Task Force members: From Congregation Or Chadash (OC) – Cantor Janece Cohen, Sarah Bollt, Kathylynn Saboda, Susan Winkler. From Temple Emanu-El (TE) – Cantorial Soloist Marjorie Hochberg, Harold Blatter, Andy Iventosch, Amy Ruskin. Representing Ambassadors – Elaine Jones, Dana Adler, and Mona L. Gibson.
Background: This Task Force was formed to review what the worship practices would look like in a congregation formed by the merging of current OC and TE congregations, to identify any issues or hurdles that might cause a problem in such merger, and then to propose possible solutions to mitigate these concerns.
Process: The worship task force met four times in October/November, alternating between synagogues as scheduling allowed. The culture of each synagogue was discussed and the multitude of worship services were delineated. Task Force members reviewed the history and development of their respective congregations, especially how their culture and ideology have formed each’s approach to worship services, prayers, and festivals.
Findings: Both congregations participate in the Reform Judaism movement but there are differences in the approach to services, the prayer books used, the music and the arrangement of the services. When all services and festivals observed were compared, it was clear that both congregations have a plethora of services to meet the needs of congregants of all ages, and to appeal to many different desires. Both congregations have a rich emphasis on music, food and community. While the facilities at Temple Emanu-El are large enough to hold services for a combined congregation, the Or Chadash representatives expressed concern about being part of a larger congregation and loss of their identity. Although Temple Emanu-El is a Reform congregation, congregants expressed a concern of moving away from the more conservative approach developed over the past two decades.
Proposal: Currently the services have many similarities, yet there are differences that Task Force representatives believe to be significant. Temple Emanu-El’s facility has the capacity to hold multiple services per day or even multiple services at the same time. Offering one service for the combined congregations was suggested for special occasions, such as bat/bar mitzvah services. However, during a period of transition (prior to and after the congregations are merged) parallel services can be conducted (click here for sample schedule). Congregants can enjoy a greater variety of observances under one roof and all services would be open to all congregants, giving our members choice.
Recommendations: It is incumbent upon future members of the congregations’ worship/ritual committees to decide what services to offer, combine, continue or retire. In the meantime, this Worship Task Force recommends the following:
- Each congregation’s ritual committee will work independently according to its traditions until such time the congregations are merged.
- Facility availability and usage will be organized and coordinated with the clergy and administration.
- Life cycle events will be scheduled and coordinated with the clergy and administration.
- Joint services whenever possible will be organized by the ritual committees, clergy and coordinated with administration.
- At every opportunity, we will eat, study and pray together to create a sacred community.
- A Kashrut policy will be established and observed by both congregations.