January 20, 2021
We are reaching out to you today to announce an incredible opportunity for our community. In a historic and consequential decision, the Board of Trustees of both Temple Rodeph Torah of Marlboro and Temple Shalom of Aberdeen have each unanimously decided to formally enter into integration discussions. As a result of long developing demographic and financial trends in Monmouth County, the leaders of our congregations strongly sense that a vital and vibrant Reform Jewish community depends on doing together what has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible to do apart. Beyond these trends this strategic plan of action is driven by several factors.
Last year, Rodeph Torah’s long serving rabbi, Don Weber, retired after 36 years of devoted service. Although both congregations have made the best of these painful Covid times, we think it’s important to get ahead of declining membership and any financial issues that we each may face over the coming years. On a positive note, a decision had already been made that starting in September of 2021, our religious schools would be joining forces. To support that, we have already had many years of a successfully integrated high school program; a great precursor to this phenomenal new endeavor. These and other factors make the moment optimal to pursue this conversation.
This extremely exciting news is not being taken lightly. The founders of our congregations saw nothing but long-term potential when they affixed Mezuzot to our doorposts. Since then, each of our congregations has developed its own proud identity and strong community that has impacted hundreds of families throughout the years. Integration represents change and change invariably comes with challenges. A team with representatives from both congregations, led by our respective presidents, has been meeting regularly to pave the way for a conversation that in the end belongs to all our Temple families. This team wisely understands the gravity and complexity of this recommendation and will address all considerations as such.
The decision to integrate belongs to each congregation and in the coming months ahead congregational votes will be taken according to the respective bylaws of each synagogue. We see all of you as a valuable part of this process.
The recommendation of the core integration team and our mutual boards will include important elements that each has previously agreed to. The following will be included in the proposal to merge:
- The newly merged congregation will have a new name and a healthy process that will lead us to one.
- Rabbi Laurence Malinger will be the rabbi of the new congregation.
- The new congregation will make its home in Temple Shalom’s current building in Aberdeen.
- TRT’s current building in Marlboro will be sold with the remaining assets contributing towards our new congregation.
- David Gronlund Jacob will stay on as the educator of the new congregation.
- Cantors Lisa Levine and Sarah Zemel, both of whom serve part-time, will stay on in the new congregation for at least a year.
- All fixed Bar and Bat Mitzvah dates will be honored.
- While some business and official elements of merging may not be complete, we aim to be operationally merged by July 1, 2021, joining together in things like services, adult education, and administration to name a few.
- The weeks and months ahead will include key virtual gatherings, occurring regularly, for the purposes of both keeping you informed and enlisting you in the many tasks ahead of us. With your help and support we will make this full integration of our communities the success we are all seeking.
- In the coming months our two congregations will share in joint activities to get to know one another, as well as to become familiar with Rabbi Malinger, and both Cantor Lisa Levine and Cantor Sarah Zemel.
This letter is the first in a series of regular communications. Additionally, an FAQ can be accessed here. In the next few weeks, a series of joint teams will be appointed to take on the many tasks required to bring our families together under one roof. Rabbi Marc Disick, TRT’s interim Rabbi, will be helping them through this process, as he has successfully done with many other congregations in similar circumstances.
This integration will be filled with hope, excitement, optimism, and anticipation toward building a new, sacred congregation with common goals and a successful future. Getting there will have its challenges; please know that we will be joining hands together along this outstanding opportunity and journey. Please join us by attending one of several Town Hall meetings that will be held in the next week to answer questions and address feedback. For details, click here.
Tmima Grinvald – President, Temple Rodeph Torah
Steve Slome – President, Temple Shalom