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London Beth Din
Court of the Chief Rabbi
305 Bollards Lane, London, N12 8GB
lel: +44 (0)20 8343 6270 Fax: +44 (0)20 8343 6257
Emall: Info@bethdln,org,uk
Hearings: ntl1 January & 19
September 2011
1, Springfield Synagogue ("the Shul") was established in Upper Clapton in 1929, It is
affiliated to the Federation Burial Society and to the Federation of SynagoglJCs and its
nusach of davening has always been Ashkenaz, Minyonim are held daily for Shacharis,
Mincha and Maariv,
2, In 1981, a group who daven nusach Sefard entered into a rental agreement with the
Shul, whereby they would rent the basement for their daily Shacharis service which davens
throughout the year, at netz hachamoh (sunrise) ('the Sefard Minyan'), Over the years, this
minyan has become popular and many of its participants have become both members and
trustees of the Shul while at the same time, due to a demographic shift in the North London
Jewish Community, there has been a steep decline in the area, of those who daven nusach
Ashkenaz, It has come to the point where the Shul is unable to make up a daily Shacharis
minyan for those davening Ashkenaz and the only minyan available is Sefard,
Furthennore, while the Mincha and Maariv minyan held daily is nusach Ashkenaz, the vast
majority of participants actually daven Sefard,
4, As for Shabbos, both Sefard and Ashkenaz minyanim take place on the premises, at
different times,
5. Over the last few years, tension has arisen between the two minyonim and this case
was brought by concerned members who sought a declaration that the Board of
Management of the Shul is not acting lawfully and was not lawfully appointed. When this
case was commenced, there had not been an annual general meeting or elections for office
since 1984. The Claimants were also concerned that the Sefard minyan was no longer
paying rent for its occupation of the basement and that the Board were failing to properly
manage the Shul, in that they had failed to develop or let out the upper floors which could
have yielded an income which would have enabled the Shul to carry out much needed
repairs and to grant an increase in salary to the Rov.
6. They also expressed concern, that given the lack of accOlmtability on the part of the
Board and TlUstees, the TlUstees of the Shul may now sell the Shul for their own private
7. So far as the Sefard minyan is concerned, its participants say that without them, the
Shul would have closed long ago. It is they who have maintained the Ashkenaz minyanim
throughout the years and it is also they who have carried out all the administration of the
Shll1 including the effecting of emergency repairs, answering the phones and opening and
closing tht: Shul. Murt:over, sume uf them were lawfully appuinted as Trustees and/ur as
Board Members and they ask rhetorically, why they, as fully-fledged members of the Shul,
should have to pay extra (by way of rent) for the privilege of davening there, when those in
the Ashkenaz minyan do not do so?
8. After the issue of this Din Torah application, an AGM was held on 19
2011 and given that there were only eleven nominations for twelve places, all those who
stood, were elected.
9. At the conclusion of the first hearing, we took the view that both the Sefard minyan
lmd the Ashkenaz Mispalelim were committed to the future of the Shul and both now
accepted that neither side wished to close and sell the Shu1. Moreover, both sides had
declared their interest at the hearing, that the Rov, Dayan Gukovitzki should continue to aet
as Rov.
10. We also concluded that the Board of Management elected on 19
January was tile
lawful Board and could continue in office. We urged the respective Toanim to meet in
order to put togetiler a Memorandum of Understanding to pave the way forward and it was
also suggested that it would be advisable for a constitutional amendment to be made
allowing for annual rather than three yearly elections. We had hoped that after each party
had heard the representations and concerns of the other party, there would be an outbreak
of peace in the Shul.
11. Sadly, this was not to be and a serious of confrontations took place in the Shul
during the spring and summer necessitating a further hearing before us in September. At
this hearing, some of the old issues were regurgitated while new issues were also raised.
Representations were received fi'om the Rov who is concerned that the culture and ethos of
the Shul as a 'shul' rather than as a 'shtiebel' should be maintained and that there should be
no erosion ofthis ethos involving such issues as nusach, inclusion of celiain tefillos such as
that for Shlom Hamalchus and the internal layout of the Shui.
12. On the basis of what we have heard we have come to the following conclusions:-
(i) The Board of Management (of which Mr Jacobson, one of the Claimants, is
treasurer) which was elected on 19
January 2011 is the lawful Board of Management of
the Shul and has the full right to manage the Shul and promote decorum within the Shul.
The Board must consult with the Rov on all religious and ethos matters pertaining to the
Shul and any proposed change in the nusach of tefillos or in the layout of the Shul
(introduction of tables etc) may only take place with the approval of the Rov. ( In this
connection, the Rov has been asked whether he will agree to a proposal that with regard to
the weekday Minchah and Maariv minyan, the person acting as Shliach Tzibbur, should
daven in the nusach to which he is personally accustomed and the Rov has agreed to give
this proposal due consideration.)
. (ii) After the first hearing, we received representations fi'om the Rov, that the election
on 19[h January should be regarded as null and void, as he had directed members not to
attend. The Rov was not a paJiy to these proceedings and it is significaJlt that at the second
hearing, Rabbi Halpern did not raise any further issue concerning the legitimacy of the
election. However, given the questions raised about the legitimacy of the election, we
direct that a further election should take place prior to the end of January 2012 aJld we have
already advised (at the earlier hearing) that serious consideration should be given to the
amendment of the Constitution so as to allow for annual elections
(iii) We were not shown a copy of the Trust Deed for the Trust which owns the Shui. In the
event that the deed has been lost, we order that a new Trust Deed should be drafted and
executed immediately. In any event, we order that there should be no sale or charge over
the Shul premises without the permission of the London Beth Din.
(iv) We find that the Sefard Minyan is entitled to continue to operate without having to pay
rent to the Shui.
(v) We were asked by the Defendants to make an order excluding certain unruly members
who had allegedly caused machlokes within the Shul or who had otherwise disrupted
services. These issues were not fully aired before us and we are not minded to make any
such exclusions at this time but all members of the Shul should be on notice that if there are
further acts of disruption, any of the parties to this arbitration may apply to this Beth Din
for an order that the offending person/s be excluded from the Shul.
(v) The Rov is entitled as Rov oftl1e Shul to be given a list of telephone numbers and
addresses of all members and this should be done with immediate effect.
13. Each party is to pay 650 towards the costs of the Betl1 Din.
14. In conclusion, we feel, as noted above, that the current situation has arisen, chiefly, as
a result of the demographic shift in the area in which the Shul is situated. This has resulted
in tile incongruence of having an established Ashkenaz shul and a staunch Ashkenaz Rov
while tl1e majority of the mispallelim, f]-om the local area are ChassidicINusach Sefard .
We believe that notwithstanding this incongruence, the Shul can function successf'ully to
the benefit of all members, if the above orders and recommendations are observed,
provided that there is goodwill on the prut of all the parties and a recognition of the
sensitivities involved.
We strongly urge all members to heed our comments al1d to make every effort to
accommodate the interests of those with other views and practices. In this way, we hope
that harmony Cal1 be restored to this community.
DATED: 11 October 2011
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