Beth Jacob Congregation members vote against merger with Beth Abraham Synagogue

Beth Jacob rejects merger with Beth Abraham, January 2011

On Dec. 9, Beth Jacob Congregation announced that its membership voted against a proposed merger with Beth Abraham Synagogue.

Voting took place the evening of Dec. 8 at the Traditional synagogue, located in Harrison Township. Included in the vote were absentee ballots mailed to the synagogue’s members in advance.

According to Beth Jacob President Erv Pavlofsky, his congregants “overwhelmingly” rejected the potential merger.

“We appreciate all the hard work of the merger exploration committee and the members of both congregations, who put so much time, effort and thought into this process,” Pavlofsky said.

In October, members of Beth Abraham Synagogue voted in favor of the proposed merger, which would have consolidated both congregations into one Conservative entity at Beth Abraham’s building. Beth Abraham, located in Oakwood, is a member of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

In June 2009, the boards of both synagogues approved merger discussions; a merger exploration committee comprising members of both congregations issued its recommendations in May 2010.

“I’m disappointed,” Beth Abraham President David Fuchsman said. “Although there certainly would have been a financial benefit for the congregation, there were a lot of other elements that I think would have been better for the both of us: greater attendance at minyans and greater involvement in education and social action programs that would have far outweighed even the economic benefit.”

The 2009-10 merger exploration marked the second time the congregations have formally considered merging since Beth Abraham broke off from Beth Jacob 117 years ago.

Beth Jacob Synagogue, originally Orthodox, dates to 1875. Through the mid-20th century, Beth Jacob’s members were mainly of Russian-Jewish descent.

Beth Abraham Synagogue, also originally Orthodox, was established in 1894 when a small group separated from Beth Jacob. Beth Abraham’s membership through the mid-20th century became associated with Jews from Lithuania.

In the early 1940s, Beth Abraham and Beth Jacob leaders almost worked out a merger plan but it fell through at the time Beth Abraham began to adopt Conservative practices.

­ — Marshall Weiss

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