Jewish leaders to stand down after criticism

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The Independent Online
LEADERS of British Jewry's largest religious organisation, the United Synagogue, are to stand down after a report disclosed financial mismanagement and warned that, without radical reform, the group would collapse.

Sidney Frosh, the President of the Synagogue, the Jewish equivalent of the Church of England, confirmed yesterday that he intended to stand down. Mr Frosh said that the eight other lay officers who managed the Synagogue had agreed to submit themselves for re-election next month.

The report, compiled by Stanley Kalms, chairman of the Dixons group, disclosed that the Synagogue was pounds 9m in debt, and had been borrowing from its own pension and burial funds. This was not illegal, but the report urged immediate repayment. 'If you extrapolate the trends, the US would have run out of money,' Mr Kalms said yesterday. 'In financial terms, there is a real crisis.'

His review noted that membership would fall as long as some of those within the Synagogue, who tend to be only moderately orthodox, feared that the organisation was moving further towards strict observance of Jewish law.

'The soothing words have to cease . . . the facade of normality has to stop,' said the report. 'Institutions either change or die.'

There are two principal proposals: a transfer of power from the central administration to local synagogues and greater independence and authority for the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks.

The report envisages that individual synagogues would fund part-time education, and that day schools would become self-governing trusts. There is a demand that women be permitted to participate fully in the management of the Synagogue.

Mr Frosh said that he felt the review pointed a way forward. 'I agree with most of it, although there are some matters on which I have serious reservations.

'Change or die? I don't think anybody will let us die.'