Bournemouth Reform split deepens

September 17, 2009
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A special meeting of Bournemouth Reform Synagogue has failed to avert a breakaway by members dissatisfied with the shul’s direction.

The 100 people from the 500-strong community who attended Sunday’s three-hour meeting voted to replace the existing council and elect a replacement one. The meeting rejected a motion that the council should “commission an independent investigation with aims of clearing up the many rumours being circulated and which are creating an atmosphere of mistrust within the BRS”. Also defeated was a resolution of no confidence in the chair. The JC’s local correspondent was barred from the meeting.

Shul chairman Ron Rosenfeld said afterwards: “I am confident the new council will work together as a team committed to serve their community.” Asked about the 80 members who plan to attend the alternative High Holy- Day services at Carrington House Hotel, he responded: “People should go to whichever spiritual home suits them best. It is important people are happy with their spirituality.”

However, Melanie Smith, the former honorary secretary, said: “Some people feel this is the beginning of the end for Bournemouth Reform Synagogue. There are people looking to move away from the shul. They don’t want politics and nastiness, they want a spiritual experience.”

Disaffected BRS members have cited concern at the shul’s financial management, infighting among the synagogue council and unhappiness with minister Rabbi Neil Amswych.

Nathan Roseman, a Bournemouth Reform member for 25 years, said the meeting was “conducted in an orderly fashion in spite of the tensions”. Yet he claimed: “There is no resolution of the conflict but a tame council has been elected. This was a victory for the group who have prevented the last council from operating.”

That most of those planning to attend the alternative services were not at the meeting suggested “that large numbers of members had already given up on BRS”.

Jeffrey Sheaf — who held an erev Shabbat service at his home for two dozen disaffected congregants — contended that “many of us felt it was futile to stand against the proposed council members with their entrenched views. We feel the finances of the synagogue are not being properly administered.”

At head office, Reform’s director of synagogue services Mike Frankl, who attended Sunday’s meeting, said it had been “held in a positive and co-operative spirit. The Reform Movement will be supporting the council in moving the community forward.”

The following day, Masorti leaders gave a talk about their movement to 55 people at a Bournemouth school. Organiser Stephanie Knifeld is not a Bournemouth Reform member and said the initiative “had nothing to do with any other situation”.

Last updated: 2:41pm, September 17 2009