Trustee offers £500k to save Bevis Marks


An offer of £500,000 has reportedly been made to the financially troubled Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London, amid continuing disquiet over its future.

David Dangoor, a trustee of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, which owns the synagogue, Britain’s oldest, is said to have offered £100,000 a year over five years to the community, which is still smarting over the departure last month of its rabbi, Nathan Asmoucha.

Mr Dangoor, a son of the Iraqi-born philanthropist Naim Dangoor, was unavailable for comment. But the proposed gift was discussed at a meeting of Bevis Marks members last month.

Rabbi Asmoucha resigned after months of tension with the mahamad (executive) of the Spanish and Portuguese, after being threatened with redundancy in summer because of the financial situation of the community.

It is understood that Bevis Marks’ long-serving cantor, the Reverend Halfon Benarroch, who is in his early 70s, will retire within the next year.

Meanwhile, an attempt to defuse the increasingly bitter dispute between supporters of Rabbi Asmoucha, outraged at his departure, and Sephardi leaders was made at a meeting at the house of the congregation’s spiritual head, Rabbi Abraham Levy, at the end of last week.

As a result, supporters of Rabbi Asmoucha have agreed to the postponement of a special meeting of the congregation to put a vote of no confidence in the mahamad, which was due to have taken place on Sunday week.

The mahamad, in turn, agreed to call off a meeting of members next Tuesday to seek support from the congregation in an effort to pre-empt the no-confidence vote.

The board of elders, the overall lay authority of the congregation, has also shelved a vote to suspend the Bevis Marks committee which has been highly critical of the mahamad.

Sam Dias, a warden of Bevis Marks, who has been among Rabbi Asmoucha’s most vocal supporters, said: “It’s been accepted that there should be a cooling-off period for a couple of weeks so maybe peace can break out.”

He added that the no-confidence resolution “hasn’t been cancelled, it has been postponed. We’re holding it like a sword of Damocles over them.”

But Adam Osen, also a warden of Bevis Marks, who has not attended the synagogue in protest at Rabbi Asmoucha’s “appalling” treatment, was among some members who remained unhappy that the no-confidence vote had been called off next weekend.

“The way the whole affair has been handled — and looks like it will continue to be handled — doesn’t give us much confidence that there is going to be a good future for Bevis Marks,” Mr Osen said.

“They are going to give us an ad hoc rabbi for the next six months and get rid of our minister, then we will be left with nothing.”

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