United Synagogue president Simon Hochhauser called this week for the community to streamline its education, welfare and outreach bodies.
Speaking at a sombre US Council meeting, overshadowed by calls for spending cuts in both the US and the community at large, he said that tough times necessitated ditching some of its most prized organisations, whose functions overlapped.
Duplication, he said, was “simply no longer affordable.” The US “no longer has the luxury of funding so many organisations”.
Some of the US’ contribution towards the wider community, in areas such as education, the Beth Din, welfare and shechitah defence might have to be curtailed, he warned.
“We must look critically at everything we do and everything we fund. We have to be a bit more selfish and wean people off the idea that the US is some kind of sugar daddy.”
Later, he acknowledged that US rabbis were ringing alarm bells about the rising number of congregants suffering serious financial straits. He said: “We are getting many reports from rabbis about hardship. Everyone is worried about what is happening.”
The council also warned that the US would have to be “much stricter in terms of collection” of synagogue bills in order to avoid cash flow problems.
Acknowledging that meeting bills would be difficult for many synagogue members in the harsh economic climate, Mr Hochhauser said the council favoured self-help programmes, although he doubted whether most synagogues would be able to afford financial aid.
Networking and sharing experience in helping people in trouble was important, he said, as was an initiative to encourage members in business to offer jobs to those who become unemployed.
lMr Hochhauser this week gained a place on the executive of the Jewish Leadership Council. He replaces Mike Grabiner, former chair of the Movement for Reform Judaism.
Lord Levy, who also stepped down from the executive after three years, has been succeeded by property company owner Leo Noé.
Lord Levy, a founder of the JLC, remains on its main board. He called for younger people to join the JLC.