Submitted by the Talmud Torah Board of Directors
– We, the Board of Directors of the Talmud Torah Society, met on March 14, 2016 to address several issues including the recent letters to the editor published in the Edmonton Jewish News and the Edmonton Jewish Pipeline. Both of these letters erroneously state that the Jewish Federation of Edmonton (JFED) has taken over control of the Talmud Torah Society Board (TTS Board) and that JFED has forced the resignation of the Executive of the TTS Board. The letter in the Edmonton Jewish News additionally states that JFED wishes to dictate to the Society how the latter will handle its monies for bursary supplements. All of these charges are false.
At our meeting, we unanimously passed a motion that expressed our collective disappointment and displeasure with the untruths and slanderous accusations in these letters. No one from either publication contacted the TTS Board or offered an opportunity to read or respond to either letter prior to publication. Unfortunately, damage to reputations has been done, and the authors who chose to remain anonymous have done a disservice to the Talmud Torah Society, JFED, and our community. The accusations in those letters were engineered to deliberately sow seeds of division by questioning the integrity of members of our community; members who commit their time, energy, wisdom, experience to caring for and sustaining these organizations. Our message to the community is that the TTS Board remains intact and committed to looking after the affairs of the Society. In no way has JFED bullied the Executive of the TTS Board into resigning. With just one exception, all of those who resigned their Executive positions have chosen to remain on as Directors of the TTS Board.
Ours is a small community, and, as was expressed in one of the letters, volunteers sometimes wear many hats. Doing so, though, does not prevent them from acting in an ethical fashion. Mor Barzel, Cheryl Goldstein and Steven Shafir are TTS Board members who deserve our thanks for their contributions to so many organizations in our community. They have always acted conscientiously and recused themselves from discussions and decisions in which their respective commitments, relationships and roles may have put them in a perceived or actual conflict of interest.
The Talmud Torah Society and JFED are entities that remain independent of each other. Each organization serves a vital purpose in our community. The Talmud Torah Society is committed to negotiating with the JFED in good faith to determine the feasibility of building a JCC on Talmud Torah Society lands in a manner that is fair and transparent. The suggestion that we would give away our lands to the Jewish Federation of Edmonton is irresponsible and untrue.
Additionally, although JFED has rolled out a new process for handling the monies that they allocate for bursaries, they have not imposed any process or expressed any restrictions on the Talmud Torah Society concerning how we supplement these bursaries. The Talmud Torah Society remains committed to ensuring that there are no financial barriers for any family who wants their child to have a strong Jewish education.
Finally, we would like to take the opportunity to thank those people specifically named as Executive members in the Letter to the Editor – namely, Rebecca Asbell, Shira Spring, Adam Merrick and Matt Dance for their unwavering dedication to the Talmud Torah School over the past number of months. Their continued support of the Talmud Torah Society and its Board of Directors is key to the future growth and direction of the School.
In the interest of reaching out to the community and to the anonymous authors of these letters, we wish to express our sincere interest in a thoughtful and respectful dialogue where we treat each other with dignity, acknowledging that we all care about our school and our community. Let’s move forward in a constructive and positive way.
Submitted by Laurence Abbott on behalf of the Talmud Torah Society’s Board of Directors
Editor’s note: I actually verified that the resignations occurred one day prior to print and then I contacted the president of the TT Board and left a voice mail inquiring about the resignations. She did not return my call until after the newspaper had printed.