For Jewish News March 11 2022
A detailed explanation of the latest thinking in the S&P community is being distributed to its members this week after the Parnas Presidente, Professor Stuart Morganstein, admitted that “many people were disappointed” by the Town Hall meeting held online on February 28. In a pre-Shabbat message, he wrote: “As a Board, we should have been better prepared”, but this has been dismissed by the former chair of Lauderdale Road Synagogue, Gerry Temple, as “an admission of complete failure”.
In a 2,000 word document sent to members of the community this week, the Board identifies for the first time the donor, Jonathan Kandel, who, with his wife, Miri Freud-Kandel, a lecturer in modern Judaism, has agreed to fund the Office of the Senior Rabbi, to the tune of half a million pounds over five years. Mr Kandel is a tax lawyer who is not thought to be a member of the S&P community, but Jewish News has been told that he has a long-standing association with it through his mother and her family. In fact Jewish News has learned that Mr Kandel’s father, Robert, intends to run for a place on the Board of Elders of the community.
Writing to the community, the Board says that the Office of the Senior Rabbi is a role which dates back to 1664 and is the oldest rabbinic position in the UK. “The Board and Rabbi [Joseph] Dweck have a strong vision for the Senior Rabbi’s Office, and we are excited to formally launch the Office in the coming weeks”. It adds that “the enhancement of the Senior Rabbi’s Office (SRO) will be of great benefit to the Kahal for educational, ambassadorial, and financial reasons”. But it does not make clear whether the initiative is dependent on Rabbi Dweck only, and what happens if he should decide to take up another rabbinical post elsewhere.
Rachel Fink, the former head teacher of JFS, is conducting a strategic review into the workings of the S&P. So far, she has interviewed around 25 members of the Kahal, including all Elders, chairs of synagogue and other key committees, the rabbis, and members of the professional team”. The Board maintains that previous recommendations in her work, made public in the Jewish media, were of an “interim” nature and did “not represent the settled position of the author or the Board”.
It adds that feedback from a current survey circulating in the community “will be shared with the Kahal in advance of the AGM. This information will then be incorporated into a final review which will be presented to the newly-elected Board following the AGM and then shared with the wider Kahal.” The Fink Report, the Board says, was carried out by Mrs Fink “as part of her role as a strategic consultant. Her employment has been funded using general funds as an investment into the future of the S&P”.
But, in response to rumours that Mrs Fink is to become the next Chief Executive of the S&P, the Board only says: “The Board is in the final stages of the recruitment process for the new Chief Executive and we expect to be able to make an appointment shortly”.
Other details of the Board’s response to the community touch on the Sephardi Kashrut Authority and the potential future of Wembley Synagogue.
Gerry Temple is still seeking an EGM to be held before the AGM in April, in which he is calling for the resignation of the entire Board.