Glasgow shul's future at crossroads over support

By Adam Henderson, December 16, 2013
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Two deals, each worth several hundred thousand pounds, are being considered by Newton Mearns Synagogue in Glasgow ahead of its AGM on Sunday.

An offer from the London-based United Synagogue would see the organisation take over Newton Mearns’s assets in exchange for support. An alternative deal from the Glasgow Jewish Community Trust is worth £250,000.

Malcolm Livingstone, chair of the trust, said: “We want to find a Glasgow solution to this and, as the largest community funder, we want to show support. Our offer isn’t as much as the United Synagogue’s but would allow the shul to keep its assets.”

Newton Mearns and Giffnock and Newlands Synagogue, located 2.5 miles apart, have both seen numbers dwindle in recent years as the community shrinks. The shuls had been in merger discussions until a few months ago after talks began in early 2011.

The 2011 Census found the Jewish community in the Glasgow suburb of East Renfrewshire — where both shuls are located — was 2,400; the city’s Jewish population was around 13,000 in 1950.

Mr Livingstone added: “If numbers in the community continue to decline then, in five or 10 years, an amalgamation between the two shuls would be best but we are not at that stage yet.”

Glasgow Jewish Representative Council president Paul Morron warned that joining the United Synagogue would “be an irrevocable act” and that “they have to consider the wider impact on the community,” adding: “I wish the talks with Giffnock well.”

David Kaplan, community services director at the US, said: “It is up to them to decide if they would like to join us. I have attended a meeting with members and would be open to that conversation but at the moment we are not in talks.”

Giffnock chair Nigel Allon said resuming talks “is the first step. They are going to have to make up their own minds about joining United Synagogue but we believe it would be better for the two shuls to merge and prepare that for the next generation. Instead of having two lots of expenses, everything would go into one community working with one aim. The big problem we have is which building we would use.” He added Giffnock “has no interest in joining United Synagogue”.

Newton Mearns chair Brian Fox said: “We are still in very early stages of talks.”

The board of Newton Mearns is reportedly split over the future of the shul with the issue likely to be discussed at Sunday’s AGM where Mr Fox is believed to be stepping down as chair.

Last updated: 3:45pm, December 16 2013