Bevis Marks activists vow to keep fighting

Rabbi Asmoucha on his last day outside the gates of Bevis Marks

Rabbi Asmoucha on his last day outside the gates of Bevis Marks

Supporters of Rabbi Natan Asmoucha, who has left Bevis Marks Synagogue after nearly three months on suspension, remain determined to take Sephardi leaders to task for their handling of the affair.

A special meeting of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, which had been due yesterday to discuss a motion of no confidence in the mahamad (executive), has been postponed because of the postal strike.

But Sam Dias, warden of Bevis Marks, said; “We need to have the meeting. We believe that what the mahamad did was bad enough and ill thought-out. But the manner in which they did it was disgraceful and showed no consideration for the rabbi, his family or members of Bevis Marks.”

The Reverend Dr Gerry Barlow, chairman of the faith-workers branch of the union Unite, which represented Rabbi Asmoucha, confirmed that he had left the City of London synagogue by “mutual agreement”.

The rabbi was suspended by the mahamad after attending an interfaith demonstration against high bank interest charges organised by the charity London Citizens.

He was disciplined for taking part in a political event “that had not been authorised by his employer” and for allowing demonstrators to assemble at Bevis Marks without security checks.

He had also been due to face a second disciplinary hearing, allegedly for breach of confidentiality and making derogatory remarks about the community’s spiritual head Rabbi Abraham Levy.

In a joint statement, Rabbi Asmoucha said that he would miss the community’s “warm and unique atmosphere” and thanked Spanish and Portuguese leaders for “their assistance during my tenure”. Meanwhile Edward Shaoul, head of the mahamad, noted that Rabbi Asmoucha had “created a major impression during his time at Bevis Marks”.

Members of London Citizens last week raised £300 in a whipround for Rabbi Asmoucha, while a sister American organisation, Industrial Areas Foundation, collected several thousand dollars on his behalf.

London Citizens campaigner Maurice Glasman said: “Rabbi Asmoucha showed great leadership and it’s a real shame he’s gone.”

    Last updated: 5:04pm, October 22 2009