Wessex Liberal Jewish Community

Bournemouth and Poole, Dorset




Press Reports relating to Wessex Liberal Jewish Community
(formerly Southern Jewish Community)
2009- 2010


Jewish Chronicle, 10 September 2009

Bournemouth Reform faces breakaway
by Cathy Foreman

Bournemouth Reform Synagogue is holding a special general meeting on Sunday in an effort to stave off the threat of a breakaway group within the 500-strong community.

Disaffected members cite concern at the shul’s financial management, infighting among the synagogue council and unhappiness with minister, Rabbi Neal Amswych. It is claimed that 70 people are prepared to support alternative High Holy-Day services at the town’s Carrington House Hotel for members who do not want to attend the synagogue.

Jeffrey Sheaf — who is tonight holding an erev Shabbat service at his home for two dozen people — alleged that the shul “is spending more than our income. There are no constraints on spending.”

Nathan Roseman, a Bournemouth Reform member for 25 years, said that although a breakaway group had not been established, “a choice of service is to be offered to those who would not plan to attend the synagogue. There is a lot of disaffection within the community.” He claimed that elements of the old shul council had refused to accept newly-elected council members.

However, he was hoping for reconciliation — “I want our community to get back to where it was four years ago.” It was in 2005 that Rabbi Amswych replaced the long-serving Rabbi David Soetendorp.

Bournemouth Reform chairman Ron Rosenfeld denies that the shul is in deficit and believes Sunday’s meeting will allow the community “to get back on track. I understand there is a possibility of a group setting up. But I don’t know why they might be doing this.”

He added that “Rabbi Amswych is very popular with the majority of members. People were comfortable with Rabbi Soetendorp. A number of our members have difficulty in dealing with change.”

Mr Rosenfeld also highlighted the “invaluable” contribution of Rabbi Amswych’s wife, Rabbi Jenny Amswych, who serves the community on a part-time basis.

Noting that a number of council members had recently resigned, he said it would be “helpful to have a council of people who are committed to serving their community”.

No approach has been made to Reform Judaism about setting up an alternative congregation in the area. The movement’s director of synagogue services Mike Frankl said the Bournemouth shul had considerable cash reserves. It was expected that a new council would be elected at Sunday’s meeting and the movement “will support the new trustees in the same way it supports all other Reform synagogue councils”.


Jewish Chronicle, 17 September 2009

Bournemouth Reform split deepens

A special meeting of Bournemouth Reform Synagogue has failed to avert a breakaway by members dissatisfied with the shul’s direction.

The 100 people from the 500-strong community who attended Sunday’s three-hour meeting voted to replace the existing council and elect a replacement one. The meeting rejected a motion that the council should “commission an independent investigation with aims of clearing up the many rumours being circulated and which are creating an atmosphere of mistrust within the BRS”. Also defeated was a resolution of no confidence in the chair. The JC’s local correspondent was barred from the meeting.

Shul chairman Ron Rosenfeld said afterwards: “I am confident the new council will work together as a team committed to serve their community.” Asked about the 80 members who plan to attend the alternative High Holy- Day services at Carrington House Hotel, he responded: “People should go to whichever spiritual home suits them best. It is important people are happy with their spirituality.”

However, Melanie Smith, the former honorary secretary, said: “Some people feel this is the beginning of the end for Bournemouth Reform Synagogue. There are people looking to move away from the shul. They don’t want politics and nastiness, they want a spiritual experience.” Disaffected BRS members have cited concern at the shul’s financial management, infighting among the synagogue council and unhappiness with minister Rabbi Neil Amswych.

Nathan Roseman, a Bournemouth Reform member for 25 years, said the meeting was “conducted in an orderly fashion in spite of the tensions”. Yet he claimed: “There is no resolution of the conflict but a tame council has been elected. This was a victory for the group who have prevented the last council from operating.”

That most of those planning to attend the alternative services were not at the meeting suggested “that large numbers of members had already given up on BRS”.

Jeffrey Sheaf — who held an erev Shabbat service at his home for two dozen disaffected congregants — contended that “many of us felt it was futile to stand against the proposed council members with their entrenched views. We feel the finances of the synagogue are not being properly administered.”

At head office, Reform’s director of synagogue services Mike Frankl, who attended Sunday’s meeting, said it had been “held in a positive and co-operative spirit. The Reform Movement will be supporting the council in moving the community forward.”

The following day, Masorti leaders gave a talk about their movement to 55 people at a Bournemouth school. Organiser Stephanie Knifeld is not a Bournemouth Reform member and said the initiative “had nothing to do with any other situation”.


Jewish Chronicle, 28 September 2009

Bournemouth breakaway group attracts growing numbers

The breakaway movement from Bournemouth Reform Synagogue attracted more than 80 people to a Rosh Hashanah service at the Carrington House Hotel. The service was led by former BRS council member Michael Zeffertt.

“The spirit of those attending was first class,” he said. Former BRS treasurer David Dewell said he was “very sad that there was a breakaway service taking place. But the service greatly exceeded our expectations.”

The breakaway group is to hold a service on Yom Kippur and after the High Holy Days is to hold a meeting to decide its future. “We have the embryonic beginning of a community,” said one of the organisers, Jeffrey Sheaf.


Jewish Chronicle, 8 October 2009

Bournemouth Breakaway group finds southern comfort
by Cathy Foreman

The breakaway group from Bournemouth Reform Synagogue has given itself a title — the Southern Reform Community.

Over 80 people supported the group’s Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at the local Carrington Hotel. “The atmosphere was amazing,” reported former Bournemouth Reform officer Melanie Smith.

“Many agreed it was the best set of High Holy-Day services they had attended for years.” Having held a meeting to discuss the way forward, the group is organising a programme of monthly services for Shabbat. It also plans a Chanucah party and to fundraise for a Torah scroll. A website is under construction.

“It is early days,” Mrs Smith stressed. “We want to decide where we are going, but a formal approach may well be made to the Reform movement early next year to consider affiliation.” Another SRC organiser, Jeffrey Sheaf, described the breakaway group as a “loose connection of like-minded people. We are running community-led services that we hope to build on.


Jewish Chroniclee, 3 December 2009

Breakaway Planning
by Cathy Foreman

The breakaway group from Bournemouth Reform Synagogue has agreed a framework for its future direction. From January, the Southern Reform Community will be running alternate weekly Shabbat morning and evening services in homes of supporters. “We are going to see how it goes,” said Janet Gee, a member of the breakaway group and a former Bournemouth Reform chair.

At a planning meeting, 40 people discussed affiliation to the Reform movement, hiring premises for services, burial rights and how to build up the congregation. Mrs Gee added that for the group to thrive, “it needs to attract younger families”.

The group now has a communications team and a website and has begun fundraising for a sefer Torah.


Jewish Chronicle, 11 February 2010

Bournemouth breakaway group change name
by Cathy Foreman

he breakaway group from Bournemouth Reform Synagogue has changed its name. Originally known as the Southern Reform Community, it is now called the Southern Jewish Community.

“Our name has had to be changed to comply with a request from the Movement for Reform Judaism,” explained group member David Sheaf. “They felt that having ‘Reform’ in our name might lead people to think we are already affiliated. This we considered a reasonable request.” However, the group still hoped to affiliate to Reform.

Having been meeting in members’ homes, the SJC has secured a more permanent base — the community room at Dorset Fire Service’s Christchurch station — for its alternate weekly Friday evening and Shabbat morning services. The fire station premises are rent-free, allowing the SJC to focus on raising funds for a Sefer Torah, which it hopes to purchase by Rosh Hashanah.

It also has a communications team and a website and attracts 40 people to services.


Jewish Chronicle, 1 July 2010

Bournemouth breakaway group takes Liberal stance
by Cathy Foreman

The Southern Jewish Community, established by disaffected Bournemouth Reform congregants, is in discussions with the Liberal movement.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich addressed 70 people at an open meeting organised by the community at a local hotel. Afterwards, Rabbi Rich spoke to 40 community members, whose spokesman Nat Roseman said they would be pursuing the relationship. The movement would help in the arranging and conducting of services and with the practical aspects of establishing a Liberal congregation.

Addressing the open meeting, Rabbi Rich acknowledged that the split in the Reform shul had been painful for many. "I am not here to close down Bournemouth Reform Synagogue," he stressed, adding that he was pleased to see Bournemouth Reform minister Rabbi Neil Amswych among the audience. His visit was in response to interest from locals who wanted to know more about Liberal Judaism, although a Wessex Liberal community could stretch from "Cornwall to Eastbourne".

When a questioner suggested that the town could not sustain two Progressive congregations, Rabbi Rich replied that Liberal and Reform have different religious principles. He also pointed out that Liberal Judaism had been contacted by unaffiliated Jews, some from the New Forest area.


Jewish Chronicle, 2 September 2010

Liberal party gains strength in Bournemouth

The Wessex Liberal Group in the Bournemouth area has held its first services, led by Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich.

"They were a huge success with about 40 people of all ages at each service," reported group member Melanie Smith. And because of the Bournemouth Air Show weekend, "several members couldn't attend as they were hosting family". Rabbi Alan Mann will lead its High Holy Day services.


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Page created: 1 January 2015
Latest revision or update: 16 July 201



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