United Synagogue

Power play by rabbis

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

United Synagogue rabbis want a greater say in deciding its religious policy.

A draft constitution of the Rabbinical Council of the US (RCUS), which has been seen by the JC, advocates that rabbis should be “an equal partner with the Chief Rabbinate and the London Beth Din” in determining the religious direction of the US.

The document also says that the RCUS “must ratify prior to implementation all policies that affect the rabbinate as well as any policy that affects the spiritual and religious direction of the United Synagogue”.

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Reel stars

By James Martin, April 16, 2009

United Synagogue burial head Melvyn Hartog and 15 Ilford Synagogue members will make their big screen debuts in a film by Gurinder Chada, whose hits include Bend It Like Beckham and Bride And Prejudice.

They featured in a scene shot at Willesden cemetery for It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, which is described as a mixture of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Shaun Of The Dead. The scene is about a Jewish grandmother, played by Zoe Wanamaker, envisioning her own funeral. Mr Hartog portrays the rabbi who comforts the mourners — the Ilford shul members — and wishes them long life.

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US turning down new members

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2009

The United Synagogue has been accused of rejecting membership applications for affiliated shuls on geographical grounds.

Ruislip Synagogue in Middlesex and Romford Synagogue in Essex say they have had applications vetoed because the US has begun enforcing a regulation that members are supposed to live within a mile-and-a-quarter of their local synagogue.

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Kabbalist takes on ghost

By Simon Rocker, April 2, 2009

A top kabbalist has been asked to help a United Synagogue rabbi whose home is reportedly being visited by the ghost of a past minister.

Website reports on the haunting referred to an unnamed London rabbi, who the JC now understands to be Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin, the part-time minister of Enfield and Winchmore Hill Synagogue in Middlesex.

The haunted rabbi initially turned to Rabbi Levy Yitzhak Raskin, a Lubavitch dayan in London, who contacted the Jerusalem office of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE).

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Row over stone setting charge

By Leon Symons, March 26, 2009

The United Synagogue burial chief has denied claims that it is asking mourners to pay £150 for the use of a prayer hall for Sunday stone settings.

Borehamwood Synagogue member Jeffrey Permutt alleges that the charge was specified when he requested information about arranging a family stone setting.

But head of burial Melvyn Hartog maintains: “The charge is not for the hire of the hall. It goes towards the costs we incur bringing in staff on Sundays, which is when everyone wants a stone setting.”

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US cuts back on education

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

Jewish schools should take over teacher training and curriculum development from the United Synagogue, the US believes.

The US wants to “shift responsibi-lity to where it belongs”, its president, Simon Hochhauser, told a meeting of its council in Hendon on Monday.

Until now, the US’s Agency for Jewish Education has overseen teacher training and the production of Jewish studies material.

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Leaders' fresh pledge on harmony

By Simon Rocker, February 19, 2009

Leaders of the United Synagogue, Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements have made a fresh pledge of commitment to the Stanmore Accords, the 1998 agreement to avoid infighting and promote co-operation.

The Stanmore Accords recognised that British Jewry was “damaged by infighting and mutual recrimination”.

Yet the future of the agreement had been in doubt amid growing dissatisfaction among the non-Orthodox bodies with the progress achieved.

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Hackney listing threatens sale

By Jay Grenby, February 18, 2009

English Heritage’s award of Grade II listed status to the historic Hackney Synagogue building has jeopardised the United Synagogue’s plan to sell the site.

The US — which opposed the listing — had put the 112-year-old Brenthouse Road property on the market, highlighting the redevelopment potential. The hope was that a sale would fund the congregation’s relocation.

It is understood that a potential buyer has asked for time to reconsider, given that the listing, recognising architectural and historic interest, could scupper any plans for demolition.

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Visionary project

February 12, 2009

An organisation promoting Jewish responsibility has set its sights on improving vision in Africa.

Project Chesed, a joint initiative of the United Synagogue and the London School of Jewish Studies, has joined forces with the Eye Warehouse to collect thousands of pairs of spectacles which will be sent by Vision Aid Overseas to optical clinics in countries such as Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia. The Project Chesed collection is dedicated to the memory of Giles Van Colle, an optician and US member, who was murdered in 2000.

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Former US staff face gag order

By Simon Rocker, February 5, 2009

The United Synagogue has been challenged over the use of confidentiality agreements signed by staff who have lost their jobs.

Members of the organisation’s lay council were told at a meeting at the end of last week that nine redundancies had been made among a staff of around 100 in a cost-cutting budget.

But David Rose, council representative for South Hampstead Synagogue, quizzed US officers over confidentiality agreements that he said he had heard some departing staff had been asked to sign.

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