Leaders of Temple Israel and Temple Emanuel unveiled a proposal to merge the congregations, which, if approved, could take effect as soon as July 1.
Dr. David Weinstein, president of Temple Israel said he approached Temple Emanuel president Norman Drey in January with the idea of merging the two Reform Congregations.
Since then, a group of officers from each congregation, have been working on a merger proposal on which the boards of each congregation will vote, according to Drey. If congregational leaders recommend the merger, congregants would vote on the idea on June 15.
"This is really about securing the legacies of two very important congregations, " Drey said. "I feel this is a very proactive step, partnering to share administrative costs and overhead, and in the end, being able to provide innovative, dynamic worship services and programming. "
Weinstein said he believes the merger would be a "win-win " situation for both congregations. "The strengths of the two congregations together would be more powerful than either congregation alone, " he said.
"We would be able to offer more choice in worship style and services, in both adult and youth education, as well as more opportunities for tikkun olam, in addition to gaining the benefits of combining resources and avoiding duplication of services to obtain more efficient use of limited resources. "
Under the proposal, the new, combined congregation would have a total of about 1,400 families, and would be housed at the site of Temple Israel, which is planning a major renovation within the next couple of years, Weinstein said. Temple Israel would include Temple Emanuel members in the planning for the renovated facility.
"We look forward to the participation of Temple Emanuel congregants in both the design and the construction of our new facility, so that we can create a warm, inviting, spiritually inspiring environment for worship and study -- and one that incorporates the heritage and traditions of both congregations, which collectively we will all feel good about calling our new home, " Weinstein said.
Both Weinstein and Drey said Temple Israel and Temple Emanuel have a similar style of worship, with members of similar backgrounds.
"I think the chemistry between the congregations is excellent, " Weinstein said.
Temple Israel has about 1,100 member families, while Temple Emanuel has close to 300 member families, and a full-time staff of three, including Rabbi Joshua Taub, along with an office manager and a director of education and programming. Taub said that the congregation will have to carefully study the proposal before any action would be taken.
"Nothing is etched in stone, " Taub said. "Both sides have made it very clear that this is not a done deal. We're only asking for the opportunity to explore the opportunity. "
Rabbi Taub said his contract with the congregation runs through June of 2009, and said the congregation's leaders have committed to honoring his contract.
Drey said Temple Emanuel will hold town hall-style meetings for congregants, the first of which takes place March 12 at 7 p.m., in order to have "an open discussion to share concerns and answer questions " about the proposed merger. "I don't want anyone to feel left out of the discussion, " Drey said.
Rabbi Mark Shook, senior rabbi of Temple Israel, said he feels the merger would be advantageous to both congregations.
"I believe both congregations will have something very positive to gain from the merger and out of this will come, in essence, a strong, vibrant congregation that is better than the sum of its parts, " Shook said. "I think each congregation will bring different things to the mix and both will benefit from the energy that would be created by this new entity. "
Taub, who is in his fifth year as rabbi of Temple Emanuel, said some congregants from Temple Emanuel have expressed concerns that they should have been notified earlier about the proposed merger.
"I know there are some people who are very upset that they feel this was sprung on them, but the truth is that anybody who deals with confidential information knows that you can't make such things as this, sensitive issues like this, public immediately. There has to be a significant amount of background work done and certain steps have to be taken before you can take it public, " Taub said.
Drey and Taub said the proposed merger brought with it a sense of sadness about the possibility of the congregation, which was founded in 1957, merging with another.
"The reality is difficult, " said Drey, whose father, Norman Drey Sr.., was Temple Emanuel's first president. "It's very sad, but it's a step we have to consider. "
"Certainly this is a sad time, " said Rabbi Taub. "But the possibility of the merger really does bring with it some opportunities. And while a lot of people don't see it, I think it is a win-win for both congregations. "
"Though, certainly that is a debate that is about to be had, " he said.