A LAST-DITCH attempt to save South Head Synagogue from liquidation appears to be over, much to the disappointment of the entire community.
A group, known as the South Head Synagogue Unity Plan, has “reluctantly concluded that there is nothing further” it can do to bring Rabbi Benzion Milecki and the shule’s board together.
“It appears that the costs and burdens upon the community will almost inevitably cause the South Head Congregation, as we have known it, to be very seriously damaged,” Gary Cohen and Peter Wise, who described themselves as concerned congregants who support a united congregation, said in a joint statement.
“It will now likely enter a new phase and we are saddened by this, but compromise for the greater good from all parties has not been forthcoming. No one should take any pride or satisfaction in this outcome.”
The AJN can exclusively reveal that in response to the rabbi’s offer last week, the secure creditors made an offer of more than $1 million and agreed to organise a tribute to the rabbi in the synagogue, on the condition that the rabbi had no control over the future of the shule.
The AJN can also reveal that in the report to creditors, the administrator wrote that he considered the rabbi as a director because of his heavy involvement in discussions, decisions and board meetings.
Wise and Cohen said that they have not taken sides, and praised both sides for trying to find a middle ground, but said that the task is too great.
“A lot of water had already flowed under the bridge and the parties have not, until this point in time, been able to bring themselves to accept the terms that each other was insisting upon.
“We have reluctantly concluded that there is nothing further that we can reasonably do to bring the parties together.”
The AJN understands that the shule’s doors could be closed today (Thursday) by administrator Anthony Elkerton because the money required to keep the shule open has not been forthcoming.
Shule president James Hochroth told The AJN that tomorrow (Friday) the creditors will vote on the future of the synagogue.
“The secured creditors intend to vote in line with the recommendation by the administrator, to wind up the company, at the meeting for creditors this Friday.”
Hochroth said the creditors have no choice because there is no prospect of the shule thriving again in the current circumstances.
He said however, that despite the closure of the shule, the congregation has not disbanded. “Most South Head regular attendees are now going to a second minyan – it is not a breakaway, it is the congregation.
“There were 80 men and 25 women on Friday night and then Saturday morning the same again, but with children.”
In contrast, the numbers at South Head Synagogue have been reported to The AJN to be between 12-30 people.