Sephardim could sell silver to meet deficit


The Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation could sell some of its historic silver to help make ends meet.

Its annual deficit has reached “£350,000 and is increasing”, according to the latest accounts for the community, for the year ending October 2014.

Britain’s oldest Orthodox congregation has also revealed that it is considering “rebranding”, which could involve a name change.

The idea of selling the silver is mentioned in a report from the finance committee in the accounts.

But Alison Rosen, the congregation’s executive director, said this week that no decision had yet been made. “The community will be looking at all assets to ensure that they are invested in the best way,” she said.
Once its new mahamad — executive committee — had agreed a business plan, she said, “we will make it available to our members”.

Ms Rosen said that a “significant investment” had been made following the arrival of Rabbi Joseph Dweck as senior rabbi in July 2014. This included employing a new rabbi at Bevis Marks Synagogue — for which interviews are shortly to take place — a programme manager and lifecycle co-ordinator, as well as increasing the educational programme.

“We are now seeing an upturn in membership with over 40 new families joining Lauderdale Road [its Maida Vale synagogue] in recent months,” she said.

The congregation has set itself a target of attracting 50 new members annually following a slide in membership from 1,216 to 1,139 over the previous year.

An initial meeting has also taken place with potential donors as part of a projected fundraising campaign for £250,000 a year.

Other fundraising possibilities include the sale of an investment property next to Bevis Marks in the City of London and of Lauderdale Towers, the home of former chazan the Reverend Halfon Benarroch, who is moving into sheltered housing.

According to the accounts, the community has assets of around £7.7 million (excluding its synagogue buildings).

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