Plea to save Charedi sites

By Robyn Rosen, October 1, 2009

Charedi community leaders have warned that some longstanding institutions, including mikvehs, charities and schools are “suffering dire financial deficits” as the recession takes its toll.

The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations has sent out an urgent appeal to the strictly Orthodox community as a “wake-up call” to help organisations “on the verge of bankruptcy”.

Chanoch Kesselman, executive co-ordinator at the union, said: “Most of the hardship experienced by these institutions is because of the recession, coupled with the increase in expenses.”

Mr Kesselman said that three mikvehs in north and north west London are on the brink of closing, and mother and baby service, Beis Brocho and special needs school, Side-by-Side, both in Stamford Hill, are struggling.

Beis Brocho Mother and Baby Home provides help to 850 new mothers every year. It costs the centre £135 a day for each mother and clients have the choice to pay in full or at a reduced rate, depending on their means.

Last year 50 per cent were paying a reduced rate of £57 a day but this figure has now leapt to 70 per cent.

Moses Hirschler, manager at Beis Brocho, said that payment was down because of the recession and that the centre was now heavily in debt.

He said: “We do a lot of fundraising to get the rest but regulars have cut donations by half or quarter and some are not donating at all. We’re struggling to pay our bills and wages. It is very serious and it’s getting harder and harder. The community needs us.”

Joseph Steinhart, a trustee at the North West London Communal Mikveh in Golders Green, said that it was £1.5 million in debt.

Last year, it purchased the building next to the Hendon Mikveh with plans to expand but the works were never started.

“Donations have really gone down,” he said. ““There is a real threat of closure but I just hope the community won’t let it happen.”

Sylvia Hartman, executive committee member at Kingsbury Mikvah, said: “The donations we receive don’t go any where near covering the outgoings of maintaining the premises.”

Last updated: 5:56pm, October 1 2009