Dwindling membership has forced Kenton Synagogue to make its rabbinical couple part-time.
Rabbi Yehuda Black and his wife Yehudit have agreed to a “significant reduction” in working hours from the beginning of next year. Rabbi Black, who has served the congregation for eight years, will be employed from Thursday to Sunday, as well as for all the festivals. Mrs Black will cut her working hours for the community by half.
The agreement was reached after six weeks of consultation between the Kenton board and the Blacks, who were supported during the negotiations by the Rabbinical Council of the US.
Kenton chair Mike Topper said the minister was “one of the kindest and most personable rabbis we have had”. But there was “no other option” to reducing his working hours. Membership had halved since the congregation’s peak in the 1970s, when there were more than 1,000 males affiliated. In the past two years alone, 100 members had either died or transferred to other shuls.
Those remaining were predominantly aged over 60 and Mr Topper saw little prospect of attracting younger families to the area. Although the board had tried to balance the books without cuts to services, it had become clear that the only way to remain solvent was through savings in “controllable” expenditure.
“We know that this will not be easy for Rabbi and Mrs Black or for the community,” he added. “But we shall be working with them over the coming months to ensure that the change progresses as smoothly as possible.”
US Rabbinical Council executive director Rabbi Dr Julian Shindler was “saddened by these unfortunate developments”.