RABBI Benzion Milecki has a solution to South Head Synagogue’s financial crisis – make him the CEO.
The shul’s rabbi and its board were in open warfare ahead of a meeting, which was due to be held last night (Wednesday) after The AJN went to print.
Earlier this month, The AJN revealed that the shul lost $250,000 in 2016 and that it is approaching its borrowing limits. The AJN can now reveal that the situation is so severe that if the shul does not take action within 12 months then it will face voluntary liquidation.
In the meantime, Rabbi Milecki has written to the community attacking the board, an extraordinary general meeting has been arranged for before Pesach, a private internal discussion between the rabbi and the board has been laid bare to the community, and a liquidator has been called in to address the congregation.
On Monday, Rabbi Milecki wrote to the community stating that he contacted the board in January with a solution to the problem.
“I made a formal offer to donate 35 per cent of my current remuneration to help reduce our shul’s overhead, subject to certain conditions,” he said.
“As part of my proposal, I would assume significant additional operational duties and responsibilities in addition to my rabbinical duties.”
The rabbi claimed the proposal would have been the largest single cost-saving measure for the shul and that, with other measures, it would have allowed the shul to trade out of its immediate financial difficulties.
He also attacked the board for appointing a moderator for last night’s meeting.
“I question the independence of those who coalesced to appoint her [the moderator],” he wrote.
On Monday afternoon, shul president James Hochroth responded, telling the community that the rabbi’s proposed pay cut came with unreasonable demands.
“While I am very reluctant to explain our reasons in a public manner, Rabbi Milecki’s message leaves me no alternative,” Hochroth said.
“In the heads of agreement for his proposal, he asked for a degree of control that no board could ever agree to: he asked to be appointed chief executive with the right to have the final say on all matters; and he wanted a five-year contract giving him these powers.”
According to Hochroth, Rabbi Milecki’s proposal stated that he would have “full control over all religious and administrative staff including their appointments, terms of appointment, responsibilities and salaries, budgeting, planning, financial management, expenditure both as to purpose and amount, fundraising, membership, categories of membership and membership dues and recovery”.