Rabbi Bassous's shul considers selling new building because of financial problems

Trustees of Beth Hamedrash Knesset Yehezkel in Golders Green say the impact of coronavirus has left the charity in 'a very precarious position'


The trustees of Rabbi Aharon Bassous’s synagogue are exploring the possibility of selling its new building, which opened only this year, because of the state of the congregation’s finances. 

In a letter to members, the trustees of Beth Hamedrash Knesset Yehezkel in Golders Green revealed that the impact of coronavirus had left the charity in “a very precarious position”. 

Rabbi Bassous has previously threatened to resign but in October, the trustees of his congregation said they had offered new proposals to him. 

In their latest letter this week, the trustees said they hoped to re-establish shalom [peace] and “ to hear back from the rabbi and his representatives so we can aim to find an acceptable resolution” before the end of Chanukah. 

The new building had been a “phenomenal effort” from the rabbi, the building committee, trustees and donors of the community. 

But the task was “far from complete”,  they said. 

“We have significant bank loans in place totalling £3,050,000 with interest and capital repayments approaching some £200,000.  

“Additionally, a £200,000 building contract retention, which needs to be paid to the contractor in July 2021 as well as ongoing running costs of the shul of approximately £250,000 p/a, allowing for all salaries, insurances, cleaning, utilities and other expenses.” 

They had hoped the six-month inauguration period would have been an apt time to raise funds as people saw the “wonderful new” synagogue buzzing with Torah education programmes. But “that clearly has not happened”, they said. “The impact of Covid has also all but completely wiped out the expected income from the function hall.” 

If the current situation remained, the charity would “very soon become insolvent”, they warned.   

As a matter of urgency, they were considering “all options” to prevent this. 

“Clearly, being able to fundraise the shortfall would be the ideal situation but we do not feel that is plausible at this time. Unless there are others who wish to take up the fundraising efforts or know of potential large donors, we need to take immediate action.

There were two potential solutions. “The first would be to achieve some sort of compromise between all parties involved, which will in turn increase our ability to raise the short-term funds to prevent the immediate crisis and will in time B'H [with God’s help] restore the shalom to our community and allow things to return to how they used to be.  

“Unfortunately, even with the help of mediators and local rabbis, we have not been able to engage in any sort of constructive discussions to date. 

“The other option we are exploring is the sale of the building and using the proceeds to pay off the debts and relocating the community to a smaller shul, similar to how it was previously. 

“Clearly, this would be a tremendous shame given all the countless hours that have gone into developing the current site. But unfortunately we do not currently see any other viable option if we are not able to reach some sort of compromise.” 

Rabbi Bassous, whose community is affililated to the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, has been an outspoken figure over the past few years, criticising Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the senior rabbi of the S & P Sephardi Community, Rabbi Joseph Dweck. 


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