Report claims S&P has ‘lack of leadership, transparent decision-making and bad communication’

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Report claims S&P has ‘lack of leadership, transparent decision-making and bad communication’

EXCLUSIVE: Ex head of JFS Rachel Fink, rumoured to be next chief executive of the Sephardi movement, wrote the damning report which includes plan to have formal office of a senior rabbi on £100,000 salary

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Lauderdale Road Synagogue
Lauderdale Road Synagogue

A damning report on the future of the Sephardi community strongly criticises “a lack of strong leadership, effective transparent decision-making and very poor communication”.

Rachel Fink, the former head teacher of JFS, who has written the report, is rumoured to be set to become the S&P chief executive. The news comes on the eve of a special open meeting of the S&P membership, called for next Monday, February 28, after months of  backdoor complaints about the way in which the S&P is run.

Mrs Fink’s report, seen by the JN, includes a plan to set up a formal Office of the Senior Rabbi, due to be funded to the tune of £100,000 per year over a five-year period.

The report says that “some individuals are exploiting” the lack of clarity in the Ascamot, or constitution of the community, “to promote their own agenda and power bases”.

Mrs Fink says there is widespread consensus about the value to the community of the Senior Rabbi, Joseph Dweck. But, she declares: “Current arrangements prevent Rabbi Dweck from giving his best to, and on behalf of, the community, which is having a detrimental effect all round”. She recommends that “the board must re-clarify the roles of both the Senior Rabbi and the Lauderdale Road Community Rabbi — with the rabbis themselves and to the Kahal (the congregation)”.

Rachel Fink.

She adds that not establishing an Office of the Senior Rabbi would mean that “the community is at risk of losing one of its greatest assets”. It needs, she says, to be established “in a way to ensure it is inextricably linked to the S&P, with a review after five years. This will enable RJD (Rabbi Dweck) to develop the role for the benefit of the community and for his own job satisfaction”.

Other recommendations in Mrs Fink’s report include the probable closure or relocation of Wembley Sephardi Synagogue. She writes: “The probability that retaining the community at the current site will benefit from increased membership, due to a regeneration of Wembley Park, is very low. There is a difference between relocating a building and closing a building. The communal culture at Wembley is strong and must be retained in some form”.

A ceremony at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation, at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London.
(C) Blake Ezra Photography 2015.

Mrs Fink says that both the Sephardi Bet Din and its kashrut supervision need shaking up. She says the Bet Din needs developing “to ensure it reflects the halachic approach of the S&P and maintains a strong international reputation”. And she also ponders the possibility of the Sephardi Kashrut Authority (SKA) regulating vegan food. The S&P, she says, should represent “accessible orthodoxy” – a “moderate Orthodox halachic voice across all areas of the S&P”.

Rabbi Dweck

One recommendation towards the end of the Fink Report is the rewriting of the Ascamot, or constitution, to allow for women to take part more fully. It is thought that this would open the door for a woman to become Parnas Presidente of the S&P.

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