January 8, 2020
Dear Temple Friends and Family,
Since our inductions as co-Presidents in June 2018, you have provided support, encouragement, and honesty. We welcomed your input and the Board of Trustees, Executive Officers, Clergy, staff, and teachers, have worked hard and have remained dedicated to running the Temple, being fiscally responsible, and transparent on all issues.
This letter provides you with important and updated information about our current financial status and the investigations of a merger/joint creation of a new liberal Jewish entity by the INE Committee (Investigating New Entities).
Our financial situation inhibits our ability to operate. This year and in the past there were unexpected and expensive repairs. Membership continues to decline despite the hard work of our membership committee, and, some financial deficits carried over from years past. While we operate lean, our fixed monthly expenses exceed our current monthly cash flow, reserves are low, and we don’t have sufficient income from donations and fundraising to continue operation past June 30, 2020. Even reaching that date will be a challenge after March 1, 2020. The Board authorized the investigation of and the sale of the caretaker house and Temple assets in order to continue to operate this fiscal year. The office staff and the caretaker are aware of this need.
We know that you have questions about that, and assets cannot be sold without a congregational vote. So, please come to a congregational meeting on Sunday, January 26, at 10:30 a.m. where we will ask for your support for the sale of the house, and support of retaining legal council, which both need to be done immediately.
To help us please actively support all of our fundraising efforts through June. The most important is the Tricky Tray on March 26, 2020. The Tricky Tray will be fun, you can win great prizes, and you will be helping us pay our bills. Information is being mailed. Please reserve a table and invite your non-temple friends to come and make this a success. Please also support our other fundraisers such as the clothing drive and Mother’s Day plant sale.
Part of the reason that we are in this financial difficulty is because several years ago the Long Range Planning Committee projected that our membership would continue a downward trajectory and resulting decline in income. The committee members and the name of the committee changed, but their focus, dedication, and hard work on researching the possibilities for the continued existence of Temple Sha’arey Shalom, ongoing meetings with other nearby congregations, and a review of our past and present financial situation remained on point, thorough, and facts-based for the past three years.
Input was also gathered from our congregants in order to determine what you wanted if a merger occurs. The information was obtained from you through focus groups, surveys, small group discussions, and information feedback sessions. We continued to update you through regular postings in the Scroll, information sessions, congregational meetings, and emails. Our intention is always transparency about our financial situation and about the investigation of a merger/the formation of a new entity with a congregation that best matches our ritual and liberal Jewish practices.
The INE Committee has completed its research on January 7, 2020 at the regular meeting of the Board of Trustees made a recommendation to close Sha’arey Shalom as of June 30, 2020. Further, their recommendation was that if a merger were to occur, a new entity should be created with the JCC of Summit (Ohr Shalom). The meetings with them revealed that they are a welcoming, warm, liberal Jewish community that is vibrant, financially stable, and most closely aligns with Temple Sha’arey Shalom’s ritual, practice, and spirit. The Finance Committee, the Executive Board, and the Board of Trustees endorsed the recommendations of the INE Committee. This merger/new entity with JCC of Summit has the support of our Rabbi. The discussions with the JCC have been very positive so far; we expect that to continue as we discuss and resolve the details with them.
This is, however, not a “done deal.” This is a recommendation, which will come before you to vote on at a congregational meeting in the future (not on January 26 which is only about financial matters). Your vote at the future congregational meeting is the only way that the recommendation of affiliation with the JCC of Summit can be approved. Of course their congregation also has to vote on it. And, you will have the opportunity for discussion and questions. Please note that what we present that meeting may be tentative and subject to change.
This is a lot of information in one letter that may be difficult to process. You may have many questions, emotions, and thoughts about the recommendations. There are concerns about upcoming Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Confirmations, religious school, transportation to Summit for those that need it, and more. You need details and facts about why the dissolution of Temple Sha’arey Shalom is our only option at this time and why the JCC of Summit emerged as the recommendation of the Committee.
At this time, the Presidents and committee members do not have any more information than we have shared in this letter. However, we will schedule small group information sessions to answer your questions to the best of our ability. You will hear directly from the INE Committee, the Presidents, and the financial stewards of our Temple at these meetings. Once the smaller information sessions are concluded, a special congregational meeting will be called with the requisite ten days’ notice.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and lead you through these difficult decisions. We look forward to working with you to achieve the best possible outcomes for Temple Sha’arey Shalom and for you and your families. Let’s face the future together as we move forward as a Temple family.
Roberta Krumholz and Ellen Lieberman