But, ultimately, there was no real decision for us – our religion requires the lighting of candles,” she said.

“We have found a holder to make each candle safer. We offered to  discuss it with the fire brigade, but  the university was not interested.”

Last summer tragedy struck the visitors when Berish Englander, a 47-year-old rabbi and father of 11, drowned off Aberystwyth’s north promenade. And in 2009, swastikas were found painted on grass and on sheets of paper scattered near the halls of residence.

A spokesman for Aberystwyth University said it had taken legal advice and consulted its own health and safety advisors and fire brigade. “The university... would be delighted to welcome this group back, as long as they are able to sign our terms and conditions,” he said.