Members save rabbi's job - now he might leave


Liverpool's Childwall Hebrew Congregation has raised more than £30,000 to keep its rabbi. But he is considering leaving the community.

After discovering that it would have to find £25,000 to balance its books by the end of 2016, the cash-strapped synagogue reached a redundancy agreement in February with Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg, who has served it full-time for two years.

But congregants came to the rescue, with two-thirds of the membership donating sums totalling £33,000, more than enough to save the minister's job.

Rabbi Wollenberg's post is now secure until 2017 and he thanked members for their support: "It's been a very good grassroots response that no one anticipated when the redundancy discussions started," he said.

"It's obviously a vote of confidence in me and my wife. It's very nice to have the support of the community."

Yet following the "bruising experience" and with no long-term stability, the father-of-seven is in the market for another job.

"Because of what's happened here, we don't feel secure. If something else could offer a longer term commitment, I'd be tempted. I'm not sure I could go through this experience every two years."

Outgoing shul president Syd Edels - who has stood down on health grounds - was "absolutely delighted" with the amount donated. It was "a great statement by the congregation".

However, in his resignation letter to members, he acknowledged that Childwall's financial situation remained "problematic".

The shul has been trying to reach agreement with the local council to release covenants to allow a sale of land, funding a smaller, purpose-built synagogue on the site. But Mr Edels warned that "the preliminary costs for a new shul still indicate a deficit against the land value - and the alternative approach of a major shul refurbishment does not appear to be cost effective. Our membership, and hence income, continues to decline."

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