Sacked rabbi reinstated by popular demand


Southend and Westcliff Hebrew Congregation's Rabbi Binyamin Bar, who was dismissed for alleged gross misconduct but has continued leading services at the behest of members, has been formally reappointed by the shul's new board.

Rabbi Bar accepted the contract handed to him by the lay leaders, who took office unopposed at Sunday's AGM.

He had been sacked at the beginning of the year, the former board citing a breakdown in relations and Rabbi Bar's non-consensual recording of discussions with his mentor, Rabbi Yisroel Fine. But he carried on officiating at services with the support of congregants and, six weeks later, an EGM attended by 300 members voted overwhelmingly for his reinstatement. He has since resumed his wider ministerial duties.

The new board has reappointed him without pre-conditions and, speaking after the AGM, which also attracted a three-figure turnout, Rabbi Bar expressed delight and relief that the matter had been resolved.

He said it had been "democracy at its best. The people spoke and the community listened to what they had to say. This was reflected by the choice of leaders who have now taken over.

"I feel very humbled and have a lot of appreciation for a community that put its trust in me. I will do my utmost to make sure that I deserve that trust."

Derek Silverstone, 66, who has taken over from Stephen Salt as shul president, looked forward to "a fresh beginning.

"This is a chance for the community to come together to work in harmony again. Before the AGM, there was a division between people who wanted the rabbi to stay, or wanted him to be dismissed.

"The new council is of the opinion that Rabbi Bar can be managed in a better way. It's become very clear to me since the AGM that the community is willing to work with the rabbi and allow him time to show that he can perform. I see a far better future for the community now."

Lifelong shul member Dennis Baum, a supporter of Rabbi Bar, pointed out that the months of wrangling over the minister's future had cost the synagogue £45,000 in fees.

"I believe the whole exercise has been a complete and utter waste of the community's resources, and so does the community," Mr Baum said.

The AGM had been "very happy. We have a vibrant community; now we officially have a vibrant rabbi again."

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