Elstree shul denies claim of rabbis’ rift


An alleged rift between the current and former Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue rabbis is the talk of the community.

Writing in the shul magazine, author and JC columnist Michael Freedland referred to a “certain disquiet” between Rabbi Naftali Brawer and his predecessor Rabbi Alan Plancey. “Something must be done to get these two gentlemen together — for their own good and for ours.”

Mr Freedland went on that if Rabbi Brawer “finds it difficult to get round to people’s houses, visiting the sick, doing all the things that his predecessor did so brilliantly, then he needs a ministerial assistant, a junior rabbi learning his craft”.

Embarrassed officials sent a covering letter with the magazine, dissociating the management board from the views expressed. A sticker with the same message was affixed to the article in each copy.

Rabbi Brawer was recruited from Northwood Synagogue when Rabbi Plancey retired in July 2007 after more than 30 years at Borehamwood. In a role reversal, Rabbi Plancey went on to serve Northwood as acting minister but continued to live in Borehamwood, where he was made emeritus minister last year.

Shul chairman Anthony Arnold said: “Mr Freedland is one of our older members and not that well informed about how the shul is run.

“Perhaps the article should not have been published — it was inaccurate, demeaning and condescending,” he claimed. “Perhaps it was just an error of judgement. We fully support our rabbi.”

Rabbi Plancey said: “I have written to Rabbi Brawer and made my comments to him. As far as I’m concerned, if this is what Mr Freedland says, then that’s up to him, but I have distanced myself from his comments completely.” Rabbi Brawer was unavailable for comment.

Mr Freedland dismissed the response as “a storm in a kiddush cup. They have taken offence over something that meant no offence whatsoever. I said Rabbi Brawer is a fantastic speaker.

“It’s a huge community and he could do with some help at a ministerial level. It’s a justified opinion. No insult was intended to anyone.”

However, he written to Rabbi Brawer, apologising if any offence had been caused.

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