ABOUT TOWN: Stoughton's Ahavath Torah Among Local Synagogues Looking to Merge
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TEMPLES LOOKING TO MERGE: A Tri-Congregational Discussion on Regionalization for three local synagogues was held on Thursday, Feb. 14 at Temple Beth Emunah in Brockton. Representatives of Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton and Temple Beth Am in Randolph also attended the meeting, which attracted over 250 interested parties.
Alan Teperow, whose father was a former president at Temple Beth Am, was the lead facilitator of the meeting. He is Executive Director of the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. Teperow said “this is sacred territory. But, due to changing demographics and the economy, a viable future requires regionalization.”
David Schulze, Chairman of the Steering Committee, and the president of Ahavath Torah, said, “This is a pretty historic evening. We never thought that a few congregations could come together and engage in these possibilities. We won’t be talking about three congregations. It’s a process to form one congregation.”
Although most people attending realized the inevitability of the merger, there was much sadness. Attendees got married at these synagogues, had their children’s bat and bar mitzvahs there, and have attended services there for decades.
Still, each building has limitations, and will require a boatload of cash to properly maintain. The Jewish Community Center in Stoughton closed. The Solomon Schecter School moved to Norwood from Stoughton. The Jewish population is relocating to areas like Mansfield and Foxborough.
As the Steering Committee wrote, “In order to ensure the longevity of Conservative Judaism in the South Area, we believe this is absolutely necessary.”
A Site Task Group was charged with reviewing all three Temples, and selecting one as the interim site for collective members of all three synagogues. Steve Bernstein, an engineer, chaired this group, assisted by real estate agent Mark Leppo of Stoughton, and Howard Shore, an insurance executive. They weighed each building’s geographic location, market value, handicapped accessibility, and maintenance needs, and did a 60+ page report. After everything was factored in, the Site Task Group recommended the Temple Beth Emunah location, at 479 Torrey Street in Brockton.
A Mission/Task Group, which was chaired by Susan Lit, and included Schulze, Bob Fishman and Debbie Gladstone, worked on a strategic direction and an initial mission statement. “We really want to speak to the future of what it could be. We have more in common than you think, and power in numbers. The question we asked is can we sustain ourselves in the next generation?,” the Committee said.
Teperow was quick to point out that the recommendation to merge, and begin attending services at the interim location in July of 2014 is not finalized. He said, “This recommendation has no power. The three congregations will vote in the coming months.”
The plan is that the new Temple, when built, will sport a different name than the three. A Formation Task Group, led by Stoughton’s Alan Lader, and including David Crosby, Jonathan Braverman, Richard Levitt, John Finestein, and Marc Silver, will develop interim bylaws and governance for the transition period.
A formal legal Letter of Intent (LOI) will outline the processes and provide direction for the merger. Each Temple’s Board of Directors will discuss and vote on it in March.
On April 4, 2013, all three Temple’s congregations will vote simultaneously at the three locations. A two-thirds approval is required. Schulze says the LOI “allows us to make a commitment to each other at a legal level that allows us to move forward.”
In Fall of 2013, a final vote will be taken at all three locations for the final regionalization plans, with a July 2014 starting date for the interim site.