Jewish Community Southern Costa Blanca Jewish Community Southern Costa Blanca, Spain
Elstrie Shteibel

Elstrie Shteibel - formerly the Artichoke pub

Driving along Elstree Hill North, drivers may be tempted to pull over at what seems obviously to be a pub. This isolated but welcoming building indeed looks like a pub, and the various signs indeed look very much like pub signs. However, something appears very slightly amiss. For, although a pub sign remains, it now depicts a tallit-draped Jew. Gone is the original pub name, 'The Artichoke'. Whilst not exactly 'The Dog and Chazan', or 'The Red Heffer', the 'Elstree Shtiebel' may well be in full flow. Although the spirits normally associated with pubs may not be the ones flowing (unless it’s Purim, and therefore virtually mandatory to be shticker) there will almost certainly be spirit of a different type in evidence, and much more potent than any liquid which can be bottled.

The Elstree Shteibel was a philanthropic project set up some eight years ago by Mendel Tejtelbaum when he was feeling a little underwhelmed with the orthodoxy on offer in his own neighbourhood. In true Eastern European tradition, the shteibel is open 365 days each year, is fully inclusive of all degrees of observance, and the atmosphere is – Chutzpahdick understands – welcoming and relaxed with no shortage of tea, coffee and cakes. A learning programme takes place at 5.45 a.m. (oy vey!) before the 6.30 a.m. morning service. A further learning event occurs in the evening which is often attended by pupils from nearby Yavneh College. Ladies are encouraged to hold their own service on the premises.

With its close proximity to the M1, (although not AA signposted) around four people a week turn up thinking that this is still a conventional pub. Occasionally Jews also turn up by mistake (one in particular loved the atmosphere so much that he kept returning – a great example of how Hashem works in mysterious ways).

Shteibelekh tend to be smaller, more informal and more in keeping with Jewish eastern European tradition compared to synagogues, and, consequently, far more noisy. Chutzpahdick recalls the late Chaim Bermant writing about a Jewish man from Stamford Hill who allowed his house to be used as shteibel, to the great consternation of his next door neighbour who, declaring himself to be a non practising Jew, complained about the unacceptable noise level. Trying to justify the situation, the shteibel owner stated that he was a practising Jew and therefore perhaps his way of life was unacceptable to his neighbour. Chaim Bermant sympathetically suggested that even non practising Jews had a right to undisturbed nights.

Fortunately the Elstree Shteibel – standing in its own grounds - is set far enough apart from its immediate neighbours so as not to constitute a noise problem.

One has to make a more conscious effort to attend here, whereas with the previous example, more intimately part of an orthodox neighbourhood, one could suddenly be taken short (in the spiritual sense) just by walking in the vicinity and seized by the desire to pop in for a quick ‘dav’.

Chutzpahdick wishes to drink a l’chaim to the Elstree Shteibel and wishes this innovative project much success in the future.

Founded in 2012 by Mendel Tajtelbaum in memory of Reb Yitzchok Dovid Tajtelbaum
(Dedication of the building, formerly the Artichoke pub, took place on 27 January 2013)


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