Task Force Reports
Rabbi Jose said: Dispose yourself to learn Torah, for it is not an inheritance, and let your actions be for the sake of Heaven. (Pirke Avot 2:12)
Just because your parents were scholars or that you once learned Torah does not exempt yourself from exerting yourself to learn more of the deep values of God. Also, we make a choice to act in accordance with a higher authority as opposed to our own standards, which give our deeds higher value.
Members of Taskforce: Rabbi Thomas Louchheim (Or Chadash), Rabbi Batsheva Appel (Temple Emanu-El), Emily Joseph (Secretary of the Board, Or Chadash), Scott Arden (President, Temple Emanu-El), and Joe Millstone (member of both congregations)
- Consulted with:
- The CCAR Director of Rabbinic Placement the URJ Director of Consulting and Transition Management and three rabbis of merged or merging congregations in New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Illinois
- Three meetings: September 17, October 29, and December 3
- Reviewed clergy job descriptions from Temple Emanu-El and Or Chadash
- Reviewed Rabbi Louchheim’s 2019 Self-Evaluation
- Discussed different models of clergy leadership
Future integrated congregation looks like:
- 700 families
- Two rabbis – an interim rabbi and Rabbi Louchheim
- Full time Cantor and Cantorial Soloist
Clergy Model considerations
- Bringing together clergy from somewhat different congregations:
- Ability to more effectively serve the integrated congregation.
- A larger clergy staff can work together to discover innovative ways to serve both the congregational community and the larger community.
- Three clergy models:
- Traditional: Hierarchical arrangement of senior and junior/assistant/associate rabbi. Division of responsibilities is worked out by the clergy.
- Partnership: A new model around the country – two rabbis within a merged congregation work in equal partnership (Baltimore and Illinois – see references below). Not hierarchical where there is a single “senior” rabbi in charge of clergy.
- Co-rabbis: A strict division of responsibilities, not sharing – ie, one rabbi is responsible for all pastoral care while the other is completely responsible for adult education. This doesn’t necessarily negate a senior/associate relationship. In the anecdotal conversations with the CCAR Director of Placement and one of the rabbis in the Illinois congregation, this might not meet the needs of our congregational members.
- Both Cantor Janece Cohen and Cantorial Soloist Marjorie Hochberg have been involved with pastoral and teaching roles in their congregations in addition to their specifically cantorial responsibilities.
- The clergy, in consultation with the Ritual committees, will work to accommodate a diversity of worship experiences.
- An advantage of multiple clergy is:
- Parallel services, which may meet the desires of some members.
- A member of the clergy might be able to engage members outside of the synagogue on Shabbat by having Shabbat in members’ homes or a Shabbat experience with college students.
Describe risks and possible mitigations
- Compensation for clergy is usually proportionate to the congregation size – this should be considered in the financial calculations.
- Lifecycle event being officiated by an unfamiliar member of the clergy, may cause negative reactions from members (this has not been the case so far in Illinois).
- Unsuccessful division of roles and responsibilities
- could be conflict among clergy, or
- not serving the congregants well
- Multiple parallel services on Shabbat may dilute the Shabbat experience for everyone and make integration more difficult.
- An alternative used in Illinois is to vary services within the month.
The Taskforce recommends the establishment of a clergy integration committee to continuously evaluate the success of division of responsibilities and how the clergy are working together and with the congregants. The current recommendation of clergy model is Partnership.
It has been recommended by the CCAR that Rabbi Louchheim take the Intentional Interim Rabbi workshop being held in Phoenix, January 13-16, 2020 (description of interim rabbi is found in footnote 1, above). This workshop will give him tools to serve as a rabbi of a large congregation.
Yehoshua ben Perachyah said: Make for yourself a rabbi; acquire for yourself a friend; and judge every person on the positive side. (Avot 1:6)
The key to human thriving is discovered in seeking opportunities where one can develop personally, professionally and spiritually. A rabbi can be the Jewish role model for others to strengthen social ties and navigate through times of significant transitions. This quest to find new meaning in an unsettled world and to grow as individuals are nurtured through relationships that develop between teacher, student, peers, and new friends. As the individual grows the whole Jewish community flourishes.
Rabbi Thomas Louchheim
 An interim rabbi who helps a congregation successfully navigate a transition period. Their focus is on Heritage (reviewing how the congregation was shaped and formed), Leadership (reviewing members’ needs and its ways of developing and organizing new and effective leadership), Mission (defining and redefining the congregation’s sense of mission and direction), Connections (discovering relationships a congregation has outside of its community), and Future (develops congregational and pastoral profiles).
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.
Click here to view the PowerPoint.
Task Force Attendees:
Rina Liebeskind, Or Chadash Exec. Admin & Director of Youth Engagement
Jill Sobieszyk, 3rd-4th gr. Or Chadash RS Teacher
Suzie Stadheim, 4th & 7th gr. Or Chadash Parent
Abby Limmer, Temple Emanu-El Kurn Religious School Director
Allison Neja, 6th gr. Temple Emanu-El Teacher, 5th gr. Parent
Marla Harris and Jared Rubin, 2nd and 4th gr. Temple Emanu-El Parents
Brie Finegold, Temple Emanu-El Board of Directors, 8th grade teacher, 3rd grade parent
The joint 8th grade trip to Jewish Los Angeles transformed last year into a joint 7th-8th grade trip that will repeat in 2021. One joint Camp Experience rather than separate camp fairs. Working to rename JCTEY and JJCTEY to include OC students in TE’s NFTY-affiliated youth groups.
Both synagogues participate in the Shinshinim program and both have a madrichim program.
|Day of the Week||Temple Emanu-El||Or Chadash|
Steps to a Future Merger
- Have social functions for the students to become one community. Recruit middle schoolers from OC and TE with older kids’ help into NFTY-affiliated youth groups.
- Work with Finance Task Force to determine to what extent merging of schools will change budget and/or reduce tuition. Note that cost of supplies would remain the same.
- Decide how to align schedules for both Hebrew School. Possibilities include:
- Two days per week of Hebrew school to which any member can choose to attend one or the other consistently throughout the year – this could be transitional or permanent
- Have same curriculum, same teachers
- Have different curricula, different teachers
- One day per week of Hebrew school
- Two days per week of Hebrew school to which any member can choose to attend one or the other consistently throughout the year – this could be transitional or permanent
- Decide how to align Sunday School schedules and curricula:
- Later than 9am start and have 3 hours or have 2.5 or 2.75 hours
- 9am start and noon end (no one seemed interested in ending earlier than noon)
- Work to keep Chuggim (electives) as well as signature events like Mitzvah Fair, etc.
- Set aside appropriate furniture and custodial help to accommodate larger classes (this is plausible to do at Temple Emanu-El)
|Current Grade||Cong. Or Chadash||Temple Emanu-El||Total # of Students|
Table 1: These are the numbers per grade for the 2019-2020 years. Once combined, some of the grades will have to be divided into 2 classes.
*Pre-K includes 2 years of students, 3- and 4-year olds.
- Decide on B’nei Mitzvah Schedules and Training
- Resolve conflicts for 2 dates: 10/17/20 and 10/24/20
- Unify B’nei Mitzvah Training practices with Ritual Committee help
- Work to unify Hebrew school curricula and incorporate Hebrew@Home.
- Decide whether to pursue accreditation, since that will be lost.
Risks and Mitigations
- People may feel like they “don’t know everybody”
- More kids means stronger sense of Jewish belonging/identity, less chance of being the only one
- Changing the schedules may alienate people
- Offer both schedules on weekdays to find what people gravitate towards
- Offer some of the same activities but on a different timeline/compromise on timing
- People may lose programs that they enjoy or that curricula has changed too much
- Point out new opportunities due to larger classes and more resources
- Work to identify people’s favorite activities and preserve them
- Work to include teachers (and parents) in unification of curricula
- Or Chadash would lose its accreditation
- Work to regain it so as to preserve prestige as only AZ accredited religious school
- Change of location may alienate people
- Facilitate carpooling
- Strengthen Hebrew@Home
- Having to reduce staff or financially support two sets of staff
- Allow for natural attrition
- Conflicting B’nei Mitzvah schedules may force kids to choose whose to attend or alienate families with special ties to that date.
- Joint B’nei mitzvah
- Morning and afternoon service
Click here to view the full report. Below is the Executive Summary.
In early 2019, the Boards of Directors of both Or Chadash and Temple Emanu-El initiated discussion between representatives of each congregation (hereafter, “Ambassadors”) to discuss what a future state might look like under two Scenarios:
- Continue more of the same targeted collaboration (Religious School, etc.).
- Map out steps to a future merger with a description of risks to success and possible mitigations.
Eight “Task Forces” were formed to explore all aspects of the two Scenarios. This report represents the results of the “Real Estate/Fixed Assets/Facilities” Task Force. For convenience, we shortened to the Facilities Task Force.
Further, our Task Force believed that Scenario One, continued collaboration, would not require any changes to either the Or Chadash or Temple Emanu-El facilities. Our study and report were therefore confined to Scenario Two, merger of the two congregations.
For Scenario 2, our purpose was twofold: 1) present logical data regarding both facilities that would allow all congregation members to evaluate for themselves the three options (see below) available. And, 2) present details of recommended improvements and their costs for each of alternative.
The three alternatives studied were as follows:
- Expand the Or Chadash campus to accommodate an enlarged congregation and education base.
- Improve the Temple Emanu-El campus to correct for deferred maintenance and health & safety issues, and to provide aesthetic improvements that would result in an attractive ambiance which would encourage even more use of it.
- Sell both the Temple Emanu-El and Or Chadash properties, acquire a new vacant property, and build a brand-new place of worship.
Our method for accomplishing our task was to provide a detailed inventory of each campus’ facilities, provide a fact-based comparison, and finally, create a list comparing the results of our study. We highlighted the costs of each and the pros and cons.
Each sub-task was assigned to a member of the group.
The studies emphasized different elements of each of the three Scenarios.
- For Or Chadash, it was incorporate additions that would be required to make that campus equivalent to the capacity of Temple Emanu-El. It was realized that even with the proposed additions, Or Chadash would not be at the capacity of Temple Emanu-El.
- For Temple Emanu-El, it was to establish a priority for each improvement that we identified so that the costs of some items could be deferred. The Priority List was defined as follows:
Priority One: Items necessary to do immediately either because they were put deferred too long and represented a maintenance problem, health and safety items, or those that were felt to be highly desired enhancements.
Priority Two: Enhancements that were very desirable, but could be put off for a year or two and completed from operating funds
Priority Three: We called these “wish list” items that would be wonderful, but we just can’t do it in the next 3-5 years.
- Alternate C involved selling both facilities, and to truly understand this Alternate’s viability, we need to know what the value of each facility is, as is. We then needed to estimate the cost of a new campus. Though there is experience among the Facilities Task in real estate matters, our estimate of value for each campus was, at best, an educated guess. We used $1,400,000 for Or Chadash and $2,000,000 for Temple Emanu-El. We also believe that these values are optimistically high. This would not represent the net proceeds because there would be costs associated with the sale (commissions, surveys, reports, etc.). The total estimated net revenue would be $3,200,000. This amount is in the range of one-third the cost of a new facility that would duplicate Temple Emanu-El. We concluded that this Alternative was not feasible.
Task Force members: Harriet Kronman and Howard Paley from Congregation Or Chadash (OC); Simon Rosenblatt, and Mona Gibson from Temple Emanu-El (TE) and member of Ambassadors Group.
Background: This Task Force was formed to review what governance would look like in a congregation created by the merging of current OC and TE congregations, to identify any issues or hurdles that might cause a problem in such a merger, and then to propose possible solutions to mitigate these concerns.
Process: The governance task force met on August 21st and September 4th at the lovely home of Harriet
Kronman. The Bylaws of each congregation were shared with each other. Temple’s articles of incorporation,
including information from the original document were also shared. We determined the areas of governance
that we would discuss included By Laws, Articles of Incorporation, Governing Board and its creation per the
Nominating Committee and the process of the Nominating Committee.
Highlights: Attached are the notes of each meeting of the task force. Following are the highlights of our
conversations related to governance, identifying the issues and proposing solutions:
- The by-laws of each congregation are relatively similar, with a few differences. The differences do not
appear to be insurmountable. We recommend a committee comprised of members of each congregation be formed to create a new set of by-laws for the merged congregation which selects the
best of both current by-laws. We believe by-laws must be approved prior to filing Articles of
- The Articles of Incorporation of the new entity will need to be submitted to the State of Arizona once a
new name for the merged congregation is decided. We recommend forming a task force tasked with
naming the new congregation which is extremely important and integral to the development of this new community.
- The Board of Directors for the merged congregation will need to be proposed by a nominating
committee which precedes the merger. The issue is basically timing. We recommend both
congregations go through their normal process of “staffing” a Nominating committee to provide
members to a super Nominating Committee during the transition period which is after the decision to
merge is decided and before the congregations actually merge (possibly January 2020 – July 2021).
- We recommend the new merged Board of Directors continue with the active members of both
congregations finishing out their terms without concern to the size of the first board. However, the
officers/executive committee of the newly created Board (such as President, Vice President, Treasurer
and Secretary) should be proposed to the new congregation as one slate. Our task force believes this
future super Nominating Committee will have to work out the representation from the former
congregations for the proposed new executive committee.
- After the Memo of Understanding is agreed upon and the decision to move forward to a merger is
decided, it would then be relevant to have a By-Laws task force during the transition period to develop
the rules and procedures for the super Nominating Committee.
Conclusion: The most difficult aspect of merging our two congregations from a governance perspective is
figuring out how to move from two separate Boards to one Board of Directors. Decisions regarding Nominating Committee, Board of Directors make-up and synagogue naming will be deferred to future task forces. Our current and past presidents have not had any issues working together during these conversations and it is our belief that a workable solution will be easily developed.
Congregation Or Chadash: Gary Kippur (First VP) and Mark Ross (Treasurer)
Temple Emanu-El: Scott Arden (President), Jeff Rein (Treasurer), Jerry Cohen (VP)
The finance task force members first signed a non-disclosure agreement in Spring, 2019, and then reviewed the budgets and financial situations of both synagogues together. The initial review revealed that both synagogues are facing financial challenges and that our financial situation would very likely be stronger with a merger than remaining independent/separate with ongoing collaborations.
Therefore, they proceeded to conduct a more detailed analyses to compare financial projections if we remain independent (with continued collaboration) versus financial projections if we merge. The following factors were incorporated into projections for the first year after our merger, a second year with merger, and a third year. These are based on a plan to market the Or Chadash property and centralize the new, combined congregation at the current Temple Emanu-El facility.
Assumptions applied in financial projections:
- Two Rabbis, a Cantor and a Cantorial Soloist- our anticipated clergy with larger congregation
- Legal fees: $25,000 for legal fees related to merger of the two synagogues
- Maintaining Or Chadash property until sale: $25,000 During the first year and $15,000 in the 2nd year.
- Facility repairs and upgrades at the current Temple Emanu-El facility: The facilities task force created a plan to prioritize repairs/upgrades over several years (Their report will be sent out before the Nov 17 town halls). We worked from an assumption that the costs of repairs/upgrades would be drawn from existing cash flow. Funds from the sale of the Or Chadash property were not included in these projections.
- Membership dues: Based on information from URJ about the experiences of other congregations who have merged, we considered a scenario as follows: an overall loss of no more than 10% of combined membership in the first year and increases of 5% in the second years and third years. Projections were based on current membership dues structures at both congregations.
- Elimination of duplicate services and facility expenses (one property to maintain instead of two and staffing for a larger, single congregation)
Here is the Summary of the analyses based on the above assumptions.
- Remaining separate: We are likely to break even, at best. We may face budget shortfalls with consequent implementation of new cost-saving measures along with increased reliance on fundraising strategies.
- Financial Forecasts for the first three years, beginning with the first year:
*Note: The term “net income” means the amount of money available after all expenses are subtracted from expected revenues i.e. in the black.
- Year 1: Net income about $200,000.00
*Note: the first year would have some one-time expenses e.g. Maintaining Or Chadash property until it is sold.
- Year 2: Net income up to about $250,000.00
- Year 3: Net income up to over $300,000.00
- Year 1: Net income about $200,000.00
The financial projections noted here are based on assumptions that may change with new information. We cannot provide you with more details on the projected budget with merger as this is sensitive information for both congregations, and this executive summary will be made available to congregants. We will provide congregants with hard copies (numbered) and more details at the in-person discussion at Or Chadash (and Temple Emanu-El) on Sunday, November 3. We look forward to talking with you soon.