Western Marble Arch treasurer quits

By Jay Grenby, March 4, 2010

Western Marble Arch Synagogue's "best ever" treasurer has quit in despair over the continuing friction between the shul and the Western Charitable Foundation, which is responsible for maintaining the synagogue premises.

Henry Ejdelbaum - whose prudent housekeeping over the past three years has slashed membership fees by up to 40 per cent - has explained his "personal and principled decision" to resign in a letter to the board and shul members.

"I thought I was going to be able to introduce positive changes but it became clear that this was an impossible task," he wrote.

He said subsequently that he "did not wish to participate in a public discussion concerning issues which I believe belong only to the internal sphere of the synagogue".

But a shul board spokesman revealed that Mr Ejdelbaum had been enraged at the constant haggling with the foundation over money and maintenance matters. The disputes had finally driven "the best treasurer we have ever had" to relinquish the role. "I don't know how we are going to manage without him."

Among many concerns was a £50,000 debt to the shul from the foundation. The matter had been resolved with a compromise amount agreed after lengthy negotiations. "Currently, we are arguing about a £5,000 fee for security," he added.

More pressing was the ongoing problem with the shul's heating system, with worshippers shivering in a freezing synagogue and minimal heating and hot water for the rabbi's flat above.

Charitable foundation trustee Colin Jaque insisted that issues with the synagogue had been dealt with amicably. "There were a number of points raised by the Western Marble Arch treasurer in his endeavour to lessen the financial burden on the synagogue, but we believe that we have satisfactorily answered all of these."

Moreover, "to suggest that there is neglect is nonsense. We are aware that the heating system is ageing and we are looking into it. We have spent a substantial amount on these premises, and we realise that there is still more to do, but a lot of money is involved and these are things that cannot be dealt with in a few minutes."

The charitable foundation was created in 1991 following the merger of the Western Synagogue with the Marble Arch Synagogue, when the former sold its Crawford Street premises. As well as taking on the shul maintenance, it bought the leasehold of the King David Suite in the basement of the synagogue. Once a prestigious venue for weddings, barmitzvahs and communal functions, it is now said by the shul to be in a state of disrepair.

Last updated: 4:03pm, March 4 2010