Summary of Responses from the TRT Town Hall
Sunday May 2, 2021, and Wednesday May 5, 2021
About Temple Shaari Emeth (TSE):
1-How many members does TSE have? How many members does TRT have?
TSE has approximately 560 member units and TRT currently has 190 member units.
2-Does TSE have a mortgage?
TSE has a minimal mortgage.
3-How large is TSE’s sanctuary and will we all be able to fit in for the High Holidays (HH)?
They have a very large and expandable sanctuary. TSE holds their HH’s at Freehold High School, we are currently in the process of determining which, if any, high school will allow us to have HH’s in their building on Labor Day, the day before school starts.
4-Is the TSE parking lot large enough to accommodate all our cars?
Yes, it is.
5-How long is Rabbi Panken’s contract?
Since TSE congregation is more than satisfied with Rabbi Panken, the leadership of TSE is planning to offer Rabbi Panken a long-term contract on renewal.
6-Is there going to be a new mission statement for the integrated congregation?
We will discuss with TSE.
7-TSE has done very well growing and keeping its membership, what did they do to succeed?
TSE has a feeder preschool which brings young families into their temple early. They also have a one day per week religious school, which is flexible and allows families to pick the day of the week their child attends. The day selected is consistent for the year.
8-Does TSE have enough space to bring in our congregants?
Yes, they do. At their highest member point they had 900 member units. When we integrate, we will be close to 700.
1-What are the TSE categories of membership and their dues?
TSE has a per person membership plan, based on the age, and number of children in your family and in religious school. We will work on aligning our different membership categories as we continue to work together.
It is important to note that TRT members in good standing, will be offered a customary dues incentive for at least a year. The exact length of time is being calculated, and the dues will be on a sliding scale, working up to regular TSE dues. This is a standard practice in synagogue integrations as a way to allow members to join the integrated temple at a discounted rate, it keeps the community together and leads to the highest possible retention rates.
2-Have there been any guidelines as to what our new dues will be?
We are looking to offer TRT members’ dues incentives for a year or two on joining TSE, as customary. We are currently looking at how to combine the TRT dues structure with TSE’s due’s structure because they are somewhat different. The calculations for this effort are underway. Once we will have more information, we will share.
1-Does the profit from the sale of the TRT building go to individuals or with the congregation?
By law, the proceeds from the sale must be transferred to another non-profit organization and cannot be given to individuals.
2-Will the integrated congregation change its name?
The name will remain TSE. We have a committee currently looking at numerous opportunities within the new congregation to ensure TRT’s legacy and name is honored and preserved.
3-Is this integration TRT’s only option?
This is our current focus as it is the best option to be part of a viable and thriving Jewish community in this area. We are confident that it is very achievable. We have looked at other options, which are less desirable and do not provide a long-term viability. In the event this integration does not succeed, we will go back to those options.
4-How many TRT members will join TSE?
We do not know this answer, but we hope many! The more TRT members that join TSE the better, since this will enable us to keep our community together and feel more at home amongst familiar faces.
5-What happened between TRT and Temple Shalom (TS)? Rabbi Weber was in favor for us to have Rabbi Mallinger as our next Rabbi. Can we go back to TS since the issue of selling our building no longer exists?
We were in integration talks with TS but a merger was not meant to be. This was apparent when disagreements about our building sale arose and we discovered that process, responses, and core values that we hold important were not aligned during these negotiations. Rabbi Malinger is a wonderful person, yet the integration with TS was not in TRT’s long-term best interests as the details were being negotiated.
6-When will the merger begin?
If the vote to proceed with negotiations with TSE is passed by our congregation on May 12th, we hope to begin our interim plan on July 1, 2021. This interim period will allow us to have clergy coverage available, weekly services, HH, religious school, joint programs, etc. The official legal merger is expected to close a few months later.
7-Has any thought gone into leasing other property to remain TRT?
We researched this idea, and we are aware of local rental costs. However, as our membership numbers are already low, they do not allow for a sustained income to support a thriving, growing Jewish community with a full time Rabbi and Cantor, and a religious school. If we go in that direction, we will need to look at reduced services and part time clergy.
8-Will we be able to have Normandie Bakery brownies at our Onegs?
We will try our best to suggest our new congregation try our favorite bakery!
9-Can we watch TSE services in advance of the upcoming vote on May 12th?
Yes. Links to watch videos of past worship services as well as past sermons by Rabbi Panken were provided. There is also a link available to sign up for a tour of the TSE building.
10-Will Rabbi Disick join the upcoming joint programs between TSE and TRT?
Yes, he will, until his last day as TRT’s Rabbi which is June 30th.
11-Why wasn’t the congregation given a look at all the options that were originally being pursued?
The Board has been focused and charged to come up with the best plan for our future. Major issues such as the retirement of Rabbi Weber, declining affiliation and changing demographics have made this the Board’s primary focus. The TRT Board, as all Boards of organizations, was nominated by the congregation to make decisions on behalf of the congregation. It would be impossible to involve hundreds of members in these types of evaluations.
12-What if this merger falls through?
We looked at other spaces to rent and we currently have an application submitted for a Rabbi. Our Cantor and Educator contract continue to next year. (see answer to question #3)
13-Will we be having a ceremony to say goodbye to TRT’s building?
Yes, we will. Date will be determined, and a message will go out as soon as we have it.
14-If families do not move to TSE, will they have access to a portion of the building sale proceeds?
No, these funds are required by law to be passed to another 501C organization and not to individuals.
15-What is the status of the Rabbi application that TRT filed?
We have submitted an application for a Rabbi. We will need a Rabbi if this integration does not take place. In addition, TSE has indicated, that if we integrate as planned, we will work together to hire an Assistant Rabbi, since Rabbi Panken will need assistance with a much larger congregation base. TRT will be an integral part of this search committee.
16-As someone who has been a member of both congregations, TRT & TSE, are you using us to help with the integration?
This is a great idea and any members in this position will be particularly valuable resource. We will reach out and try and make this happen.
17-When is the building sale expected to close?
The due diligence process by the buyer begun with the approval of the sale by the congregation, and we hope to close sometime in July/August.
18-Does the congregation need to vote on the merger or on the talks and the merger?
Per State laws, a congregational vote is only needed for the ultimate Merger Plan, before it is filed with the state of NJ. However, we decided to request a congregational vote to proceed with integration negotiations to keep the congregation informed and involved in the ongoing process. That first vote is scheduled to take place on May 12. Afterwards, we will be providing updates and information sessions as the integration talks continue before the final vote.
19- I heard we are considering a merge with a conservative Temple in Howell?
We would not be merging with a conservative temple; however, we had looked at their building as a possible alternate location to rent and share space side by side.
20-Is TSE pursuing us to take our building proceeds?
No! They are a fiscally strong, large congregation and we approached them after our prior integration fell through. Their driving objective is to ensure a strong and engaging Reform Jewish presence in Monmouth County. They are excited to welcome us with open arms. They value our members, culture, and unique strengths.
21-Who has a say where the funds from the building sale are applied?
The TRT Legacy Task force will produce proposals and reach agreement from the TSE integration team and their congregation. The TRT Board will approve the plan for the proceeds as well. The plan is to allocate the proceeds to honor and preserve TRT as well as benefit the new integrated congregation.
22-Has TSE voted to pursue this merger?
Yes, their Board has approved pursuing this integration. In addition, their congregation will vote to continue pursuing talks with TRT, the same night we hold our congregational vote on the same issue on May 12th at 7:30pm.
23-Has TSE ever been in merger discussions with another congregation?
1-Does TSE include Holocaust education in their congregation?
Yes, they do.
1-Does TSE have a Yom Kippur food drive?
We will discuss this with TSE.
2-Who in each family unit receives HH tickets?
We will discuss this with TSE.
3-Will the HH be in person?
We are unsure at this time as we cannot predict the pandemic rules and whether members would want to attend in person or be remote. We may run a survey to determine members support for in-person or virtual or hybrid HH services.
1-Does TSE use the same prayer books as TRT?
Yes, they do.
2- Will we be able to have some of the same activities we had at TRT? Can Tot Shabbat be held on Saturday mornings instead of Friday evening?
As we get involved, we can certainly work on adding programs on days and times that work best to engage many members.
The TSE Sisterhood President has already reached out to our Sisterhood to invite us to joint events, and there is more to come.
1-Will we be bringing our Torah’s?
Yes, we will, and there is a place for them!
2-Will our sacred objects have a home in the TSE building?
Yes, a team from both temples will work on logistics. Rabbi Panken and their Administrator have visited our building already as they started to evaluate the re-location of our precious items. This will include our Tree of Life and Memorial Wall. The TSE team understands how important it is to TRT members to have our sacred objects in our new spiritual home.
1-How are overlapping mitzvah dates being addressed?
We are working directly with each BM family, with TSE’s Rabbi, both Educators and both Cantors to come up with the best plan possible under the circumstances. This is not a perfect situation. If the current assigned date/time creates a conflict that is not acceptable for the family, various alternatives will be presented. We are committed to do our best to make an acceptable and favorable plan to keep our BM families on schedule at a different location.
1-Are we bringing Cantor Levine?
Yes, we are. She will be joining us as we integrate. She has another year on her current contract and will be working closely with the current TRT BM students and families, and with the TSE Cantor.
TRT’s Educator David Gronlund-Jacob will also be joining the integrated congregation for another year of his contract. He will work with TSE’s Educator to ensure the TRT students are aligned with the differing curriculums and serve as a consultant to integrate the schools.
2-What will happen to TRT’s staff and teachers?
We will work with TSE to evaluate all positions and work towards keeping as many positions that make sense for the integrated congregation.
1-How will the boards be integrated?
We will have proportional representation. This has been addressed in the Letter of intent. We anticipate that after the legal merger TRT will be 20% of the total membership of the integrated temple, and as a result we will have 5 seats on the board initially. That is a fair representation of our membership size. TSE leadership is excited to welcome our volunteers to the joint Board. TSE has a two-year Board terms. Once we are through the first term, anyone who is active on committees could be nominated to be on the Board.
2-How will the various committees join?
TRT members will be welcome to join any TSE committee. In addition, working joint committees will be formed in many disciplines to work towards integrating the two congregations.
3-Would there be co-chairs of committees?
TRT members will be invited to join all and any committees at TSE. At the beginning of the integration TSE chairs will remain but as our members volunteer and get involved co-chairing committees is expected. TSE is excited about TRT’s spirit of volunteerism.