Orthodox UK rabbi said mulling bias lawsuit against his liberal congregation


(JTA) — An ultra-Orthodox rabbi in England facing dismissal by his relatively liberal community is considering a lawsuit for religious and age-based discrimination if he is fired, local media reported.

The prospect of a precedent-setting lawsuit is the latest twist in a protracted struggle in Manchester between Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag and some of his congregants. Some observers of the dispute say it underlines the increasing tension between British Jewry’s strong haredi Orthodox and progressive contingents.

The threat, which was reported Thursday by the Jewish Telegraph of Manchester, came from unnamed supporters of Guttentag at his Whitefield Synagogue. The congregation’s board, which has employed Guttentag for more than a decade, has called a Sept. 19 meeting to “confirm the termination of the contract of employment” of Guttentag and Cantor Joseph Muller, the board said in a notice.

In November, the board decided to “restructure the roles” of both spiritual leaders, whose remuneration was taking “too much of [the] budget,” the notice read.

But other issues include the board’s belief that Guttentag, who in 2010 described himself as “strictly Orthodox,” is “too rightwing and strict” for the synagogue’s “middle-of-the-road-membership,” an unnamed source told the Telegraph. The board tried to fire him in 2012.

Guttentag’s establishment of a kollel religious seminary and ban on girls reciting Torah in front of the ark during Shabbat bat mitzvah ceremonies are also contentious, the article said.

Guttentag, 59, is being dismissed as “old and out of touch, which can be said to be stereotyped and amount to age discrimination,” the source said about the potential lawsuit.

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