Shul rebels fail to sack rabbi

By Candice Krieger, September 4, 2008

Members of Portsmouth and Southsea Hebrew Congregation have failed in an attempt to dismiss their rabbi.

Rabbi David Katanka's job was under threat after more than 30 members signed a resolution calling for his departure. But at last Sunday's 60-member-strong extraordinary general meeting - called to discuss Rabbi Katanka's position and the financial future of the synagogue - the motion failed by five votes.

The resolution advised that "the board of management be instructed with immediate effect to give three months' notice of termination to the minister and his wife" as there was "no longer any justification for the cost of the current arrangements", costing around £29,500 per year.

During the meeting, one congregant reportedly claimed that Rabbi Katanka, who has been the part-time minister at Portsmouth for the past four and a half years, receives his salary for less than five hours' work per week - the length of the entire Shabbat services. Another complained that the rabbi's induction service in 2005, which was attended by the Chief Rabbi and 150 guests, had been an unwarranted expense.

But, following a review of the past year's accounts and financial history of the congregation, the motion was defeated by 32 votes to 27, with two spoilt papers.

Warden Tony Cooper (pictured left) said: "I am pleased with the outcome and very pleased that so many people in the community turned up and are sufficiently concerned about the future of the community." Member David Seidel said: "It was a meeting that was heartening and everyone there showed that they want the congregation to continue."

A meeting between Rabbi Katanka and the board of management is to take place this Sunday to discuss the future of the community.

London-based Rabbi Katanka said: "I have enjoyed my time with the Portsmouth synagogue and, with the congregation, we have raised the profile of this historic community. I am looking forward to meeting the honorary officers ."

Last updated: 10:55am, September 4 2008