Michael Goldstein, the chairman of the JW3 community centre, has been chosen as the new president of Britain’s largest synagogue body, the United Synagogue.
Mr Goldstein – the brother of Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, - defeated Russell Kett, vice-president of the US for the past six years, by 117 votes to 71 at the US council elections on Monday night.
Although never having served as a US officer before, Mr Goldstein ran as the “change candidate” who was seen “as a fresh pair of eyes”.
“I think there is a sense that a lot of things need to change,” he said.
Under new rules, Mr Goldstein, 54, serves a term of four rather than three years, succeeding Stephen Pack, who steps down after a maximum two terms in office.
Chief executive of a private property company, Mr Goldstein grew up in Ilford and has a strong communal track record, having become a trustee of UJIA in his 20s. He is a former chairman of Mill Hill Synagogue and former vice-chairman of a US school, King Solomon High.
His priorities include reducing payover – the levy paid by local communities to head office – and exploring the possibility of merging smaller synagogues administratively with larger ones to reduce expenditure.
Mr Kett said that, while he was disappointed to lose, the election had given members the chance “to really think about issues”. Mr Goldstein, he said, “has the confidence of the council behind him and he has wonderful plans which I am sure he will take great care to implement.”
In a good night for communal democracy, all the posts on the US executive were contested.
Maxwell Nisner, chairman of the US audit committee, is the new treasurer, beating Stephen Lubinsky, a former occupant of the post.
Three of the US’s first four female trustees were returned – Leonie Lewis, Claire Lemer and Doreen Samuels. But Jacqui Zinkin lost her seat to newcomer Fleurise Lewis, a board member of Finchley Synagogue.
At 35, Saul Taylor, from Stanmore Synagogue, who polled the largest number of votes for the male trustee posts, is thought to be the youngest to hold the office. Barry Shaw and Andrew Eder took the other two posts, seeing off challenges from three other contenders.
In his parting address, Mr Pack noted that membership of US constituent synagogues had risen by more than 550 during the six years he had led the US.