In separate votes held June 24, members of Congregation Beth Shalom and Agudath Israel Congregation have overwhelmingly voted to amalgamate Ottawa’s two largest Conservative congregations.
The Beth Shalom vote was 160 (84 per cent) in favour of the amalgamation and 29 (15 per cent) against. There were also two spoiled ballots.
The Agudath Israel vote was 349 (89 per cent) in favour of the amalgamation and 42 (11 per cent) against with 28 spoiled ballots.
Now, with the amalgamation approved by both memberships, Beth Shalom and Agudath Israel will begin working together to create what is now being referred to as the “New Shul” (a name for the amalgamated congregation will be chosen after input from the membership). A new, combined board will be in place by later this summer and the full amalgamation will be completed by July 2016.
Under the terms of the proposal, the “New Shul” will be fully egalitarian and affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the major umbrella organization for Conservative congregations in North America, and current clergy – Rabbi Barry Schlesinger of Agudath Israel and Cantor Daniel Benlolo of Beth Shalom – will be offered extensions of their contracts to take effect with the amalgamation in 2016.
The “New Shul” will be located at Agudath Israel’s property, 1400 Coldrey Avenue, with the possibility that a new synagogue building will be built on the site, or at another location, in the future. Beth Shalom will continue to operate at its temporary location on the Jewish Community Campus until the amalgamation (Beth Shalom’s building at 151-153 Chapel Street was sold to developers).