A CANVEY Jewish charity will be opening new community offices in the centre of the island after its family membership increased ten-fold.

Jcoci Educational Foundation Ltd is refurbishing the former site of NatWest Bank on Canvey High Street to turn it into new community offices for the Jewish Congregation of Canvey Island.

The bank closed down in mid-2018 as part of 197 outlets being closed nationwide.

The Jcoci Educational Foundation is a charity dedicated to supporting the island’s Jewish community.

Joel Friedman, policy director for the charity, has stated the new offices will be a small development to help support the expanding community on the island.

It first began in July 2016 with six families, moving into the former site of Castle View School on Meppel Avenue, but has grown to 60 families as of the start of 2019.

Mr Friedman said the community spent three months fundraising the money for the refurbishment.

He said: “The new community offices are intending to be a small operation, but some new offices were needed because our community has been expanding. We started with six families in July 2016 and we now have sixty.

“We fundraised everything ourselves, and it was also a good opportunity for us to repair and refurbish some parts of this old building, as it’s been here for a very long time and some parts of it are not in a good condition at all.

“We’ve submitted a planning application to allow us to take out the old bank ATM machine and for us to put in a new disabled access door. We hope that can be brought before council soon.”

Mr Friedman also stated the charity hopes to submit a change use application within the next month to allow for a kosher bakery to be set up within the same site.

Kosher foods are those that conform to the Jewish dietary regulations, which exclude certain meats, fish and dairy products.

Mr Friedman said there has been a growing interest in having a kosher bakery introduced to Canvey from within and outside the Jewish community.

He added: “We haven’t submitted the change of use application yet, and we will need that approved before we can proceed, but we do have someone from Canvey who is interested in starting one.

“We’ve been getting lots of requests within our community and from those who are not Jewish. Serving daily fresh bread with things like the sweet bread challah is something we don’t have a lot of here, hopefully if all goes well we can make it happen.”