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Board Response to Community Meeting of 9 March 2022

Comment 1 - criticism re email announcing R Hye’s resignation. 
R Hye pressured to resign. 
Personal issues from people at the top of the Rambam hierarchy.
Rimonit’s petition ignored

Response – email announcement content and timing agreed in writing by R Hye and Hadassa Hye.
R Hye contractually reported to named Board members. 
R Hye refused to meet with some members, would meet with others but only to chat and not as “rabbi support team” 
The Petition was sent to the Board on 30 January 2022 and petitioners responded to on 13 February 2022. 
Following Dayan Kada’s letter on 27 February including “on this basis Dayan Kada does not see that an EGM can have any benefit and can only serve to be destructive”, the date set for the EGM (9 March) was set for a  Townhall Meeting and was communicated on 3 March.
Board noted that “people want voices heard” and 2 hour meeting planned to listen to 3 x 7minute speakers pro petition and 1 x 7 minute speaker from Board plus unlimited number of 3 minutes speakers.

Comment 2- Rambam is a democracy and if people want change they can stand for election to Board

Response – this is Constitutional reality

Comment 3– everybody loses when trying to revolt & turn Rambam into autocracy. If people disagree with decision making process, they can leave

Response – decision process and ethos are defined in Constitution

Comment 4– democracy does not occur in Rambam. Board given community false impression R Hye left voluntarily and happily.

Response – Board decisions are made by consensus & where necessary by majority vote.
During mediation sessions R Hye said he’d wanted to resign previously. He continued to say he’s resigning. We’re unable to comment if he’s happier.

Comment 5– Rabbi is employee and needs to respect Board and its decisions. All can disagree but employees ultimately need to respect decisions of Board.

Response – this is Constitutional reality.

Comment 6– Rambam is by nature warm & welcoming; community should stop bullying each other and understand Dayan’s decision.

Response – Rambam ethos is clear in Constitution; resignation has been confirmed to Dayan; Employment Contract obliges Board to accept Dayan’s decision.

Comment 7– Speaker likes R Hye; Board forced R Hye to leave, he didn’t resign on his own accord. 

Response – Board has always acknowledged many people like R Hye; Board never forced/suggested/asked for his resignation. Two months prior to resigning, R Hye signed extension to his contract with notice period increased from 3 to 6 months; not logical for Board to agree this contract if intention was to part with R Hye

Comment 8 – Board thanked for running synagogue so well; speaker likes and respects both R Hye and Board; thinks people should acknowledge Board members are volunteers

Response – Thanks always appreciated; Board aims to serve the needs of kahal, recognises respect at the core of all relationships

Comment 9– respect extremely important and in future people should respect the Board; R Hye didn’t have respect of whole shul; Rambam should hire rabbi with real life experience; coming to synagogue should be more enjoyable, nicer and cohesive in future.

Response – Respect is a core value and Board recognises it should always earn its respect from the kahal, as should the community’s rabbi; point of “real life experience” noted for future; Board working to restore harmony within kahal.

Comment 10– Rambam amazing community to cherish; praised R Hye for his depth and breadth of Jewish knowledge; R Hye accepting of everyone and has good disposition; should not lose trust and faith in the rabbi.

Response – RSS is cherished by many and for varied reasons; Board accepted R Hye’s knowledge and promoted his standing within larger community; R Hye has resigned so specific trust and faith in him is not an issue, but point taken for future.

Comment 11– future extremely important, EGM would be nuclear and divisive event and should be avoided, it would rip community apart and destroy it. R Hye has left and decision should be respected entirely.

Response – original reason for EGM was to ask R Hye to retract his resignation; R Hye has confirmed his resignation; community meeting still went ahead for members and by exception non-members as Board understood people wanted their voices heard.

Comment 12– referred to the meeting as “Rambam’s therapy session”; praise for R Hye’s work especially during pandemic; people don’t respect each other; overall goal is to connect with HaShem together.

Response – it’s healthy to exchange thoughts therefore the meeting went ahead; there’s much praise for much of R Hye’s work; recognise there are issues of respect and all need to take note of causes for disrespect, the resulting damage and put in measures and create environment to rectify and rebuild from a healthy base to get back on track with our stated values.

Comment 13 –“R Hye is an amazing rabbi but this isn’t the issue here”. Seemed to be people who think the Board has an issue with transparency; people have to “trust the Board and trust they are making the right decision”; people need to have more respect for each other. 

Response – Board’s decisions are democratic, to the point that if there isn’t one agreed solution, Board offers multiple solutions eg R Hye’s notice period and terms. Board understands that ALL its efforts should be made in good conscience, for the benefit of the kahal. Board believes this is already how it conducts itself. Regarding trust, the Board understands “trust” is to be earned continuously and that Board communication to the kahal can be improved.

Comment 14 - referred to 2018 when Rambam was welcoming, warm and in Jan 2022 considered becoming members but two days later read email of R Hye’s leaving Rambam and decided against it.
Rambam is not a democracy but “totalitarian system”; people divided into two different factions; people disrespectful eg insinuating people should leave via the balcony

Response- Rambam’s stated values have not changed from being “welcoming and inclusive, caring and supportive”. Recent circumstances have created a division but our ethos has not changed. We welcome, we are inclusive, we show we care, we practice our support. At the same time we understand that not everyone shares these values and therefore recognise that those who do not want to buy into Rambam’s values may leave. This explains the comment about leaving “via the balcony” – it was meant in jest to show people are free to choose. 

Comment 15 – people should build on Rambam’s warm and inviting community and foundations, “there is a lot of good” and communication especially in this instance is highly important. Doesn’t believe anything “nasty or sinister” took place surrounding R Hye and Board.

Response – Community continues to build on the foundations of our values. Circumstances in the immediate weeks preceding R Hye’s resignation and the process following was openly discussed by board members. There were 5 attempts at mediation in 3 different settings.

Comment 16 - presence of meeting’s chair is suppressing members and their right to speak freely. Board members lack respect and dignity and “we as a community have no idea what is being discussed”. Board more like unit than board, and lacks transparency. EGM should have been held earlier. Some children upset by R Hye’s “forced resignation”. Speaker no longer feels part of community. Email informing of R Hye’s resignation was disrespectful and inappropriate especially so close to Shabbat.  “Happenings going on behind closed doors” and lack of respect overall. Current structure not working, something needs to change, children feel they have no community and have not been spoken to/asked their feelings.

Response- Board agreed an independent meeting Chair as well as times guidelines for speakers, understanding that many want their voices heard and some want to be “key” speakers. Given a total 2 hrs (120 minutes), and possibly 30 speakers, the allocations were 4 speakers for 7 minutes each plus 30 speakers for 3 minutes each. Board agreed to Raphi Lavi’s suggestion of 3 named key speakers (Jordan Jay, Rimonit Chriqui, Raphi Lavi) speaking for the petition and one for the Board (Brian Kaye). Meeting Chair encouraged and allowed all who wanted to speak. All but one speaker was able to express themselves freely without interruption and many had extra time. One speaker’s speech was “suppressed” due to members not allowing him to continue and the meeting Chair asked him to move ahead from that part of his speech dealing with R Hye’s employment and resignation given that  R Hye’s resignation was confirmed. Point of respect has been addressed above. Board will look to ensure everyone’s personal dignity is paramount. Regarding Board discussions, the comment of “unit” and lack of transparency, much of Board’s work is the practicality of managing the activities of Rambam. Decisions are made through discussion and where needed, by a vote. These activities are then communicated through WhatsApp groups and newsletter. Board members have all been charged with being in phone contact with members of the kahal and continue to do so. Opportunities for questions and answers are frequent. Board agrees to improve communication eg community meetings. Regarding other Board work, some matters eg welfare, elements of pastoral care will remain confidential. Financial matters are reported at AGM and any questions addressed to Treasurer throughout the year will continue to be answered. A Rabbi Support Team communicates with the rabbi, supports his role, his general involvement and contractual duties. These discussions have traditionally been confidential in order for the parties to be comfortable to speak freely. As regards an earlier date for the EGM, the proposed date for an EGM complied with the Constitution but the circumstances became more complicated by a further “concerned member” petition with its spurious claims. During this period there were ongoing mediation/arbitration attempts which included understandings of confidentiality and therefore challenges of what could and could not be spoken about at an EGM.
Children’s services and activities eg Purim concert are ongoing and there’s increasing effort for children. The content and timing of the email to the kahal informing of R Hye’s resignation was agreed with both R Hye and Hadassa. The reasoning for this being sent before Shabbat was to respect the reality, give the truth and prevent rumours. The Board and R Hye agreed this to be correct communication.

Comment 17- Board members need to try to be objective and decisions were made for personal reasons, rather than for the good of the community. People no longer have confidence in the board and its decision making. Speaker no longer trusts the current board and board needs to start doing things for the good of the community.

Response- Thinking process, effort, dedication of this board is only focussed on Rambam and is guided by our stated values and aims. Board accepts that in any organisation some personalities may be favoured more or less than others, but the aims and ethic in Rambam’s inclusivity are not compromised and no action is taken subjectively or for personal gain. Board members welcome discussion with any member on issues considered to be through personal reason, confidence, trust.
Board recognises better communication is needed in this regard.

Comment 18- Unfortunate Rabbi resigned but he wasn’t “perfect fit” for the role. Speaker believes R Hye resigned off his own back and people need to understand and respect decision. Speaker has trust in board and trusts they did everything right by the community.

Response- Rabbi Search team will take note of needs of kahal and candidate qualities needed in determining profile. Facts of R Hye’s resignation are correct – “off his own back”. Board continues to work in and for the interests of the kahal and in the process to learn from the past and build trust.

Comment 19- speaker believes “board is doing a wonderful job” and has his utmost respect.

Response -Board always considered where we can improve and accepts eg that rebuilding trust is needed.

Comment 20- speaker says people need to question whether or not board has acted independently or in best interest of the community. Claims EGM was delayed by board. Claims rabbi was bullied by board and he himself bullied by board. Relates his first day at Rambam and how members were complaining about tension within synagogue. R Hye has since brought peace and love to community and board doesn’t do things in interest of “anyone”. Needs to be change within board because  manner in which R Hye resigned was wrong and inappropriate. Claims “inability of board to work in a cohesive manner for our community” and board “does what they like with no consequences. Speaker praises Jordan Jay for putting time and effort into giving people a voice. States the need for re election in order to give people the chance for democracy.

Response- Board decisions are made after discussion and where needed, a vote. In some instances where there’s no consensus, Board has proposed various alternatives as a solution. Regarding EGM timing, this has been answered above. Claim of bullying by Board to anyone is unfounded. Under any circumstance, the Board did not seek to harm, intimidate or coerce anyone. Board has also never been informed of or alerted to this. It is a spurious comment as it is not true. Regarding complaints and tension within the synagogue, for years before R Hye arrived the kahal was developing and therefore to an extent some people were pushing the boundaries and collectively we’ve tried as a community to accommodate varied thoughts and customs. At different times some were more or less tolerant, depending on the circumstance. This was part of our development in defining ourselves. Approximately 1 year prior to R Hye’s arrival, relationships and cooperation were healthy and positive and from this base R Hye was able to continue building. Regarding the Board not doing anything in the interests of anyone, the Board “serves” the kahal; there is no evidence of Board members having any other objective or acting in any other manner. Board members are supportive of all programs for Rambam and as a group and individually according to each skill set, get behind programs to help them succeed. Regarding change, elections and democracy Board members are elected following a nomination process and serve for 2 years with the ability to stand for nomination for 2 further periods of 2 years each. Thereafter any Board member may not be on the Board for at least 2 more years before accepting nomination for election to the Board. This is democratic and all qualifying members have the same opportunity.

Comment 21- Speaker states his love and respect for everybody in community; R Hye did a lot for community- especially for children. States that if people have lost confidence in the Board, he has no issue in resigning. States “it really hurts that R Hye is leaving” and speaker isn’t sure how to move forward.

Response- These is much love and respect within the kahal and it is shown throughout the activities. There is much acknowledgement of R Hye’s work including his work with children. It is Board member’s choice whether or not to continue on the Board or to resign no matter what the circumstance. Regarding moving forward, the Board serves the kahal and will continue to do so. The Board undertook to “listen” to the community and will responsibly lead the community though these difficulties and will look to restore and build trust, confidence and goodwill. 

Comment 22 -Speaker explained that by constitution, custom and practice, Rambam is a Board managed community. Speaker explained that through an Employment Contract, the rabbi reports to Board, the usual working hours, details and expectations of rabbi role as part-time, and role of Board to manage Rambam. Speaker mentioned historically, rabbi attends board meetings by invitation and  according to agenda. These arrangements are similar to US, Fed, S&P and some independents, but unlike Chabad where rabbi is full-time and has a global organisation behind him. Also unlike other independents where rabbi or financiers started a kahal and are decision makers. R Hye came into this history. During past few months difficulties arose, Board maintained confidentiality out of decency and honourably in dealing with this and speaker pointed out that price of confidentiality is varied reactions to unknown. Speaker explained R Hye’s involvement with Board during covid period as more than usual due to nature of activity needed, and that there was increased Board activity coming out from covid; mentioned Rambam ethos of inclusivity and our nature to consider all our kahal. In process Board began an exercise examining roles of Board, Exec, Trustees and mentioned R Hye’s reaction. Speaker referred to situation where R Hye publicly humiliated the Treasurer and gave details of the follow up meeting to try to resolve the situation, including reported claims that the treasurer is stingy has too much power and should be removed.

At this point some members claimed the speaker was lying and called for him to resign. The meeting chair intervened and asked the speaker to move forward from that point as R Hye had since resigned.

Speaker referred to the attempts at mediation with R Lieberman, reports to and from the Board, and eventual comments from D Kada that under the circumstance the EGM would not be beneficial and only serve to be destructive, and his ruling on the terms relating to R Hye’s notice should be communicated to petitioners. These were made public one day later. Speaker commented that Rambam had gone off course from inclusive to exclusive; that there were actions to derail Rambam; that there were accusations about members and Board members; that criticising people’s work is one thing but slandering the person is entirely different; that challenging should be done with decency and respect and have a positive outcome; that Rambam can improve but doesn’t need a revolution to improve. All need to put our collective heart and head together to ensure Rambam succeeds.

Comment 23- Speaker thanked Meeting Chair for chairing the meeting and made the point that speaker has the ability to see everyone’s view and sees everyone’s energy and enthusiasm. We should take this from the meeting; it’s important to be united and understand that people got hurt. Everyone cares and we have a constitution and a way forward for a better Rambam. Speaker thinks we made an effort a bit too late with R Hye but “when someone resigns, he resigns”, it’s not about blame; we need now to find a way to separate, we’ve been to mediators but the effort didn’t work. The Board can improve, but people should note that the Board was “in the middle of a crazy situation with the rabbi leaving” and suggestions also from the Dayan. The Board is versatile, is a representation of this meeting and the community and certainly hears all sides of the discussions. Speaker said that we need to move forward and the Board tries to do everything democratically.

Sun, 23 June 2024 17 Sivan 5784