After several years of on-and-off discussions, members of Congregation Beth Shalom and Agudath Israel Congregation will vote, June 24, on whether to amalgamate Ottawa’s two largest Conservative congregations.
The vote comes after nine months of concerted discussions by the Amalgamation Steering Committee struck by the two congregations. The committee comprised 12 members, six appointed by the boards of each congregation.
The committee’s amalgamation proposal was completed in April and submitted to the congregations’ respective boards.
After board approval, the amalgamation proposal was submitted to the memberships of the two congregations. The congregations each held town hall style meetings at which the members of the Amalgamation Steering Committee explained the proposal, answered questions and opened the floor to discussion.
If ratified by the membership of both congregations, Beth Shalom and Agudath Israel will begin working together this summer on creating what is now being referred to as the “New Shul” (a name for the amalgamated congregation will be chosen after input from the membership). The full amalgamation will be completed and in place 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).
The result of the June 24 vote will be posted on the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin website as soon as it is available.