Frequently Asked Questions about the Proposed Merger of BSKI and Shaare Zedek
1. Why are we conducting a another Merger proposal? The boards of both BSKI and Shaare Zedek have identified merger as a
long-term solution to the negative trends of shrinking population and
deficit spending. Neither synagogue can continue to operate successfully
under current models. Leaders have also identified the need to enhance
our vision for a sustainable future. This includes: greater engagement,
inclusion, enhancement of our spirituality through music, art, social
action, education and community. Although these components already exist in both legacy shuls, the combined talents and resources of two 100+ year legacy institutions have a stronger chance to survive and
achieve its goals together rather than separate, competing entities.
2. How is this merger assessment organized and structured?
The presidents of each congregation have appointed an equal
representative panel of synagogue leaders. Reps were chosen based on
their professional and synagogue leadership experience.
The process was structured around key fact-finding committees:
- Steering committee: chaired by the 2 synagogue presidents. Committee
chairs representing the following committees make up the constituency of
the steering committee:
- PERSONNEL/Klei Kodesh
All meetings and conversations have been conducted with an emphasis on
fact finding, discovery and assessment.
3. How can I participate? You can participate by providing your suggestions/questions to our
- FINANCE: Bill Solomon BSKI firstname.lastname@example.org ; Steve Keyser SZ
- PERSONNEL/KleiKodesh: Debbie Igeilnik BSKI email@example.com , Sherri Weintrop SZ
- FACILITIES: Dan Rosenthal BSKI firstname.lastname@example.org, Gary Kodner SZ
- VISION/Identity: Sherri Sadon BSKI email@example.com ; Aaron Vickar SZ
BSKI President, Sue Cort @ firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also attend our scheduled coffees, town hall meetings or contact
any of the above. Merger Coffee Schedule 7/18 Wed 4p; 8/1 Wed 11A; Tues 8/14 7p in BSKI Library
Town Hall Meeting: Sun 8/5 10A at Shaare Zedek. This will be a joint meeting with BSKI and Shaare Zedek. Come hear the latest progress of the merger process and ask questions.
4. When do we get to vote?
A Joint town hall meeting will be held at the JCC Arts & Education
Building on Sunday, August 26 at 7 pm
A combined meeting will be followed by separate congregational votes in
different locations on the JCC campus.
5. Who will be eligible to vote? Voter eligibility will be based on synagogue membership (in-good
standing) status as defined by each synagogue's membership committee,
guided by by-laws and/or constitution.
6. What if I cannot be at the JCC on August 26, 2012 to vote? Can I
No absentee ballots will be accepted. A member must be present to vote.
7. When will we learn the results of the election?
Results of passage will be publicly released as soon as the steering committee
certifies the vote tallies for both congregations. Note: Requires passage by both congregations adhering to each congregation’s by laws.
8. Who will be the Rabbi/Cantor (Klei Kodesh) of a new, merged congregation? If the merger proposal passes in both congregations, for the immediate
term, all existing employees will remain intact and continue to operate
under current guidelines and contracts. A newly formed board would
assign a personnel committee to assess the Klei Kodesh that would
be engaged based on the criteria, mission, objectives, goals, budget of a
9. Where will the new congregation be? Which building will we use? No decision has been made with regard to facilities or property. Both
synagogue buildings and facilities have been thoroughly inspected and
assessed by a committee as well as independent professional consultants.
The facilities committee will present their assessments and viable
options to the steering committee and congregations at large. A future
building/facilities decision will be made by a new congregational board
based on the needs and financial feasibility of a new congregation.
10. If it were not for the financial challenges we face, would we be
considering a merger? Financial viability for the future of both congregations has become
critical. Change is no longer an option, but a requirement to survive.
A number of factors can be looked at as contributors to this situation.
Declining memberships, affiliation rates, inter-marriage, Jewish
education, leadership and participation trends, aging buildings,
unsustainable models, competition and cultural changes.
The merger committee has also identified a more exciting, progressive
vision as a means to counteract these negative trends.
11. Why are we not talking with B'nai Amoona? There have been a number of unsuccessful conversations with regard to a
BA merger. At this time, there is not an active or organized interest in
pursuing a conversation with BA.
12. What about those members who oppose merger?
Those opposed to merger are encouraged to participate and express their
views. We do not ask anyone to vote against their principles, beliefs
or conscience. We do ask that everyone approach this assessment with an open
mind as to the possibilities we can achieve together. We also ask that
we engage each other in a thoughtful, respective manner. It is our
objective to find entry paths for all members who can give this
important matter a chance to work.
13. Is merger the only solution? What happens if we have a "NO" vote. Congregational leaders have recommended merger (between BSKI and SZ)
through two extensive studies. We have done so based on the interest of
sustaining our communities. Community leaders and professional
consultants have also provided rationale why merger and strategic
collaborations are a viable solution to our current circumstances. If
merger is declined, each synagogue will have to consider any number of
program changes, personnel changes, budget cuts, facilities, etc. Our
current models are unsustainable. Neither synagogue will be able to continue
with a "status quo" if they intend to secure a viable future.
13. What about the Shaare Zedek debt?
Shaare Zedek's value must also be considered by its assets as well as its liabilities. Shaare Zedek has
endowment funds, a growing Legacy commitment that far exceeds BSKI’s, a profitable Early Childhood Center, greater membership units, a favorable demographic match up that balances BSKI core age skew (BSKI is currently 91% over age 50; 59% over 65), talent and tangible assets that offset their debt. As projected, pacing forward 5-7 years, BSKI will amass a similar debt to Shaare Zedek if we continue to operate under current conditions. In order to make an informed, "value" decision we must consider the totality of assets that each congregation brings to a merger.
14. If we vote "YES", when will a true merger be consummated? Where
will we worship? When will this take place?
A merger of two congregations will take time. It will not happen overnight. Legal and financial details will be worked out over a period of months. We could anticipate owning two buildings until it is decided
which facility is best to renovate, which one is best to sell and which
property serves our near term objectives. Every viable facility option is currently being considered.
Long term decisions will be made based on needs of the combined shul, financial resources and
market conditions. Premature decisions (pre-merger) would be viewed as
not allowing the new congregation and its leadership to determine its future direction
15. Will we have fair and equal representation moving forward if a positive merger vote is achieved?
The merger process has been steered by an equally representative committee from both BSKI and SZ. If a merger decision passes, the governance will continue to require equal representation from both synagogues for a
new synagogue board and standing operating committees.