Ousted minister starts rival group


The rabbi of Reading Hebrew Congregation who was made redundant in spring says he will offer alternative High Holy Day services after the synagogue rejected his offer to officiate for free.

Rabbi Zvi and Rebbetzin Shira Solomons lost their posts at the end of May after the congregation said it could no longer afford them.

Since then, several Shabbat services have been held at their home, advertised under the auspices of the Jewish Community of Berkshire.

Rabbi Solomons said that "our community sprang up through a number of coincidences - our daughter Ora's batmitzvah, my inability to walk to shul following a serious leg injury and the Goldsmid Road congregation terminating our contracts of employment".

He added that "while the farthest I have walked recently has been half-a-mile, my physiotherapist feels confident that I would have been able to walk to Goldsmid Road next week. I would have done this had they agreed to my offer to officiate."

Rabbi Solomons claimed the shul was not "maintaining appropriate halachic standards for an Orthodox community".

In consequence, he said, "I feel I cannot attend as a participant. We shall, therefore, be holding our own services separately at the Jewish Community of Berkshire, which will be open to anyone who wishes to attend."

Meanwhile, he is challenging his redundancy and has asked for a hearing at the Beth Din. "I'm disappointed that an Orthodox synagogue has avoided resolving this through a Beth Din," he stated.

Reading president Sarah Firsht declined to respond to the claims made by Rabbi Solomons, explaining that the congregation did not wish to be drawn into a public discussion.

The congregation "continues to be extremely healthy and in good spirits", she said. "The wardens work hard to maintain Orthodox services, which are well-attended. The vast majority of our congregation are appreciative of this fact and understand the practical issues which we continue to face."

In the light of "significant financial problems", the board of management had "given the Reading Hebrew Congregation the opportunity to survive into the future and look after the community".

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