Today is November 24, 2014 - 2 Kislev 5775 · Shabbat Candlelighting Times

Mergers

In these challenging economic times, mergers are not only a corporate reality but a synagogue strategy. The reality emerging from challenges including the downturn in the economy, our “graying populating,” the costs associated with synagogue affiliation, the high rate of intermarriage, and the demographic changes in communities require strategic thinking and decisive action.

To address these challenges, the METNY Region convened two conference evenings dealing with the challenges to our religious school population, youth groups, and to the very continuance of some of our synagogues as entities. On successive Thursdays, November 5th and 12th, under the leadership and organizational skills of Joel Cutler (Oceanside Jewish Center) and Ronni Birnbaum (Temple Israel of Great Neck), mergers in many forms was the sole agenda item.

Presentations at both sessions focused on successful cases of mergers. These include:

  • Religious Schools – the Israel Center for Conservative Judaism and their partner the Hillcrest Jewish Center;
  • Youth Groups – four synagogue youth groups merged to create Hudson Valley Kadima and USY;
  • And synagogues – the previous merger Beth El of Massapequa with the Lindenhurst Jewish Center.

The conferences concluded that mergers can produce sustained Jewish communities in the face of these aforementioned challenges. A larger religious school which appeals to the students because of the many children of the same age is a strategic decision. The new friendships born of a youth group from several synagogues gives vitality to the program and sustained interest from the teenagers.

We learned that that the merger of two or more synagogues requires patience of all parties. Sensitive and emotional challenges include:

  1. Which synagogue to use as a home base
  2. The memorial plaques
  3. The reconstitution of the unified board
  4. The sale of a building and other assets
  5. The use of the funds from the sale
  6. “Dues” in the new synagogue
  7. How to transition from “mine” and “yours” to “ours.”

In all cases, synagogue leaders have to “leave their ego at the door.” In order to respectfully deal with the emotional change of location, the physical loss of your synagogue building, the attachment to a clergyperson, the need to move ritual items, the adjustment to new rituals are part of the process one undergoes when mergers occur.

Again we thank Ronni Birnbaum and Joel Cutler for their wisdom and leadership in the initial effort to think about mergers, our presenters for sharing their experiences, and our hosts for lending their space for these vital discussions.

While mergers may help some synagogues create a vibrant future, it may not be the appropriate approach for every synagogue at the present time. In all cases, we strongly recommend that our METNY synagogues revisit their missions, create goals for success and create a niche to showcases their uniqueness.

METNY is prepared to help your congregation deal with any aspect of mergers. Please contact Rabbi Charlie Savenor or myself at 212-533-0800 with any questions.

Effective, Mission-Oriented Synagogue Mergers
Jewish Groups Pool Resources to Launch Youth Groups
Jewish Youth Groups Merge in Flushing
The Keys for Successful Church Mergers
A New Beginning in Syosset
The New Business of NY Shuls: Synagogue Mergers
Priceless Partnerships
Tzemed Hemed/Finding the Right Fit: On Merging Congregations

Effective, Mission-Oriented Synagogue Mergers
Jewish Groups Pool Resources to Launch Youth Groups
Jewish Youth Groups Merge in Flushing
The Keys for Successful Church Mergers
A New Beginning in Syosset
The New Business of NY Shuls: Synagogue Mergers
Priceless Partnerships
Tzemed Hemed/Finding the Right Fit: On Merging Congregations

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