Ahavath Torah Congregation’s recent decision to pull out of a potential three-way merger with two other synagogues has left Jewish congregations in Brockton and Randolph wondering what they should do next.
For almost two years, the three synagogues — Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Temple Beth Emunah in Brockton, and Temple Beth Am in Randolph — had discussed the possibility of joining forces to form a new, super-sized synagogue to serve the area’s Conservative Jewish community. They had hoped to achieve strength by combining their numbers, bolstering declining memberships and financial resources.
In April, the congregations had to decide whether to support a nonbinding letter of intent to move forward and form a proposal to unify. All three met separately and voted in favor of moving forward. It wasn’t a done deal: Once a proposal was put together, it would have required the support and approval of all three congregations.
But they never got that far. In June, Ahavath Torah Congregation informed its potential partners that it was dropping out.
Ahavath Torah, a Conservative synagogue founded in 1919, “ultimately decided that further consideration of consolidation was not the route that it wanted to take,” David Schulze, a past president of Ahavath Torah Congregation, said recently in an e-mail.
The previous talks examined “the potential pros and cons of consolidation — but it had not progressed to the point of a proposed merger,” said Schulze. “In early June, the membership of Ahavath Torah Congregation overwhelmingly reaffirmed its desire to continue its nearly 100-year role as a spiritual, cultural, and social hub for Jewish life in the Boston South community.”
Schulze said: “Like many synagogues around the country, Ahavath Torah Congregation explored the issue of regionalization and ultimately concluded that it remains committed to the temple’s mission, individuality, independence, and physical presence in the Greater Stoughton area. The decision is rooted in ATC’s confidence that it possesses the tangible and intangible strengths to be a robust and growing presence serving Jewish families across the Boston South region for many years to come. That said, ATC looks forward to maintaining a close dialogue and spirit of cooperation, including occasional joint programming and activities, with other synagogues in the region, to foster ongoing cohesion and brotherhood.”
The announcement came as a surprise to members of the other congregations, according to Michael Wish, the new president of Temple Beth Am. “The letter of intent that all three signed became moot, void,” he said.
Wish said Temple Beth Am is now partnering with Temple Beth Emunah to run a joint religious school for children ages 4 to 13. The congregations in Brockton and Randolph will continue to talk together about their plans for the future and other potential opportunities to collaborate.
Temple Beth Emunah president Steve Merlin said each congregation will be assessing the situation “just to see where we’re at and see what we’re going to do.
“Everything is kind of on hold,” he said.
Temple Beth Emunah was founded in 1952 in Brockton, a city that once had four synagogues. Today, Beth Emunah is the lone congregation in the city.
Merlin said the town of Stoughton has lost some Jewish institutions lately, which may have given Ahavath Torah Congregation more reason to stay and maintain a physical presence in that town. The Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston sold its facility to the YMCA, and then the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School, founded in Stoughton in 1989, relocated to Norwood and is now called Kehillah Schechter Academy.
“The temple [in Stoughton] was sort of the last person standing,” said Merlin.
Of Ahavath Torah Congregation’s decision to pull out of the potential merger, Merlin said: “There’s no bad blood. It’s reality. I’m sure there’s some disappointment because of the time spent working on a prototype of a plan that didn’t come to pass. On the other hand, life goes on.”
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