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EXPLORING a MERGER between BETH DAVID and BETH TIKVAH 

Introduction:  

Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am and Beth Tikvah Synagogue are egalitarian Conservative synagogues in Toronto. Both have existed for over 60 years, and each has significant strengths and assets. However, steady declines in membership have been slowly eroding the financial viability of both synagogues for a number of years. This trend is consistent with the experience of most Conservative synagogues across North America. Such a status quo is not sustainable.

The leadership of Beth David and Beth Tikvah believe that now is the time to act, and we have been meeting regularly for discussions since October 2021. Merging our synagogues, which will ultimately be a decision for the memberships of both organizations, would create a dynamic Egalitarian Conservative community in the heart of Jewish Toronto. Combining members, clergy, staff, volunteer talents, and financial assets would enable the new shul to offer even greater value to current and future members in terms of worship services, personal support, and innovative programming. A new merged shul would also provide a better foundation for outreach and engagement of new members, offer reduced dues, and be viable in the long term.

To keep you up-to-date and informed about our discussions with Beth Tikvah, you’ll find below a continuing weekly series of questions and answers about various merger-related topics. Comments and questions about the merger are always welcome at merger@bethdavid.com.

 

View Merger Reports below FAQ's

FAQs 

Why are Beth Tikvah and Adath Israel starting to host weekday morning services together?

July 17, 2022

Beth Tikvah and Adath Israel have advised their members that they will be collaborating on hosting in-person weekday morning Shacharit services at Adath Israel. This initiative stems from a discussion between Rabbi Jarrod Grover and Rabbi Adam Cutler about the acute challenges that both shuls (like many others) are experiencing in attracting in-person minyanim.

Our Ritual Director Michael Rubin recently discussed with Rabbi Grover about how Beth David and Beth Tikvah might collaborate in this regard, however Rabbi Grover’s preference is that, to be consistent with Beth Tikvah’s current practice, such services should be in-person, with livestream, but without Zoom participation. Our Clergy felt strongly that, while we continue to encourage Beth David members to appreciate the value of in-person ritual experiences, pulling the plug on Zoom for all weekday morning services would be too abrupt a change for our community.

Participation in our two current in-person services (Thursday morning and Shabbat mornings) continues to improve, and we hope to add more in-person services in the coming months as we find an appropriate balance. As with most significant changes in our ritual routine over many decades, a gradual approach is often the most effective and sustainable.

We did agree that our Clergy would have further discussions with Clergy at Beth Tikvah and Adath Israel in due course about whether and how Beth David might collaborate with them on in-person weekday services. Other GTA Conservative shuls are also considering their options in this regard.

What will happen with our Clergy as a result of the merger?

June 12, 2022

Beth David and Beth Tikvah’s approaches to Conservative halacha and the conduct of weekday, Shabbat and holiday services are highly similar. Both synagogues are egalitarian. A few differences include the conduct of online services, following triennial Torah readings, and the role of a choir. However, both clergy teams believe that there are no major halachic impediments to bringing our two communities together.

Given the size of the merged synagogue and the demand for clergy services – including officiating at worship services and life-cycle events, teaching, engagement, providing pastoral care and support to members, and much more – we would retain all current clergy from both synagogues. Should we proceed with a merger, Rabbi Jarrod Grover would become the Senior Rabbi and Mara d’Atra and Rabbi Philip Scheim would become the Rabbi Emeritus. Hazzan Marshall Loomer and Hazzan Tibor Kovari would share Cantor duties, while Michael Rubin and Irv Kirshenblat would share the Ritual Director duties. Given the size of the congregation, an Associate Rabbi would likely be hired.

By joining our Clergy teams, members of the merged synagogue would enjoy and benefit from the combined leadership, experience, skills, and familiarity of an expanded clergy team and the sharing of ritual practices across both communities. Bringing together service structures, halachic approaches, and melodies familiar to each synagogue would ensure that all feel comfortable and at home in worship services. Members would also have access to a wider range of clergy expertise and styles, including the ability to learn and daven in smaller groups, drawn from a larger membership.

Merger Reports June 2022

The Beth David Board of Directors recently reviewed the following reports and recommended that we continue our merger discussions with Beth Tikvah:                 
 
Interim Merger Report: summarizes the overall rationale for, and benefits of, pursuing a merger with Beth Tikvah, and describes recommended approaches, should a merger be approved by Beth David members with respect to clergy, ritual, facilities and real estate, finances, governance, organization, programming and other issues.
• To view the Interim Merger report click here.
 
Financial Assumptions: describes the key assumptions that underlie a financial model for the new, merged synagogue, which is being developed and refined as part of our discussions and which will be presented to our communities prior to a vote on a merger. 
• To view the Financial Assumptions report click here.
 
Vision Report and Vision Executive Summary: describes the process, findings and recommendations from the surveys, focus groups and interviews conducted as part of the community consultations at Beth David and Beth Tikvah earlier this year. Note that this document is intended to be aspirational, a “Vision” of what could be achieved together, and as a guide for a future, merged synagogue community to consider. 
To view the BD-BT Vision report click here. 
To view the Vision Executive Summary report click here. 
To view a recent presentation by Coriphery on the future Vision to a joint meeting of the Beth David and Beth Tikvah Boards of Directors, 
click here.

What will happen to our building if we merge with Beth Tikvah?

June 3, 2022

A merged Beth David – Beth Tikvah would require only one synagogue building, which we both agree should be on the Bathurst Street corridor. Following a merger, Beth Tikvah would sell their Bayview Avenue property and bring their community to Beth David’s building on Yeomans Road.

The new synagogue would dedicate a portion of the sale proceeds to some much-needed renovations to address accessibility concerns and to create suitable multi-purpose space for services and programs. We’re currently discussing the possibility of creating a new entrance/foyer that would improve access to the Main Sanctuary/Social Hall level, as well as lowering the bima, adding washroom facilities on the upper level, and creating social, educational, community, and office space.

To ensure that all members from both shuls feel at home, a future design process would include consultations with our community. Important artifacts such as both shuls’ memorial boards, the historic Aron Kodesh in Beth Tikvah’s chapel, Judaica, and other significant items would be sensitively accommodated. As well, since the building will not be large enough to accommodate High Holy Days services for all members at once, alternative options and locations will be explored such as the auxiliary services that Beth David hosts in Richmond Hill.

An accessible synagogue with multi-purpose space is vital for in-person services and programs, with flexibility for concurrent activities and remote participation, including in members’ homes and other community venues. However, it’s important to consider that while shul buildings will always hold important emotional value, in the future, synagogues will increasingly need to be more than “bricks and mortar”. They will need to be communities that engage and connect with members and prospective members in programs and activities wherever they are, including by leveraging technology, where appropriate.

Your comments and questions about a potential merger with Beth Tikvah are always welcome at merger@bethdavid.com.

What are some of the benefits of merging with Beth Tikvah?

May 29, 2022

We believe that merging Beth David and Beth Tikvah would create a dynamic Egalitarian Conservative synagogue in the heart of Jewish Toronto. In combining our members, clergy, staff, volunteer talents, and financial assets, we would enable a new, more resilient organization that would offer even greater value to current and future members, in terms of worship services, personal support, and innovative programming for all ages, than we are able to now provide on our own.

A new, merged shul also would provide a better foundation for outreach and engagement, offer reduced dues, and be financially viable in the long run. Locating in one building also reduces duplicate property management, technology, and administrative costs, while selling surplus real estate would generate investment funds to use to enrich congregational life through enhanced worship, education, social action, community building and other engagement activities.

We look forward to providing further information and updates, and to hearing your feedback, during future meetings, including our Annual Meeting of Members on Monday evening, June 13th. Please register for the AGM at www.bethdavid.com.

Your comments and questions about a potential merger with Beth Tikvah are always welcome at merger@bethdavid.com.

So what can you tell us at this point about what a merger might look like?

May 22, 2022
Based on our ongoing discussions together, here are some elements that could be included in a Beth David – Beth Tikvah merger solution. All of these ideas would be subject to review and approval later this year by the Boards of Directors and Members of both synagogues:
  • The home of the new merged synagogue would most likely be in Beth David’s Yeomans Road building, located on the Bathurst corridor, in the heart of Toronto’s Jewish community.
  • Rabbi Grover would be the Senior Rabbi and Rabbi Scheim would be the Rabbi Emeritus of the new shul. Cantors Loomer and Kovari would share the Cantor duties, while Michael Rubin and Irv Kirshenblat would share Ritual Director duties. Given the number of members in the merged synagogue, we would likely hire an Associate Rabbi.
  • Beth Tikvah’s Bayview Avenue property would be sold, with the proceeds invested to support the new merged synagogue, including some building renovations, improved services, programming and outreach for Members, and long-term financial stability
  • Upgrades to the Yeomans Road building would be undertaken so that all Members feel at home, and to improve accessibility for all, including potentially through (a) a larger entrance/foyer to ease access to the Sanctuary/Social Hall level, (b) lowering the bima, and (c) refreshed community, meeting and office space
  • All Beth David and Beth Tikvah employees would be retained following a merger to provide continuity of service to our combined community
  • A new Board of Directors would be established, reflecting equal representation from both Beth David and Beth Tikvah
  • Annual membership dues would decrease for the vast majority of Members of both synagogues
  • A new synagogue name would be chosen that will respect the history and legacy of both Beth David and Beth Tikvah while looking ahead with confidence to serving the needs of our current and future Members
We will continue to discuss these issues and to develop a shared “Vision” of our future, based on the recent consultations with our respective communities, and will share all these ideas to our Board and Members for discussion and feedback in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, we welcome your comments anytime at merger@bethdavid.com.

What's happening with the merger discussions and why is it taking so long?

May 15, 2022
 
As you can imagine, merging two large synagogues that serve the spiritual needs of 1,600 families involves dealing with some fairly complex issues, and we certainly appreciate your concerns about timing.
 
For the past 8 months or so, meeting around twice per month, a Steering Committee, comprised of volunteers from Beth David and Beth Tikvah, has been researching and discussing various merger topics. Our objective from the outset has been to gather information and to understand the issues and our options, for instance:
 
- what we want to achieve by combining our two synagogues
- how to merge our Clergy teams
- how to structure a new Board of Directors
- the renovations that may be required for the Yeomans Road building
- how we can align our membership dues structures fairly
- how we would merge our administrative teams
- how we would manage High Holy Days services, and more.
 
As well, by design, we want the path forward for our merged synagogue community to reflect the findings of the recently completed Vision consultations, which solicited input from both communities on how a merged Beth David and Beth Tikvah can best serve the needs of current and future members. That project included an on-line survey, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups. Our consultant’s report will be presented to the Boards of each synagogue shortly, to be followed by a Vision discussion with our respective communities, to solicit your comments and feedback.
 
All that said, our plan is to bring preliminary merger recommendations to our Boards and to our members for discussion shortly, and to confirm that there are sufficient benefits to a merger to continue developing a solution. We will devote some time to a detailed merger update at the Annual Meeting of Members on June 13th and a subsequent Beth David Town Hall meeting. As we’ve promised from the outset, all merger-related issues will be presented well in advance of any vote, which we hope will take place this Fall, so that we can answer your questions and address your concerns as best we can.
 
Beth David has been providing support to our community for close to 70 years. Out of respect for that history, our valued employees, and our Members, we don’t want to rush any decisions about a merger. We thank you for your interest and patience and look forward to bringing more information to you in the coming weeks and months.
Sat, August 13 2022 16 Av 5782