Rabbi is 'shocked' by proposal to close shul

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2013

A proposal to close Palmers Green and Southgate Synagogue has astounded its rabbi.

Members of the congregation have been called by the United Synagogue to a special meeting on Sunday week to vote on the shul’s fate. But a spokesman for Rabbi Emanuel Levy, who has served it since 1988, said the minister was “shocked” by the news. The rabbi believed the shul remained “extremely viable”, his spokesman said. “There is a good Shabbat minyan every week and we maintain regular weekday minyanim, shiurim and other educational and welfare activities throughout the year. This is still a lovely warm shul with nearly 400 members and to force its closure would be a tragedy and incorrect. There are also already bar- and batmitzvahs booked for the coming year.”

The US said the meeting had been requisitioned by a petition signed by more than 10 per cent of the synagogue’s members. Palmers Green’s male membership has dropped from 337 in 2000 to 180 and the synagogue is in deficit, according to the US. A decision to close would have to be approved by the US Council.

A US representative said it was “extremely sad when we are faced with the prospect of closing down one of our synagogues. But if this is the route the community choose to take, we will do whatever we can to continue to provide support to them during this difficult time. Ultimately, it is they who are best placed to decide on the shul’s future and we will be guided by them.” 

In May, the synagogue’s three officers — chairman Clive Rosen, warden Jonathan Century and financial representative Berl Goldbart — stepped down. No one stood to replace them.

In a joint statement, the three ex-officers said this week: “With membership declining at an alarming rate and nothing to attract young people and ladies, we are looking to have a managed closure of the shul rather than chaotic disengagement.”

But Rabbi Levy’s spokesman contended that it was “only a minority who sought to influence their wrong views on the majority who want the Palmers Green and Southgate shul to continue”.

A year-and-a-half ago, a report for the neighbouring Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue suggested a new set-up for the area, which could incorporate a minyan in Palmers Green.

Last updated: 11:45am, August 26 2013