Nottingham rabbi resists US affiliation

A regional rabbi has offered to take a pay cut rather than let his congregation join the United Synagogue to secure its future.

Rabbi Moshe Perez, who has served the Nottingham Hebrew Congregation for around 25 years, is leading the opposition to moves to affiliate to the London-based synagogue body.

A senior US official, David Kaplan, is due to address a meeting of the 250-member Orthodox congregation on Sunday but Rabbi Perez has written to the US and the Chief Rabbi asking for it not to go ahead. “The US may be right for other communities, but it’s not for us,” he said

Rabbi Perez had offered to go part-time, working four days, he said, while remaining available to his community for the rest of the week “free of charge”.

Nottingham’s situation reflects the difficulties faced increasingly by regional communities as numbers decline. Earlier this year, Sheffield became the first northern congregation to join the US.

In a letter sent to members, Nottingham’s trustees acknowledged that there was a rift within its executive committee over the US proposal but referred to it as potentially “the best option”.

According to documents seen by the JC, it currently costs £70,000 to employ Rabbi Perez full-time, which include expenses and housing. If his offer to take a cut were accepted, that would reduce the cost to around £56,000 annually — along with a one-off payment of £50,000 to help him buy a home.

The community ran up a deficit of more than £80,000 last year, although that was partly offset by gains in investment. Its 700-seater synagogue, according to Rabbi Perez, attracts an average of 40 men and women on Shabbat.

An anonymous letter circulated around the community in March protested that the rabbi had been subjected to “cruel and heartless treatment.”

But members have been reassured that the US would have no intention of changing the rabbi or his salary.

Rabbi Perez said he had “no dislike or bad feeling towards the United Synagogue” but believes that the congregation would do better if it continued to remain independent.

But the synagogue trustees have told congregants that, “joining the US would enable us financially to remain in existence for the foreseeable future as well as providing assistance to maintain our standards of service, including a full-time rabbi and all our facilities.”

A spokesman for the US said: “We have always made it clear that if any regional community under the authority of the Chief Rabbi approaches and wishes to join the United Synagogue, we will warmly welcome that approach.”

Last updated: 5:37pm, May 8 2014