An Orthodox Sephardi rabbi in Golders Green has threatened to take his synagogue’s trustees to an employment tribunal after denying that he had resigned.
Rabbi Aaron Bassous, who is due to leave Beth Hamedrash Knesset Yehezkel synagogue next week, has now written to the shul’s leadership, saying “claims will flow” if they remove him on 11 February.
Bassous, who led a campaign targeting London community centre JW3 for its exhibition honouring LGBT+ Jews, has seen his increasingly fractious employment dispute with the synagogue’s leadership spill out into the public domain, with letters of support from congregants.
The relationship between the synagogue’s leadership and Bassous has become progressive fraught in recent years, Bassous resigning as a trustee in June 2019, to the point whereby it now appears that mutual trust and confidence has irrevocably 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”.
He said: “Any attempt to remove me will be against my wishes… 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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