Resignations leave Radlett synagogue in turmoil

By Jay Grenby, July 22, 2010

Radlett Synagogue's vice-chair and two wardens have resigned, the wardens saying they can no longer work with chairman Andy Katz.

Critics claim that Mr Katz is "dictatorial" and "intransigent" and does not consult honorary officers or board members over key decisions. Mr Katz insists this is not the case and says he is working to bring the three back into the fold.

The void in the shul's lay leadership has been revealed before the imminent departure of Rabbi Ariel Abel, who annnounced his resignation in February. Some Radlett members are calling for a vote of no confidence in the chair.

As vice-chair, David Kohler has been a prime mover in overseeing plans for the development of the new synagogue building. He declined to comment on his resignation, beyond an oblique reference to the chairman being central to the situation.

However, warden David Glover was more forthcoming, declaring: "I found it impossible to discharge my duties under Andy Katz's chairmanship because he made important decisions without consulting his fellow honorary officers. We made extraordinary efforts to sort things out, but to no avail. Mr Katz has an intransigent personality and we found it just too difficult to work with him.

Officers say they cannot work with chairman

"After the end of this month, we will have no rabbi, the High Holy-Days are looming and we need a new building. The last thing this community needed was to lose its wardens, but we had no choice."

Fellow warden Malcolm Abrahams also alleged that Mr Katz was not consulting his honorary officers. "We reached the stage where we found our positions untenable. The shul should be run as a democratic process. We had discussions with Andy and the other HOs, trying to come to an understanding, but we were getting nowhere. A lot of the people I have spoken to in the community are highly sympathetic to the action we have taken."

Herbert Goldberg, who serves on the adult education committee, is among members concerned about the shul's administration. He is incensed that a potential bid for the former Radlett fire station site as an alternative home for the community is allegedly being discussed, without the matter being put before the members.

In an email to Mr Katz, he wrote that members objected "to what they see as your dictatorial and secretive attitude. There are calls for an EGM to consider a vote of no confidence in you".

Urging Mr Katz to show "wisdom and leadership" by getting the honorary officers back, Mr Goldberg said there were "those in the community who feel that the shul could more easily do without you than without them".

A decision to cancel a farewell dinner for Rabbi Abel in favour of a Shabbat kiddush has also come under fire.

Mr Katz claims this was a result of the resignation of Mr Glover, the tribute's organiser, and was done with the rabbi's agreement. However, Alex Pomerance, the community's inaugural chair, stepped in to reinstate tonight's sold-out event, at which the 120-plus guests are expected to include US chief executive Jeremy Jacobs.

"I only want the best for Radlett and, unfortunately, I think that right now, that means we will have to go through a fair amount of pain," Mr Pomerance observed. Rabbi Abel said he could not comment "at this time".

Mr Katz maintained this week that he was in regular contact with board colleagues - "sometimes as often as twice a day" - and was "looking to bring in a significant interim rabbi. The community is at a junction. People don't like change, but we need to agree what to do to go forward."

He expressed frustration that a meeting with honorary officers to discuss improved communications and trust had been dominated by the airing of past grievances. The officers who quit had given "tremendous service to the shul. I would be delighted to be able to get back round a table and try to work together."

Last updated: 3:15pm, July 22 2010