NEW YORK (Feb. 17)
Members of the congregation of Shaaray Tefila, a leading Reform synagogue, voted 144-135 at a stormy meeting last night, in effect not to extend the unwritten contract of Rabbi Philip Schechter, who had contended he was dismissed by the board of trustees because he tried to “modernize” procedures of the 125-year-old synagogue. Rabbi Schechter told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that he plans to file a formal protest over his dismissal with the Central Conference of American Rabbis of which he is a member. The vote was on a resolution calling on the board of trustees to reconsider a Jan. 31 decision not to renew the contract of the 35-year-old bearded rabbi. The JTA was told that more than 500 members were present but that those in the classification of associate and junior members have no voting rights. Rabbi Schechter said he had been invited to make a brief statement in his own defense at the meeting, which was held in the synagogue’s sanctuary, and that he was booed by some members.
Rabbi Schechter said that Rabbi Sidney Regner, who is retiring as executive vice-president of the CCAR also addressed the meeting, asking foes of the young rabbi to spell out their charges. Rabbi Schechter told the JTA that Rabbi Regner did not receive any direct response to that request and he also was booed by foes of Rabbi Schechter. Prior to the congregational meeting, an issue had been raised as to what the board would do, at its regular meeting tonight, if the vote of the badly-split congregation had been in favor of retention of Rabbi Schechter. The board reportedly voted at the Jan. 31 meeting not to extend Rabbi Schechter’s unwritten contract. When he was hired last May, he said he preferred not to have a written agreement. Frederick Block, president of the board, so notified Rabbi Schechter. Block said he proposed an arrangement under which Rabbi Schechter was to receive a paid leave of absence until the end of his first year.