Page last updated at 08:43 GMT, Saturday, 17 October 2009 09:43 UK

Rabbi quits job over City protest

By John McManus
BBC News

Bevis Marks interior, London
Bevis Marks synagogue was built in 1701

The rabbi of Britain's oldest synagogue has stood down after a row over his part in a demonstration against the role of banks in the financial crisis.

Rabbi Nathan Asmoucha allowed a protest march to begin at the Bevis Marks synagogue in the City of London.

He was recruited by Bevis Marks - built in 1701 - last year and was credited with creating a good community spirit.

But senior synagogue member said the march had upset members with links to the financial services industry.

Political campaign

Mr Asmoucha has now signed a compromise agreement, whereby he stands down as rabbi and agrees to move out of the accommodation provided for the postholder by next year.

A statement issued on Friday evening by the congregation's chief executive Howard Miller confirmed Rabbi Asmoucha's departure, and thanked him for his work in the Jewish community.

The synagogue's elders initially suspended the rabbi and brought disciplinary measures against him on the grounds that he should not have participated in a political campaign without their permission.

In addition, it was alleged that he had jeopardised the synagogue's security by allowing protesters inside without allowing adequate supervision.

Reverend Dr Gerry Barlow, who represents faith workers in the Unite union and has been advising Rabbi Asmoucha, said although there was a real security issue for Jewish buildings, the executive board of the congregation overreacted.

"Allowing the march to start from Bevis Marks was an incredibly good act of faith with other religions," he said.

'Insight'

Sam Dias, 77, who works as a warden at Bevis Marks, said 70 people turned up for the protest.

"I thought they were nice people, very polite. Some came out saying they were very impressed with the synagogue and how it had given them an insight into Judaism," he said.

He believes the protest may have angered some members who work in the financial industry and said most of the congregation at Bevis Marks was "bitterly upset" about Rabbi Asmoucha's departure.

He doubted the synagogue would get another rabbi, adding: "This may be the end of the road for the congregation after this debacle."

He said Bevis Marks worshippers were now pressing for a meeting with senior members of the congregation, which they hoped would take place in the next few months.

Several elders connected with Bevis Marks have refused to comment further.



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