Barnet Synagogue members voted overwhelmingly on Monday to upgrade from affiliated status to full constituent membership of the United Synagogue. Shul chairman Paul Kleinman said the change was “at the right time” and “on the right terms” for the congregation.
At an extraordinary general meeting, over 100 members heard Mr Kleinman outline the benefits to the congregation, and US vice-president Geoff Hartnell explain the US’s responsibilities. Following a lively debate, around 90 per cent backed the board’s recommendation to upgrade.
Mr Kleinman told the JC afterwards: “We are delighted to have succeeded in moving our community forward by joining the US as a full member. We have been talking to the US for some years on this issue — indeed, I first began discussing it with them some 20 years ago when I was the shul’s financial representative. But up till now, it hadn’t seemed the right time. We negotiated a nice deal and have gone in on terms we found acceptable and which we believe will be beneficial to our community.”
It is understood that the agreement includes keeping Barnet’s “payover” rate to the US around its current level and the US making a grant towards the future capital costs of the shul, which two years ago started a refurbishment and improvement programme. It was the first synagogue in the country to incorporate a Shabbat-compliant lift.
Celebrating the 60th anniversary of its establishment, Barnet affiliated to the US in 1954 before acquiring its own building. Today, its 550 members are predominantly at the younger end of the age scale.
Welcoming Barnet’s decision, US president Simon Hochhauser said: “The essence of the United Synagogue lies in the mutual nature of the relationship between its communities. We want to give our member synagogues the clear message that their destiny lies very much in their own hands.
“The role of the centre is to support aspirations. We will work tirelessly to ensure your continued unique character and independence of spirit.”