Manchester synagogue urged to sell to pay burial debt

A Manchester synagogue which owes £10,000 to a burial board has been urged to sell its building.

Higher Crumpsall and Higher Broughton Hebrew Congregation in north Manchester has been unable to maintain payments to the Rainsough Joint Hebrew Burial Board and has not kept burial fees paid by members in a separate account.

The synagogue, built in 1928, is supposed to pay one third of the £30,000 annual running costs of the board, which deals with the maintenance of Rainsough Cemetery in Prestwich, and now owes it more than £10,000.

Brian White, who set up the Rainsough Charitable Trust four years ago to raise money for cemetery improvements, has accused Higher Crumpsall of spending its members' burial fees, and claims the only solution is to sell the building.

Accounts distributed to members show that the synagogue owes £25,000 to creditors, and has only £2 in its current account.

The accounts also show that members' subscriptions is spent on wages, bills and repairs, but do not indicate a separate holding for the burial fees.

Mr White said: "Higher Crumpsall has deteriorated both physically and in terms of its membership. There are 170 members who have paid membership for 50 years and there isn't a penny to pay for their burials or funerals, and that's a tragedy.

"The shul has never had separate accounts or funds for burials. It's used all its funds by paying staff and repairs and there is nothing left. There has been gross mismanagement."

Rabbi Yehuda Brodie, administrator of the Kashrut Authority, which is a partner in the burial board, said: "There is declining membership but the shul still has the same responsibilities, and that's the main reason there is a poor record of payments.

"We are exerting as much pressure as we can. The last method we used was by threatening not to allow a monument to be erected."

Eileen Somers, administrator at Higher Crumpsall, said: "We did have a financial crisis and got behind with payments. But it's under control. We had withheld payments because Rainsough is waterlogged.

"The accounts have not been signed off because they are not completed. We have found there is money owing to us from the Inland Revenue and once that is in, we will pay. When I come to pay for funerals, the money is there."

But Mr White said: "The only solution is to sell the building and put the money into a separate burial fund or tell the members they have to pay their burial fees again - but most are not in a position to do so."

Selling the building has its own issues. The synagogue has received £296,000 in repair grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund since 2004 and would have to pay back the grant if the building is sold.

Last updated: 2:31pm, July 1 2010