TORONTO — Preliminary merger talks between the Lodzer Centre Congregation and the Pride of Israel Synagogue have ended, after Lodzer members expressed objections at a Jan. 20 meeting to learn about the possible alliance.
“While our members understood some potential benefits of a merger, it was vital to our membership that we preserve the uniqueness of our shul,” synagogue president Judy Hazan said in a Jan. 21 news release.
The release said that meeting attendees “insisted that the Lodzer Centre’s small size (275 families) and its connection to the Holocaust (the synagogue was built by survivors from Lodz, Poland) must be preserved so that ‘we will never forget’ this important aspect of our Jewish heritage.
“The members’ consensus was to continue building on their strengths” including a growing young families group that holds child-friendly Shabbat services twice a month, the release said.
Although there was no formal vote at the meeting, which was attended by about 120 people, the merger committee felt there was no point pursuing the option, given the degree of opposition among members, Hazan told The CJN.
Members are “passionate that [the Lodzer] is a monument to the memory of their families,” she said.
“They want that building, those bricks, those windows, just the way they are.”
“The good thing that came out of the process was a shaking up of things and a commitment to make our shul work,” she said. As a result of the meeting, she added, new people have joined committees in “key areas” including fundraising, programming, marketing and financial.
“That’s going to make a big difference.”
In a November letter to congregants, which outlined reasons for considering the merger, Hazan wrote that the shul’s building, located on Heaton Street near Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue, needs repairs and expansion to accommodate more of the programs that the synagogue would like to offer.
As well, she wrote at the time, the costs of paying the rabbi, cantor, ba’al koreh and a leader for the congregation’s young family service are higher than the synagogue’s income from dues, High Holy Day tickets and fundraising.
Both synagogues are unaffiliated, but have services that are Conservative in style. The Lodzer Centre is egalitarian, while Pride of Israel is more traditional.
Joe Goldstein, Pride of Israel’s chairman of the board, said that it’s “business as usual” at his 450-member synagogue following the news.
“We are always open to negotiations with any organization that approaches us regarding a merger,” he added.
The shul, an outgrowth of a sick benefit society established in 1905, has seen its membership decline significantly over the past few decades. In 1999, there were 750 families. It has been at its current building on Bathurst north of Steeles Avenue since 1968.