Resignations as Guttentag survives

By Jonathan Kalmus, March 9, 2012

Whitefield Hebrew Congregation's Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag has survived an attempt by the lay leadership to remove him.

Following an outpouring of support from congregants for the long-serving rabbi, the synagogue president and four executive members resigned last Thursday.

Shul management has been assumed on an interim basis by the trustees, who are attempting to restore communal harmony.

Protests were sparked by two letters sent by the executive in January seeking Rabbi Guttentag's dismissal or resignation. More than 150 calls and emails supporting the rabbi were received by the synagogue office.

The sacking letters were officially withdrawn this week with a signed declaration by trustees drawn up by a solicitor.

Sacking letters’ have been officially withdrawn

Trustee and former shul president, Robert Rodrigues-Pereira, said legal advice had been taken to ensure employment law and procedures were correctly followed.

He attributed the problems to "the executive and the rabbi not working together and becoming poles apart.

"It is not a secret the rabbi spent lots of time on the Big Tent [Israel advocacy conference], which took him away from some of his communal duties. But it is not a sacking offence - and Rabbi Guttentag has not done anything to render him liable to being dismissed. He carried out what he believed to be his rabbinical duties."

On Shabbat, it was business as usual for Rabbi Guttentag. An empty wardens' box was the only external sign of discord.

The trustees have assured members "that the rabbi and the trustees are working together to ensure harmony within the community". A new executive should be voted in at the May AGM.

Last updated: 12:00pm, March 9 2012