Beth Din will carry on despite debt

By Jonathan Kalmus, January 6, 2011

Manchester Beth Din has set up new limited companies to continue its communal services after financial problems forced its charity into liquidation.

Last week creditors received letters from accountants on behalf of the Beth Din's charitable organisation, Manchester Kashrut, announcing its president had put it into voluntary liquidation. The 118-year-old charity is responsible for supervising several key kosher meat and other major companies in the North West, as well as Jewish marriages, divorces and conversions.

Two weeks ago the Inland Revenue rejected a financial plan to clear a backlog of thousands of pounds in unpaid national insurance payments.

But the biggest blow came when the charity became the victim of an £800,000 deficit on its pension scheme. Over just four years the Beth Din was expected to pay a seven-fold increase in retired staff benefits because of new European regulations and poor investment returns due to the recession.

But president Jeremy Nussbaum, a chartered accountant, said communal services would continue.

"Our dayanim's food technology and halachic expertise, to go into factories and technically take a production line apart, is second to none. Our kashrut supervision has grown two and a half times in recent years and we are currently understaffed.

"We've been doing well in the last 18 months and we have not been losing money in that period. But there were older debts that we've had to carry for an awfully long time. The Beth Din
is 100 years old and was formed when we derived our income from 30 butcher shops. Now there are just six which we supervise.

"Our income used to be £300,000 from shechitah, now it's £100,000 if we are lucky. We've replaced that to a large extent with providing kosher supervision in factories."

Three limited charitable companies, Manchester Beth Din Ltd, MBD Kashrut Certification Services Ltd and MBD Shechitah Service Ltd, have already been set up to continue communal services.

This week the Beth Din said it had agreed to buy back from creditors rights to its MK kosher symbol, which has become a world-renowned kosher supervision brand on Kellogg's cereals and Heinz ketchup, among products of 200 companies that it supervises.

Antony Miller of Bridge Trustees, who is handling the pension scheme deficit for the Beth Din, said the debt had been taken over by the government's Pension Protection Fund.

Last updated: 11:29am, January 7 2011