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A NOTE FROM THE SYNAGOGUE PRESIDENT REGARDING STRATEGIC CO-OPERATION DISCUSSIONS WITH ADATH ISRAEL CONGREGATION - Monday, September 20, 2021

I am writing today to provide background for ongoing discussions that members of the Beth Emeth leadership have been having with their counterparts at the Adath Israel Congregation regarding working more closely together. I am aware that many different rumours have been circulating about the nature of these discussions and a communication is now necessary to clarify the situation.

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 dependent on membership contributions (dues) and on voluntary donations.

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, I am pleased to advise that Beth Emeth has managed to remain financially strong, largely due to the amazing ongoing support from our members.  While we are currently in an excellent position as we begin our reopening, we have begun focusing on long-term strategic planning.

In this regard, it is well known that a number of factors, including changing demographics and rising costs, are affecting the long-term financial prospects of many Toronto area synagogues. For example, you may have heard that formal merger discussions began recently between Beth Tikvah and Beth David.   

Consequently, your Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda leadership team has been working diligently on a number of long-term scenarios (5, 10 and 15 years out). These projections should indicate whether our current operating model is sustainable in the medium to long term. At the same tine, we are exploring various alternatives with the goal of providing long-term financial sustainability without relying on increasing membership contributions.  Some of these discussions have involved sharing of resources and joint programming with other synagogues, and specifically with Adath Israel.

Given the initial success of some of these initiatives, the leadership of both Beth Emeth and Adath Israel have begun discussing other possible synergies that could provide additional benefits to our 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 of both synagogues with reciprocal rights for attending programming or holding life cycle events at the other synagogue.

To be clear, there are currently no formal amalgamation discussions ongoing with Adath Israel. Since both Beth Emeth and Adath Israel are in strong financial positions, neither has any immediate need for such an action. However, both synagogues clearly see the benefits of greater co-operation and are looking at ways in which what is being done currently on an informal basis may be formalized. At this stage, no form of strategic co-operation that will benefit our members is off the table for discussion.

In this regard, at our June Board of Directors meeting, a decision was made to give our leadership the widest possible latitude to have initial high-level, exploratory discussions with our counterparts at Adath Israel. To that end, the following resolution was approved:

“Beth Emeth will enter into exploratory discussions with Adath Israel 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 Questions & Answers section below and on our website, or you may contact me at president@beby.org.  Please note that Adath Israel will be sending a similar letter to its congregants simultaneously.

Sincerely,

Malcolm Weinstein

President, Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue

 

 

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

  1. Why are we considering closer co-operation with Adath Israel? We recognize that, with changing demographics and rising costs, our current operating model may not be sustainable in the long term. Accordingly, we are looking at ways to create synergies between our shuls which, in turn, help to reduce operational costs and most importantly, drive down membership contributions (dues).  
     
  2. Is Beth Emeth or Adath Israel in financial difficulty?No, quite the opposite. 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.
     
  3. What does this greater co-operation look like in practice? This will be an important component of our ongoing discussions with Adath Israel. 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.
     
  4. Adath Israel has already shifted to Egalitarianism. Why would we create an alliance with a shul that is Egalitarian and not Traditional? 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.
     
  5. 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.
     
  6. 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.

President's Message - Neilah 2021/5782

Gmar Chatima Tova,

A very short 11 months ago, I was standing right here, before my Beth Emeth family, saying how very proud I was to be standing before you as President of Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Hebrew Men of England. Today, I am even more proud and privileged. What we have accomplished and continue to accomplish is amazing, and has only been made possible through the countless hours spent by our lay leadership, clergy team, office and maintenance staff and the many dedicated volunteers who have served and contributed on various committees and taskforces.

I stand before you, on Yom Kippur, with the message that Beth Emeth is in a sound financial position. We are a kehillah of strength and relevance with incredibly dedicated and passionate members, clergy and staff. We have weathered the stormy and bumpy Covid seas and have emerged with new ideas, procedures and processes that can only make us better. We have not been perfect, having to, at times, react more to situations than being proactive. But the tide is changing, and we are now looking to the future. We have commenced a strategic planning process and have hired expert consultants to guide us through this process. As this process unfolds, we will be looking to you, our members, for input, ideas, comments and constructive criticism to help us be the best we can be and to shape our future. At the same time, work has begun on financial projections for the next 5 to 10 years. This will help us understand our financial needs and expenses to ensure that we can remain financially viable. Uri Carnat spoke this morning about this year’s High Holy Day Terumah campaign. I personally want to thank everyone that contributed in making this meaningful and successful.

As I have said before, nothing quite prepared me for serving as your President during this Covid-19 pandemic. As difficult as it was, I was not alone and had an incredible team of people supporting and encouraging me every step of the way.

I am grateful to Cecile and my daughters, Simone and Ashley. Their sound and sage advice was always welcomed, even when it was not what I wanted to hear.

I am grateful to Rabbi Howie and Rabbi David. Not only did Rabbi Howie provide me with spiritual comfort, but his support, suggestions and ideas helped me navigate through difficult decisions and times. As your clergy team, they excelled in maintaining our traditional values and beliefs, thinking outside the box, and ensuring that every member could participate in their own special way in our services and programs.

I am grateful to Candace, our Executive Director, who took charge from day one. She was front and centre from day one, organizing, strategizing and ensuring that the Shul remained open for business. She rose to the challenge and we would not be where we are today without her guidance and leadership. From me, thank you and from the entire congregation a big thank you.

The office staff and maintenance staff went above and beyond, ensuring that our member’s needs were being met and that our building was secure and safe.

I am so very grateful to our amazing executive; Steve Greenwood, Allan Snow, Susan Colomby, Eleanor Minuk, Uri Carnat and Gail Bergman.  They stepped up like never before, putting the Synagogue first, spending countless hours on zoom meetings, phone calls and responding to hundreds of emails, ensuring that shul business was being taken care of. Their professionalism, dedication and commitment should be an inspiration to all of us and this Executive will be remembered for getting us through this incredibly difficult period in the Shul’s history.

I am grateful to our board of directors for their commitment and dedication. They stayed the course, considered and debated difficult issues, made motions and made difficult decisions. Our board is diverse and oftentimes there was lively and lengthy debate, but in every case, they ultimately came to the right decision that was in the best interest of the Synagogue as a whole. The work that your Board does is so important and the Shul cannot function effectively without an engaged Board. I am appealing to the membership to look within, and consider volunteering your time and skills to help make Beth Emeth the best Shul in the city for today and for the future. Become part of shaping the future of Beth Emeth.

I am grateful to the many volunteers that sat on various special committees that made the Shul and our members safe, and that provided excellent programs, learning opportunities and events. I want to recognize Larry Yarmus for the incredible work he did on the health and safety committee. It is through his leadership, drive and commitment that our building and our in-person services are safe, welcoming and secure. We have not had a covid case on his watch. Yasher Koach, Larry!

 

And lastly, I am grateful to every single member of the Beth Emeth family. I thank you for maintaining and renewing your strong connection to this wonderful community. To those physically present in Shul and to those on livestream, thank you for your support and understanding. I can honestly say, that as a Synagogue we have achieved so much this past year. Our sanctuary has been configured to meet the physical distancing requirements, and we have done this well. We have provided a safe spiritual environment for in-person attendance through our Covid vaccination policy. I believe that even with the physical distancing, we have achieved social, spiritual and emotional closeness. We have achieved this through zoom, livestream and facebook live and for the past few months with in-person services on Monday, Thursday and Shabbat and now on the Yom Tovim. Our online services, shiurim - learning, programs, events, social meetings, and even our board and executive meetings have connected us like never before. I urge all members, where possible, to make an effort to come to our in-person services.

Beth Emeth is still a place of gathering – please continue to support your Shul to the best of your ability. The moment is now and we need our members to show up in greater numbers than ever before, in-person preferably, or on zoom.

Over 80% of our member households have renewed their membership for this year. Thank you all so very much. If you know of friends or family who are not renewing their membership, I urge you to talk to them and encourage them to stay connected. It is vitally important for our entire community to not lose any more members. Belonging to a synagogue is a responsibility and a commitment, especially now with the difficulties that our greater community is facing with an increase in acts of anti-semitism and hate speech.

We have come to the end of the year 5781 and are almost at the end of the Book of Deutoronomy (“Devarim”). In last weeks parsha, Parshat Vayeilech, Moses says to Joshua “chazak v’ematz” - be strong and courageous. Throughout the ages, these words have become the prescription for overcoming fear and doubt. After Moses’ death, Hashem uses this expression a few more times when speaking to Joshua. Next week when we complete the Book of Deutoronomy we say “chazak chazak v’nitchazek” – be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened. This act of completion inspires us to wish each other strength. During the yamim noraim, the days of awe, we are encouraged to reflect, repent, repair relationships and resolve to be better versions of ourselves.

As I near the end of my term, my message is chazak v’ematz and chazak chazak v’nitchazek – be strong and courageous and be strong and we will all be strengthened. As I started my address, I want to end by saying again, that Beth Emeth is strong, financially, spiritually and in every way. We can only remain strong by pulling together, being together, supporting one another and not going it alone.

As we start the new year, 5782, there is still some uncertainty, but I am very hopeful and optimistic that we will persevere and emerge stronger than ever.

On behalf of the Chairman of the Board, the Executive and the Board of Directors I want to wish the entire Beth Emeth community a healthy and peaceful year.

Thank you.

 

Malcolm Weinstein

Wed, 20 October 2021 14 Cheshvan 5782