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Press Release: Merger Vote

September 13, 2016


Members of Liberal Judaism’s two communities in North-East London will this month vote on whether to unite and create one single dynamic community for the area.

Bet Tikvah Synagogue, in Barkingside, and Woodford Liberal Synagogue, in South Woodford, will hold separate Extraordinary General Meetings on Sunday September 25.

Bet Tikvah Synagogue

Bet Tikvah Synagogue

Members of each community will be asked to vote on a recommendation from both councils to formally dissolve the two existing communities and form a new one. They can vote by post in advance of the meeting, or in person at the meeting itself.

Rabbi Jacobi outside Woodford Liberal Synagogue

Rabbi Richard Jacobi

Woodford Liberal Synagogue Chair, Jonny Hurst, explained: “Over the last 18 months, the rabbis, officers, councils and members of both synagogues have carefully considered the proposal to become one larger more vibrant community – one that, in my view, would better serve Liberal-minded Jewish families in Redbridge, West Essex, Hertfordshire and surrounding areas.

“If approved, this will not be an acquisition, nor would one community be taking over the other; if the members agree we will dissolve the existing communities in favour of forming a new vibrant and dynamic Liberal Jewish community.”

Gary Freedman, Chair of Bet Tikvah, said: “I am urging members of Bet Tikvah Synagogue to vote in favour of the creation of a new Liberal Jewish community.

“If they remain apart, both synagogues will face an uncertain future. However, by coming together, the new synagogue that will be created will immediately become one of the largest Liberal synagogues in the country and promises to be a stronger and more vibrant presence than its predecessors. It will not only be a place of prayer, but also of education, social activities and kinship, with the potential to offer significant benefits to all its members.

“This is an exciting opportunity to invest in the future of Liberal Judaism in this area and I hope members will give it their support.”

Both synagogues currently face similar challenges – especially the need to address the demographics of their existing membership including the potential for future recruitment among like-minded families in the local and wider geographic areas – and the synagogue councils believe this can be better done together, rather than in competition.

Rabbis Richard Jacobi and David Hulbert, of Woodford and Bet Tikvah respectively, are committed to working towards supporting the transition from two communities to one, if the membership agrees to the change. They have known and worked with each other for a number of years.

The integration of the two communities has been happening gradually over the last 18 months: the synagogues have held a number of joint services and social events and currently share the same cheder. Such ‘organic’ integration is planned to continue if the members agree to unite. For example, discussions around the name of the new community and its long term location, will only be held if the membership votes in favour of uniting.

Jonny added: “Until the members have had their chance to vote, neither council has a mandate to take any action, although, of course, we have started to explore these issues. If the members agree to the formation of a new community, a property group will be created to review and advise on options for the two buildings and there will also be a consultation over the name.  

“We know that forming a new community will bring its own challenges, but I am confident that, together, in a vibrant and supportive environment, we can build on our combined strengths and further develop our  services, communal and lifecycle events for 21st century Liberal Jewish families now and for many years to come.”

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