Mizrachi Mystery

December 20, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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Sydney’s Mizrachi Synagogue is in apparent disarray.

The Bondi congregation’s president Mark Schneider has resigned and the few remaining members are struggling to get a minyan, have no rabbi….and no accounts.

In an e-mail to one of its members, Schneider said that he had resigned “for personal reasons” and that the Board would advise members shortly.

Long-time member Ron Weiser spoke to J-Wire about Mizrachi’s dilemma.

Weiser said: “On November 23, the synagogue’s annual general meeting was terminated after only two minutes as the Board could not produce accounts. My understanding is that under ASIC ruling this is all in order, but an alternative date has to be fixed. We do not have a date.”

The Bondi shule was the focus of Jewish media attention in August when its spiritual leader, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, was awarded a $200,ooo termination payout by the London Beth Din backed up by a further $600,000 to be paid over fifteen yeers from March, 2012.

The cash-strapped congregation now finds itself without a rabbi, without a president, without accounts and with a dwindling membership.

The synagogue had an attendance of around 25 on Shabbos  including visitors from Canada and South Africa.

Weiser told J-Wire: “New members appeared at the meeting to ratify the rabbi’s redundancy…I believe it was about 56. But I am personally not aware of having seen any one of them in Shule since. I have received notification of the president’s resignation but no reason and no discussion…only an e-mail.”

Mizrachi ex President Marc Schneider

Mizrachi ex President Marc Schneider

Mark Schneider told J-Wire: “I am not prepared to make a comment at this stage”.

The other main player in this synagogue drama, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, told J-Wire:  “I have nothing to do with the Shule. I have nothing to do with the Board.”

In August, the London Beth Din handed down its long-awaited decision stating that the synagogue must not be sold to satisfy a redundancy claim by its rabbi who has served the congregation for 21 years.


Rabbi Moshe Gutnick

Working on the figures given to it by the synagogue as to a managable amount which would ensure the continuation of the kehillah, the Beth Din has ordered the payment of $200,000 when the Rabbi officially left the congregation. This matter is now a Tax Office issue as it could be considered a fringe benefit. The balance is to be paid in $4000 monthly payments starting in March 2012.

The dispute was heard by the London Beth Din after a civil court action in Australia failed to produce a result. The Beth Din ordered the Bondi Mizrachi Synagogue to pay Rabbi Gutnick’s Sydney Supreme Court costs although the matter of these costs was not part of the issues to be determined by the Beth Din. There was no costs order made against either party with regard to the Beth Din hearing itself.

Rabbi Gutnick has served the Bondi Mizrachi synagogue since December, 1987. His initial employmernt contract was for three years and contained a condition disallowing either side the claiming the rights of Chazaka…tenure for life.

Weiser told J-Wire that there are members prepared to join the executive  but  that none is willing to do so until the current executive has resigned and the congregation’s financial position has been made known in full.

He added: “As things stand, how can anyone take on the responsibility until we know the synagogue’s position? There was a substantial amount of legal work involved and although I believe some of it was pro bono, I have no idea what the costs were to the shule. The truth of the matter is that the Mizrachi’s current position other than its obligation to Rabbi Gutnick other than his costs, remains a total mystery.”


8 Responses to “Mizrachi Mystery”
  1. The Informed outsider says:

    To the board of mismanagement. I am not a member of the shule, I am merely an informed outsider that knows exactly what the ‘wicked 3’ have been up to.

    I want to voice my opinion and outrage on how you have so dishonestly spent the communities’ money on toothless law suites! The only people winning here are the Lawyers! I didn’t realise Mizrachi cared so much about the Federal seat of Wentworth.

    Isn’t it about time you stop taking on the world and start facing up to the truths.
    1. You lost the case; the rabbi was going to take less.
    2. You have lost members not gained!
    3. The executive in waiting cannot nominate, because if they do you will hold another Kitchen tea and ‘find’ new members, to stop them.
    4. Your attacks on people like Ron are yet another way that you have disgraced the JEWISH LAWS that you apparently say you uphold. First you show disrespect to a Rabbi, then a man who exemplifies the meaning of a Tzadik with his life long fight to help the Zionist cause, you ran Schneider out, who is next …………

    And not you have the CHUTPAH to say comments like “The Mizrachi Synagogue is undergoing a revival, stronger today than it has been for many years” this is a lie!
    You are in debut well over your heads; you have an executive that is more interested in taking pot shots and pissing away the community’s money than it is in trying to save the shule.

    To the non ‘executive’ members of the board make a stand, take the lead of your two past presidents. Both Gordon and Schnieder couldn’t put up with the crap of the wicked 3 and they resigned!

    Think about it, and at least seek independent legal advice because you are Directors of a Company!

    It’s a sad state of affairs down on Old South Head Road Bondi!

  2. Karen says:

    It’s just pathetic really. Why harp on why continue this online commenting? Personally I only see the Shule improving. How many people left our Synagogue under the old leadership over the past ten years even more importantly how many new members joined in this time whilst every other existing Shule floursihed and new Shule’s surfaced we were dying? I have seen each year less and less at Shule – where were you then just staying quiet as our shule disintegrated. Who said there are people in the wings are these people who have allowed our synagogue to deteriorate in the past?? Change is here get with it!

    Why should the current board resign – they have most people’s support? One person’s comments should not be taken as the Synagogue’s representatives because he certaintly does not represent our Synagogue – THE BOARD DOES WITH THE COMMUNITY SUPPORT. The accounts issue was explained at the AGM as were legal costs.

    What is Dan talking about regarding the audit -“Cannot find an auditor to approve the accounts”- Dan where is that information from? You cannot have access to any Auditor information. That is all confidential information. Why say such a thing? Please be forthcoming in where you have found such information or why you would make such a comment. The accounts have been prepared by independent accounting firm as we were told at the AGM and in the letter to Members. So what is the issue? What are you insinuating? An independent firm is preparing the accounts for Audit. The independent Auditor will then audit them. Period that is the way most entities operate. When they are prepared you, Ron and all the rest of us the MEMBERS will get the accounts. Coles, Woolworths and Westpac all work this way why should Mizrachi work any differntly! I cannot see Coles accounts or legal fees before they are published.

    It’s time to move on. Be positive for the Synagogues future or perhaps find a new place that you will be happy in. Everyone should be happy but as in all democratic processes the majority will rule. I am happy I now have a place to book my son’s Barmi at – a certain future! The Shule is moving forward & I for one appreciate all the hard work that goes into running a Synagogue and a volunatery committee at that! Being part of other committees I am well aware of the the hard work required and the little thanks you get from members. You do it for the sake of the community.

    Either way it should be known that this is not how the majority of the Synagogues members feel and it should also be known that we are happy for the Board who has worked so tirelessly and organised our recent fundraisers to take their time with the new external accountants to get things right. It’s been a massive year and so much has been achieved and changed. I am sure all will move forward within ASIC guidelines and for the good of the community.

    It was wonderful to see some old members return to the shule. Members who had been long standing members that I had known since I was little.

    Lets move forward and stop the bickering. Time to heal not to bicker!

    Oh yeah I am not a member of the board I am a member who wants the Kehilah to be at peace and move forward. Surely all of you must want the same or you wouldn’t be members.

  3. Happy Mizrachi Member says:

    Ron the destroyer,

    Another five minutes of fame?

    Why any “Sane” person construct this type of damaging misinformation is beyond me. What is your agenda?
    Disarray? I think not!
    Never let the truth get in the way of your own personal agenda Ron!

    FACT – Mizrachi membership is overwhelmingly in support of the entire board!
    FACT – Mizrachi has seen a resurgence in membership this year!
    FACT – Mizrachi has lost fewer members in the past twelve months than any single year over the past five!
    FACT – A number of members who resigned earlier this year have asked to rescind their resignation!
    FACT – Mizrachi has had many packed Kiddushim!
    FACT – Mizrachi has had several successful social events!
    FACT – Mizrachi has had visiting Rabbinate at least once every two weeks since Yom Tov!
    FACT – Mizrachi members were told of all the legal fees at the meeting mid year! (You were there!)
    FACT – Mizrachi members were given a budget for debt reduction at the same meeting! (You were there!)
    FACT – Mizrachi has already paid most of it’s legal fees!
    FACT – Mizrachi’s Board has finally introduced corporate governance to the management of the shule! (Why are you anti this?????)
    FACT – Mizrachi’s Board strived to be honourable in all it’s dealings and not lowered itself to your level of misinformation!

    How dare you questions Mark. Schnieders reason for standing down!
    The executive have been putting 20 – 30 hours per week into the shule. They are entitled to a break from your constant abuse! They all have careers and families.
    All you have done is write Vindictive, Spiteful, Inaccurate articles and letters. Grow up!

    We lost a number of our new members through your personal abuse. One had his business threatened. Mr. Schneiders own mother was reduced to tears one shabos by you! Does this make you proud?
    You refused to go up to the Bimah for an Aliyah during Yom Kippur and then chastised members of the board during Neila! Such an upright person in our community. It is time you were seen for who you are!
    There are too many positives happening at Mizrachi to keep getting dragged into the gutter by you.
    I agree with paying member. Be part of the rebuild or leave. Have you heard of Shalom Beit? We have all had enough of this garbage from you.

  4. long time member says:

    Member of 50 years – listen Betty – I was at every meeting, Schneider never once has revealed the figure. But if you know it, say it here. What are you and your conspirators afraid of? The truth. You have wrecked the shul.We now have less than half the financial members we had 1 year ago. The current board has to go and until it does peace cannot return to our shul. Why do they refuse to present audited accounts to our shul? Schneider has resigned and Ann Cohen, Rodney Cohen, Rosenman and Finberg have to go to stop the rot. Schneider is the 3rd board member to resign in the past few weeks.

  5. member of 50 years says:

    Hear hear to ‘Paying member’.
    As for Dan — members were told of the legal fees. If you had been at the meet ing led by Mark Schneider were he told the members the direction of the shule, the amount for legal fees was told to the members. As well the membership was told about the donated money to pay the Rabbi.
    As for Ron and his 56 new members at the Annual General meeting the only ‘new members’ were returning members who had left because of the Rabbi but were now returning to be members of the current shule, if there were 56 of them then great that is 56 returning members of which I am one.

  6. Paying Member says:

    Shame Weiser Shame. You are a trouble maker.

    If “you” really had a new executive “in waiting” why did you not tell them to nominate. No-one wants you on the board!

    With regards to accounts I certainly have received my account quarterley as per the current boards notification that we would be billed in that way. I also think the board mentioned that Selingers had done the accounts for this year – rather than in previous years when Peter Hersh did the accounts and the auditing. I am sure it is simple to confirm this by asking any board member or even emailing the shule.

    If, as you stated, you were told by email that the President had resigned, on what basis did you require a personal discussion or reason? Further I was at Shule, Friday night and Shabbat. I found the services very well attended – especially for this time of the year. I enjoyed the visitors (both local and overseas ones) and the ruach in the Shule was very postive. Last week – I even spotted some of those “56 new members” at shule!

    So Weiser what was the point of this out pouring? Was it just because Mark did not discuss with you in enough detail his resignation? Or does this just relate to who your were talking to on the corner of Plowman & Murriverie on Shabbat morning?

    About time you decided to be part of the rebuild or leave! Either way – do everyone a favour and stop the drivel.

  7. Dan says:

    So now we will see the same cowards, a few board members writing under different names but without the spine to put their actual names to anything.
    I do not know if Ron Wiser does or does not know how much the board wasted on legal fees. Was it $100,000 or $200,000 or $300,000 or….? I certainly do not know and the members do not know. The members have never been informed. How will we pay it back with less and less members? But it is simple to clear up, just have the board stop trying to duck the membership and finally present accounts at an annual meeting. But by then “member of 50 years” may have to sign off as “member of 60 years”. If that is not possible as they cannot find an auditor to approve of the accounts as they now stand (which says a lot in itself), whoever is the current President or any member of the board can just post the total legal costs on J-Wire for all to see – but of course they will not. Just bullies who have stuffed up and are now in hiding. And who cannot be trusted. Why did Schneider resign anyway? And why have the board not informed the memebrs?

  8. member of 50 years says:

    Ron your last paragraph is a lie.
    You were told by the Board how much the legal fees were and most of us know what it is. If you do not want to believe that our costs were so much less than the Rabbis then so be it. But do not lie that the amount is not known.
    As for the executive in waiting, that president was one of the major causes of the current problem with the Rabbi. He just let him not work. Returning him and his cohort would empty the shule out for good.
    It is time you kept quiet or left.

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