Byline: Bronislaus B. Kush
WORCESTER - The city's two Reform Jewish congregations - both struggling over the past few years with financial difficulties and significant drops in membership - may merge.
Task forces made up of members of Temple Emanuel on May Street and Temple Sinai on Salisbury Street began studying the possibility of combining the synagogues several months ago.
Under the reorganization plan under consideration, the combined congregation would conduct services at the Temple Sinai house of worship on the west side while the Temple Emanuel complex off Chandler Street would become part of the nearby Worcester State University campus.
Synagogue officials, recognizing that change is not easy, said a merger would re-invigorate the local Reform community and provide the needed resources to build a future for the next generations.
However, members of both temples said the proposed merger is fraught with issues that need to be resolved, the most pressing being the sale of Temple Emanuel to the university's nonprofit foundation.
A sales agreement has yet to be struck, even though the congregation at Temple Emanuel has scheduled a vote May 19 to decide if its spiritual home should be sold.
Even if terms are negotiated, the congregation - in what is expected to be an emotional vote - could decide to retain the buildings because members felt the deal wasn't good enough or because they changed their thinking on a merger.
"There are still a lot of questions out there," said David Coyne, who runs Hillel House at Clark University and is a Temple Emanuel congregant. "A temple may just be a building, but it can be especially significant to some members."
If the 1940s-era building, which can accommodate up to 1,200 people, is sold, congregants still want to use the sanctuary for special events, such as the High Holidays. That may not be possible under the terms of any sale.
Temple Sinai was formed in the mid-1950s when a group from Temple Emanuel decided to establish another congregation.
Issues that have been examined by the special panels have included governance, worship, operations, finances, demographics, staffing and choosing which synagogue complex would best serve a combined congregation.
The two synagogues already share some resources and, along with other local Jewish groups, operate a community religious school.
In the final report of the task forces, which was released in February, it was recommended that the new congregation be...