Union: Rabbi ‘can’t be removed’ without Beth Din ruling

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Union: Rabbi ‘can’t be removed’ without Beth Din ruling

Row between Rabbi Aaron Bassous and his Golders Green congregation intensifies as Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregatons enters fray

Rabbi Aharon Bassous
Rabbi Aharon Bassous

The public battle between an Orthodox Sephardi rabbi in Golders Green and his synagogue’s lay leadership took a new twist last week, after Charedi leaders said he could not be removed without a ruling from a Beth Din.

In a letter to the trustees of Beth Hamedrash Knesset Yehezkel, the Office of the Rabbinate at the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) said a delegation of members of the shul alleged the rabbi was being removed from his long-standing role.

The trusttes have claimed the rabbi had on three occasions stated he was resigning. But Bassous, who claims the broad support of congregants, threatened to take the shul trustees to an employment tribunal after denying he had done so. His employment is due to end on 11 February.

“It is the view of the Beth Din that the Rav of a shul cannot be removed against his will without there first being a Psak of a Beth Din which has first heard both sides according to Halacho,” said the UOHC registrar in a letter dated 4 February.

“The trustees are of course free to present their version of the situation if it differs from [the account of Rabbi Bassous]… In any event if there is no resolution, the sides should agree on a neutral Beth Din, or convene a Borrerus (Zablo) Beth Din.”

The letter regarding Rabbi Bassous’s employment despite.

Bassous, who led a boycott of the JW3 community centre for honouring the contribution of gay Jews, has seen his increasingly fractious employment dispute slide out into the public domain, with letters of support from congregants.

The relationship between the shul and the rabbi has grown increasingly fraught, with Bassous resigning as a trustee in June 2019. It now appears that mutual trust and confidence has broken down.

In his most recent letter, Bassous denied resigning and said the dismissal of a rabbi could only be ordered by a Beth Din (Jewish religious court), adding that congregants “categorically confirm that they would like me to remain as rabbi”.

“Any attempt to remove me will be against my wishes,” he said. “Treating my employment as terminated will be a dismissal on the basis of which claims will flow in English law.”

Trustees say the shul’s finances have been hit by the pandemic and wrote to congregants in December to say they were considering selling their new building to help steady the ship.

In a letter from trustees to Bassous, which was leaked on social media, they said he “had chosen not to engage in any of the several mediation offers proposed by different members of the community”.

They said Bassous had “explicitly stated you were resigning on three occasions” then tried to claim the resignations were invalid. In Bassous’s latest letter threatening legal action, he said he never gave “a valid and binding resignation”.

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