South Head Synagogue: Liquidation on Friday…but it’s not too late for Rabbi Milecki

July 18, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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President of the embattled Sydney’s South Head James Hockroth has written to its membership saying there is no way out from liquidating the synagogue but there is time for Rabbi Benzion Milecki to accept the boards’s offer.

James Hockroth wrote to members today: “I am writing to you with a heavy heart. Despite our best efforts, we have not reached agreement with Rabbi Milecki on terms for his separation from South Head Synagogue. Accordingly, we do not have a way forward other than to appoint a liquidator – that is likely to happen on Friday morning. Here is the relevant background information.

  • Rabbi Benzion Milecki

    The synagogue and mikvah were shut last Wednesday, 12 July, by the Administrator. The money to keep going had run out. If you walk or drive past the shul you will see the gates with chains and padlocks. Even in this locked down state the Administrator estimates we are incurring costs of $2,000 per day.

  • Our congregation remains strong and wants to stay together. For the past three Shabbatot, we have davened at the Dover Road Minyan at Moriah College’s HaMakom Campus. Last Saturday morning we had 200 people and a wonderful Kiddush.
  • The secured creditors, made an offer to the Rabbi on 11 July. It was made to Gary Cohen and Peter Wise, two of our congregants who have extensive communal experience – they tried to broker an agreement (and my colleagues and I thank them for their efforts). After we consulted widely within our kehillah, this was the best affordable offer we could make; It included;

o payment to Rabbi Milecki of over $1 million formulated on our understanding of halachic requirements which gave the Rabbi greater compensation that he would have been entitled to under civil law.

o Significant other benefits including a car, computer equipment and books. o Safeguards to ensure the ongoing orthodoxy of the synagogue and mikvah. o An appropriate title and tribute.

The Rabbi rejected our offer.

  • On 13 July, the secured creditors met with Gary Cohen and Peter Wise to see whether we could resolve the impasse. Gary Cohen and Peter Wise prepared a term sheet that day. In addition to the concessions we were prepared to make as detailed above and contained in our offer of 11 July the new term sheet included further concessions giving Rabbi Milecki control and responsibility of the Mikveh, rights to the JLI education program as well as numerous other benefits and entitlements. We were close on the dollars although that was still to be discussed with members of our congregation to determine whether it was affordable.
  • The meeting of creditors was held last Friday 14 July. We agreed to a request from Gary Cohen and Peter Wise to adjourn for one week to give more time for negotiations given that we believed we were getting close to a resolution.
  • James Hockroth Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

    Yesterday we received a confidential email containing the Rabbi’s conditions for separation. Certain unacceptable conditions that had been removed in the term sheet of 13 July once again reappeared and new conditions never previously raised suddenly materialised.

  • In short, we do not have agreement on either monetary compensation or other conditions. Meanwhile daily costs continue to mount.
  • Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are only weeks away. It is during these festivals that the shul raises a substantial portion, if not the majority of its annual revenue. If we are not open for these festivals our membership will be decimated and the perilous financial position that we are in will only be exacerbated. Accordingly, we have no alternative but to act now in the hope of being able to salvage the congregation for the High Holidays. We will try to make arrangements to keep our congregation together and have communal services.
  • When the creditors reconvene this coming Friday, we will vote on the recommendation of the Administrator to wind up the company.Terms that allow the Rabbi to run a shul within the shul and give him a prominent position in the main shul will only undermine the rabbinical renewal that we are all looking for.It is not too late for Rabbi Milecki to accept our offer and so avert the perils of liquidation for our synagogue and mikveh or as a minimum step down and allow a court of law to determine his fair compensation. But the time is running out.”


2 Responses to “South Head Synagogue: Liquidation on Friday…but it’s not too late for Rabbi Milecki”
  1. Angela-Leah Vered says:

    Why does the above article only state the Rabbi’s rejection and not his counter offer?

  2. Graham Rosen says:

    Will this matter ever end ?
    It seems that rabbi milecki keeps moving the goalposts and is not negotiating in good faith or have I , silly thing, missed something??

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