United Synagogue

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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Tribe takes on US chedarim

By Simon Rocker, February 5, 2009

The United Synagogue’s youth arm, Tribe, set up to provide social and cultural activities, is to take over cheder education from the US’s Agency for Jewish Education.

Despite the growth in Jewish day schools, around 1,500 children still remain in the US part-time system. Some US members have voiced concern at giving Tribe responsibility for chedarim.

At a US council meeting last Thursday, Stanmore Synagogue’s Paul Dresner said the move seemed strange because Tribe does not have “a professional educator”, whereas the AJE was “a professional education department”.

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US cuts budget and jobs as income falls

By Simon Rocker, January 29, 2009

The United Synagogue is axing jobs and planning to cut spending by nearly £250,000 in the light of the economic downturn.

A spokesman for the Orthodox synagogue organisation said on Monday that a financial review had led “to a proposal that a small number of positions will be made redundant. However, as we are still within the consultation process, we cannot confirm the number of positions that may go.”

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Palmers Green minister fights US plan to make him part-time

By Jay Grenby, January 29, 2009

Palmers Green and Southgate Synagogue’s Rabbi Emanuel Levy is fighting a move to make his position part-time in a cost-cutting measure.

Although a United Synagogue spokesman suggested that the 60-year-old minister had accepted the change, Rabbi Levy said on Monday that he would appeal against the decision.

“I believe that the need for my services is as great now as it has ever been. We maintain regular daily services, shirum, education and welfare activities, exactly as we have always done.”

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Music to the ears of pre-schoolers

By Jay Grenby, January 14, 2009

Barnet mums who once ran a toddler group at the local United Synagogue have come up with a new concept for pre-schoolers and their parents.

Serena Kurash and Susan Sacks have launched Jam — Jewish Arts and Music — meeting weekly at the shul, for sessions themed around an aspect of Jewish life.

The women bring a wealth of experience to the venture. Mrs Kurash has worked with children as a piano teacher for over 20 years; Mrs Sacks ran her own nursery. They developed the idea for Jam from their time with the toddler group.

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What you should say when giving a eulogy

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, December 30, 2008

My great uncle was never much of a shul-goer and in his final years, illness and frailty prevented him attending synagogue altogether. When he died, we panicked. “How will the new rabbi find words to eulogise him at the funeral?” we asked. But my aunt was not perturbed. Using a shocking but highly memorable expression, she informed us that, “If the birdie don’t sing, he won’t get no bird seed.” Sure enough, somehow the minister managed to assemble a suitable tribute to a man he had never met.

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US attends first liaison meeting

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2008

The United Synagogue has for the first time sent a rabbinic representative to the liaison body set up to reduce tensions between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

Rabbi Michael Harris, joint vice- chairman of the US Rabbinical Council, attended last Thursday’s meeting at US head office of the community consultative committee, established under the 1998 Stanmore Accords.

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Reform proposes merger

December 23, 2008

The leader of the US Reform movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, proposed that some of his movement’s synagogues could pool resources and merge with Conservative shuls to save costs in the face of the global economic crisis.

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