Mergers. Are They Good For The Jews? – Rabbi Barry Gelman

June 23, 2009

Recently there have been reports of Conservative and Reform synagogues merging in order to deal with the difficult economic situation in America.  

In towns where the Jewish population cannot sustain both a conservative and reform congregation these mergers are necessary. Some of the arrangements have been very creative and credit is due to those who negotiated these mergers. It is heartening to see cross denominational cooperation and people thinking outside the box to sustain Jewish institutional life in times of crises.

There is another side of the story. While for years people have been talking about the closing of the gap between Reform and Conservative Judaism, with Reform Judaism becoming more traditionally minded and Conservative Judaism taking more liberal positions, these mergers represent a leaving behind of ideology. (see link to merger article below)

Now, before readers get all upset… I know that in some of these cases it was either merge or close…I am, however, interested in analyzing an underlying reality that allowed these mergers to happen.

My point is that synagogues and movements with strong ideologies would make for very difficult merger partners. Synagogues with strongly held beliefs, nuanced opinions and unique character are not easily folded into other synagogues. Read the rest of this entry »