Whitefield members oppose attempt to force out Guttentag

By Jonathan Kalmus, March 1, 2012

Whitefield Hebrew Congregation members are fighting moves to oust minister Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag.

It is said that Rabbi Guttentag has been placed on gardening leave, even though he has continued his ministerial duties at the 700-family Manchester community he has served for almost 25 years.

After the wide circulation of an email last week revealing that the synagogue executive had called for Rabbi Guttentag's departure, the shul office received more than 150 emails, letters and phone calls in support of the rabbi.

The resignation of president Paul Nesbit and other members of the executive was anticipated at a meeting due to be held last night.

It is understood there had been disquiet among the lay leadership that Rabbi Guttentag had allegedly been less involved with the congregation in the wake of his organisation of the Big Tent Israel advocacy conference held in Manchester in November.

There is a groundswell of support for the rabbi

A letter dated January 24 was presented by the executive to the rabbi calling on him to depart immediately, but offering six months' gardening leave.

But the move has been branded unconstitutional, as the synagogue rules require a full council vote and an EGM of members to agree on the removal of a minister.

Former synagogue president Peter Redstone said the executive's actions had "created fury" among the rank-and-file.

"Many are disappointed that one or two new executive members had taken such a stance against the rabbi without consultation with [synagogue] members, which is contrary to the constitution.

"But there has been a huge groundswell of support for Rabbi Guttentag. Nobody wants to lose him."

The rabbi and Mr Nesbit both said they could not comment at the present time.

Last updated: 3:53pm, April 27 2012