President rebuts ‘lies’ about rabbi
SOUTHEND AND Westcliff Hebrew Congregation president Derek Silverstone has written to members warning that “inaccurate and even offensive” rumours about minister Rabbi Binyamin Bar had been “circulated by people who have no desire to heal our community”.
Rabbi Bar was formally reinstated as minister in May, five months after being dismissed by the shul’s previous administration. In his letter, Mr Silverstone maintained that rumours “about the sacking of Rabbi Bar, his salary, offers of loans etc” were untrue.
Speaking to the JC on Wednesday, Mr Silverstone said that some congregants were “still trying to dig the knife in” and had been spreading “downright lies”, suggesting the council had given the rabbi “a big loan so he could make a fantastic wedding for himself”. In fact, he said, there was no wedding on the horizon.
“When I attend services, people have been saying: ‘Is it true, is it happening? What do you think about so-and-so?’ It came to a point where I said: ‘I’ve got to stop these rumours.’ I believe in fair play.”
In the letter to members, Mr Silverstone wrote that, having considered the material presented by ex-president Stephen Salt and solicitors acting for the previous shul council, he had found “not a single piece of evidence that would support summarily dismissing Rabbi Bar”.
He accused the previous regime of “ill-thought-out action and a lack of accountability to members”, which had cost the shul more than £40,000 in expenses. Mr Silverstone assured congregants that, moving f o r ward, all voices would be heard. “No one i n this community has a greater say than anyone else. We are all equal and each member is entitled to know what is happening and to express a view on how the community is run.”
Lifelong Southend and Westcliff member Dennis Baum believed the president had taken unnecessary heed of “people who aren’t very prominent in the community who like a bit of gossip and have been moaning a bit. Derek, in my opinion, overreacted to what they’ve been saying.”
Rabbi Bar declined to comment.
‘I’ve got to stop these rumours. I believe in fair play’