US 'must shift resources to local shuls'


The former chairman of one of the United Synagogue's largest communities says its new strategic review could be pivotal if the organisation can take the steps necessary to implement it.

Lord Mendelsohn, who was a strong advocate of change in the US when chairing Finchley Synagogue, said that "there needs to be a tremendous shift of resources from the centre to local communities".

The review, authored by Hendon chairman Marc Meyer, said the US must invest in areas of Jewish growth rather than remain concentrated in declining neighbourhoods and that synagogues should aspire to be community centres rather than simply be houses of prayer.

"The review creates a chance for positive change and the US leaders deserve credit for that," Lord Mendelsohn said. "The test is whether and how the trustees and the staff deliver it."

The review was "all about empowering synagogues to run themselves" rather than extending operations from US head office, he said. "Central services need to be shrunk to the minimum efficient level."

Mill Hill Synagogue chairman Michael Goldstein was also encouraged by the prospect of decentralisation - "it is something I have been agitating for a long time."

He offered a positive assessment of the US's new chief executive Dr Steven Wilson who "understands the issues facing the organisation".

Anne Gordon, chairman of Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue, said the survey of members which formed part of the review would help "to ensure that we are focusing our efforts and resources in the right areas".

But one synagogue officer who did not wish to be named said the review was "underwhelming. It raises points but it doesn't say how they are going to address them. The danger is this is just going to stay on the shelf."

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