Oheb Shalom Responds to Letter of Concern

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Temple Oheb Shalom is disputing the contents of a letter purportedly signed by a group of congregants that outlined financial, personnel and reputational management concerns.

The letter, emailed from ohebstrong@gmail.com just after midnight Thursday morning, had more than 30 individuals listed as signatories, including several past presidents and board chairs, trustees and a former synagogue employee.

Congregation president Mina Wender responded Friday morning with an email to congregants, in which she said, “The letter includes misleading or incomplete information and also includes matters that the board and the executive committee have already been working diligently to address over many months.”

Wender also said the letter was sent using the synagogue’s email distribution list, which was not authorized, and that the synagogue is investigating what it calls a “serious data breach.”

The letter of concern, which has the subject line “Letter to All Oheb Congregants,” began by saying those who signed it are “profoundly concerned about the long-term future of Oheb Shalom.”

“Oheb means so much to all of us,” it reads. “It is an important part of our most significant lifecycle events and our spiritual home.”

The letter alleges financial mismanagement, including issues with the endowment, “excessive spending” and financial planning; expresses concern over “excessive turnover in our staff”; and says, “There is great skepticism about whether the executive committee has been impartial.” In closing, the letter said that the signatories “would like to be a part of the rebuilding process.”

Wender disputed the contents of the letter and said the synagogue has been working with many of those involved with the letter and will continue to do so.

“We are confident that we have been executing our responsibility to Temple Oheb Shalom appropriately, guided by advice from legal counsel when necessary, and only with the best interest of the congregation in mind. We approach issues in as neutral a way as possible, seek input from all stakeholders and use our best judgment to govern the synagogue,” she wrote. “We cannot run our synagogue by competing email blasts by those with differences of opinion.”

She also assured congregants that the institution’s finances are sound, and encouraged those interested to speak with the board and executive committee or attend upcoming meetings on June 14 and 24.

“On behalf of the board and executive committee, I once again proudly state our commitment to transparency and regular communication with the congregation, especially during this time of transition,” Wender wrote. “We welcome all congregants and staff to share their thoughts and ideas and this group’s viewpoints are welcome as well.”

The letter of concern and the synagogue’s response comes a little more than one month after Rabbi Steven Fink was suspended with pay following an allegation of sexual impropriety. The synagogue’s proposed merger with Har Sinai Congregation has also been put on hold.

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

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