A leading Reform rabbi accused of bullying and inappropriate behaviour has agreed “to take time away” from West London Synagogue after being asked to do so by the shul in the wake of the allegations.
Rabbi David Mitchell, 40, who denies all the allegations against him, is set to replace Julia Neuberger as the shul’s senior rabbi when she retires in March.
Former members of staff told the Jewish Chronicle last month they had been forced to quit their jobs due to “bullying” and of “inappropriate behaviour” by the rabbi, lodging complaints to the shul.
Five former employees raised their concerns with Westminster Council in 2016, but the local authority ruled that while it had been “truly struck” by the allegations, they did not warrant further investigation, according to the newspaper.
A whistleblower told the Chronicle: “Not only did Rabbi David’s behaviour have a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of staff, he was also acting irresponsibly around children and young people. Once I observed this behaviour I submitted a report to HR.”
In the wake of the claims, a statement was circulated to members of staff and congregants on Thursday. “The past few weeks have brought particular challenge and reflection across the entire family of West London Synagogue,” it said.
It stated: “As a caring community we strive for best practice in the fulfilment of our duty of care to every individual. Our Board of Trustees now feels a need to bring in independent advisors [sic] – a fresh pair of eyes – to spend some time working through the wide range of recent discussions, and meeting those affected.”
“This will enable us to learn, and then move ahead with our role as a beacon of progressive Jewish life in Central London. As part of this, Rabbi David Mitchell has been asked, and has agreed, to take a period of time away from West London Synagogue. This will give breathing space for us to work with all our staff. For this period to be effective, we rely as always on the support of all parties.”
In a statement to the Chronicle earlier this month, Rabbi Mitchell denied all allegations and apologised for “anything that I have done which has inadvertently hurt or angered others,” before revealing he undertook management coaching.