Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue, which has been without a senior rabbi for nearly two years, could be close to plugging the gap at the top after leaders named the man they want.
Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, the minister of Manchester’s Yeshurun Synagogue and previously of Kenton Synagogue, will visit the Hertfordshire congregation next month ahead of a members’ ballot on his appointment.
But a plan to retain Rabbi Shimshon Silkin, interim minister since September 2011, by asking him to lead a Borehamwood satellite minyan at Yavneh College will not go ahead.
Damian Schogger, a former board member of the congregation, said Rabbi Kanterovitz was a “lovely guy — he married us at Kenton. After several years of turbulence, I hope that the management has made the right decision. We are a massive community and need strong leadership.”
The 1,300-family congregation has been without a permanent spiritual leader since Rabbi Naftali Brawer left in August 2011. Rabbi Silkin, whose contract expires in July, was considered for the senior rabbinical position a year ago but passed over despite enjoying strong support among sections of the community. In the ensuing fallout over the recruitment process, the then chairman and two honorary officers quit.
Stephen Forman, who took over as chairman to lead the search for a minister, said “Rabbi Kanterovitz and his wife Bianca are a dynamic and inspirational rabbinic team who really impressed both the selection advisory group and the board of management. We’re very excited about the prospect of them joining our community.”
Leeds-born Rabbi Kanterovitz describes himself as modern Orthodox. He and his South African wife have five children and have been at Yeshurun since 2003.
In a Facebook post, a rabbinic colleague, Zvi Solomons, wrote that Borehamwood would be “lucky” to have Rabbi Kanterovitz. “He’s the perfect fit.”
Although sorry to leave Manchester, Rabbi Kanterovitz said “the prospect of a new challenge in such a vibrant and growing community is one that we’ll relish”.
In correspondence to members, Borehamwood’s officers wrote: “Over the last few months a great deal of time and effort has been spent with Rabbi Silkin in exploring various opportunities involving not just representatives of Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue but also the United Synagogue professionals and trustees.
“These discussions resulted in a proposal being drawn up detailing the further development of a Southside satellite community under Rabbi Silkin’s leadership. After careful deliberation and to our great disappointment, Rabbi Silkin has now advised us that he has decided to withdraw from these discussions.” Rabbi Silkin declined to comment further.But Mr Schogger hoped a role could be found for Rabbi Silkin and his wife Sarah. “It would be a great loss if we could not accommodate them in some shape or form.”
Both the selection committee and board of management were asked by Mr Forman to sign confidentiality agreements during the search.
US chief executive Jeremy Jacobs said: “It is standard US policy for all those engaged in a local rabbinic selection to be bound by confidentiality and a confidentiality agreement is sent out for signature. This is designed to protect both the community and the applicants.”