A NOTE FROM THE SYNAGOGUE PRESIDENT REGARDING STRATEGIC CO-OPERATION DISCUSSIONS WITH BETH EMETH BAIS YEHUDA
September 20, 2021 / 14 Tishrei 5782
This is a time of historic challenges for the Jewish community. While COVID has had a significant impact on our synagogue life today, it has also accelerated concerning trends that have been present for several years. This includes reduction in shul memberships across the Conservative movement, and decreased revenue from smachot, making us more and more dependent on member contributions (fees).
As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, I am pleased to advise that Adath Israel has managed to remain financially strong, and we appreciate the ongoing support from our members. While we are currently in a strong financial position, we recognize the need to plan for the long-term. Your Adath Israel leadership team is working on a number of sustainability scenarios but ultimately, we recognize the need for a model that will make Adath Israel less dependent on member contributions for long-term sustainability. Our intention is to build a synagogue community so amazing that every Conservative Jew in Toronto will want to be part of it.
Adath Israel is not in financial trouble now. We are working on projections of 5, 10 and 15 years, and our current model will not ensure our viability. We know we cannot continue to raise the cost of your membership contributions.
Accordingly, we are exploring various alternatives with the goal of providing long-term financial sustainability without relying on increasing membership contributions. Some of these scenarios include land use/real estate scenarios; strategic alliances; and/or how we can survive independently with a smaller membership.
Over the past year, there have been informal conversations with multiple synagogues regarding the sharing of resources and potential strategic alliances. As you may have heard, formal merger discussions began recently between Beth Tikvah and Beth David. Specifically, we have discussed sharing of resources and created joint programming with Beth Emeth.
Given the initial success of some of these initiatives, the leadership of both Adath Israel and Beth Emeth has begun discussing other possible synergies that would provide additional benefits to their respective memberships. These discussions are at an exceptionally early stage and cover multiple ways in which the shuls can cooperate with each other. For example, the discussions have included providing members with reciprocal rights for attending programming or holding life cycle events at the other synagogue.
In this regard, at our most recent Board of Governors meeting, the following resolution was approved:
“Adath Israel will enter into exploratory discussions with Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda for the purposes of greater co-operation, including potential amalgamation of the two congregations. Regarding this motion, the process will include financial due diligence and sharing of confidential information. A formal Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) will be signed by both parties prior to proceeding. A report will come to our Board of Directors for discussion/approval at a later date. Any recommendation will ultimately go to the Congregation for approval.”
We understand this may raise a number of questions for our members. We encourage you to check our FAQ section below, or you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that Beth Emeth will be sending a similar letter to its congregants simultaneously.
Dr. David Urbach
President, Adath Israel Congregation
Questions & Answers
- Why are we considering strategic co-operation with Beth Emeth?
With changing demographics and rising costs, our current operating model is not sustainable in the long term. Accordingly, we are looking at ways to create synergies between our shuls which, in turn, helps to reduce operational costs and most importantly, drive down membership contributions (fees). It is our goal to create a synagogue community so amazing that every Conservative Jew in Toronto will want to be part of it.
- What does strategic co-operation look like between our Shuls in practice?
This will be an important component of our ongoing discussions with Beth Emeth. The two teams are just beginning to investigate multiple scenarios, so it is very early in the process. Both shuls are already working together to create synergies by sharing resources related to Ritual and General Programs, High Holidays and our Supplementary Schools.
- Is either shul facing financial difficulty?
No! In fact, both shuls have emerged from the lockdown in a strong financial position and thus, both are able to focus on long-term strategic planning from a position of strength. These talks are being held now to plan for future generations
- Adath Israel has already shifted to Egalitarianism. Why would we create an alliance with a shul that is not Egalitarian?
Maintaining distinct Traditional and Egalitarian services is a non-negotiable term in our discussions. We will always maintain both types of services. In fact, strategic co-operation would provide flexibility for our members to choose between an Egalitarian and Traditional model, ritually and with respect to lifecycle events.
- How long will the process take?
The process of increasing co-operation between the shuls is ongoing. However, there is not a specific timeline at this early stage for any type of formal arrangement. The committee will provide regular updates throughout the process
- Are other future sustainability options being considered?
At the same time that these discussions are happening, we are exploring a variety of other sustainability options Including land use and real estate scenarios and operating independently with a smaller membership base.
- If there is ultimately a recommendation to amalgamate the two shuls, would members of both shuls have the opportunity to vote on the recommendation? Yes, any recommendation to amalgamate the shuls would first have to go to the respective synagogue Boards for preliminary approval and then to the membership for a vote.