Beth Din won’t cater for Riba boycotters

Riba’s simchah venue, as displayed on the organisation’s website. The European Masorti Beth Din says it will no longer supervise kosher meals there

Riba’s simchah venue, as displayed on the organisation’s website. The European Masorti Beth Din says it will no longer supervise kosher meals there

A Beth Din has revealed that it will no longer cater kosher events at the headquarters of the British architecture institute which has adopted an anti-Israel stance.

The European Masorti Beth Din supervises kosher meals at the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (Riba) banqueting facilities in central London.

But it will stop working with the venue after architects voted in favour of a motion last month which called for the suspension of Israeli counterparts from their international union.

Rabbi Chaim Weiner said: “We’re aware of the motion. Where people have already booked an event we will honour their booking, but we will not take new bookings from Riba while they have a stance that is offensive to the Jewish community.

“We supervise a number of events each year there. We have a one-day licence where we go in, kosher the kitchens and work with their in-house catering teams.”

He said the Beth Din would not reverse its position until Riba overturned its anti-Israel stance.

Architect Dara Rigal last week cancelled her family’s plans to hold her daughter’s batmitzvah at Riba later this year.

Mrs Rigal, of Hampstead Garden Suburb, north west London, said: “I wanted to register my voice on the issue. We had a reservation for the room but when they contacted us to confirm I said no.

“I have been to the venue before and liked it. But we will go somewhere else. The problem I had was with the process Riba went through.

“I question whether it’s even in Riba’s constitution to be able to put forward such a proposal. It was a one-sided debate. The motion was flawed. They did not put themselves up to the same level of scrutiny.”

Riba organises events at its 200-capacity Florence Hall venue in central London and has a special section on its website dedicated to bar and batmitzvahs.

“If you require kosher catering we have a list of suppliers that are allowed to cater in the building or alternatively we now provide competitively priced kosher catering,” it states in its promotional material.

Riba declined to comment on the number of cancelled bar-and batmitzvah bookings it had received since last month’s vote.

The institute has set up a working group to consider the implications of its anti-Israel resolution. Chaired by the institute’s vice-president Peter Oborn, it will look at the role Riba should play in “engaging with communities facing civil conflict and natural disaster”.

The working group will co-ordinate Riba’s discussions with parties involved in the recent motion and report to the institute’s board and council by the end of the year.

The Solo Practitioner Group (SPG), a group of north-west architects affiliated to Riba, wrote to institute president Stephen Hodder to outline its opposition to the motion.

SPG said: “This motion implies Riba is partisan in the complex political situation in the Middle East, which is more damaging to the perception of Riba and its members than the likely effectiveness of any possible resulting outcomes.”

Prominent United States architect Richard Meier, a fellow of Riba, also outlined his objections. He told Mr Hodder in a letter: “I find this incredible that the Riba which I thought of as being an extremely honourable institution would vote for sanctions against Israel.”

Last updated: 12:48pm, April 17 2014