• Please note the Transition Team map has been updated.
• The Vision Statement is about to roll out to the congregational community!
• A few recent committee highlights:
- The Naming Committee has received over 50 names and will now begin the process of narrowing down the submissions.
- The Ritual Committee, in conjunction with Clergy, is mapping out the High Holiday Services and assigning honors.
- The Membership Committee is gearing up to reach out to all congregants throughout the month of April.
- The Programming committee is finalizing the identification of each club/cohort/committee’s leaders and collecting events to be calendared over the next year.
- Religious School is reviewing results from the parent survey.
- Preschool has a full census and is operating a waiting list for 2022-2023.
- The Clergy held a joyful meeting with families who have mitzvahs in 2024-2025. There will be another meeting of the ‘22-23, ‘23-24, and ‘24-25 years together where the mitzvah program is explained in more detail, such as community service expectations, worship service requirements and tutoring. That meeting is scheduled for May 1 at 11:00am. Following that, the families will be welcomed into the Social Hall to meet and sample goodies from our Caterers.
- The joint TE/MS congregation plans to worship together at Shabbat on Friday, April 22 (at MS). Also, again on Friday, June 3 (at TE) where we will enjoy the joint choir’s performance and honor gun violence awareness by wearing orange.
• We seek volunteers to get involved in planning a well-deserved big celebration of our unification. If interested, please contact Stephanie Zinn at [email protected]
January 25, 2022/23 Sh’vat 5782
Dear M’kor Shalom and Temple Emanuel Family,
What a sixteen-month journey it has been to lead us to this point, where both congregational communities voted to commit themselves to one another, and to envision a future in which we are stronger together than we could be individually.
Both Temple Emanuel and Congregation M’kor Shalom have strong roots, and rich and sacred histories. It is vitally important to me, as we begin our journey together, that we celebrate what is at the heart of the synagogue communities that have been our spiritual homes. The formation of a new synagogue is an exciting and holy endeavor, in which we are presented with an opportunity to boldly imagine and engage in the sacred work of creating a synagogue that is a strong and cutting-edge leader in moving progressive Judaism into the future. Yet at the same time, there is still much that we also wish to hold onto - those “touchstones” that make a place and a people feel like home.
At the heart of my rabbinate has always been a deep desire to listen to the stories of those I have the honor to serve. And as much as I am beyond excited to vision with you, I know we also find our sacred ground in honoring that which has been a meaningful part of our spiritual homes - those honored traditions that remind us of our sacred past and can teach us so much about each other’s hopes and dreams and values. I look forward to continuing to listen and to hearing what is most important for us to know about one another as we grow together.
I have also shared with many of you, most recently at our meet-and-greets for both M’kor Shalom and Temple Emanuel, that the greatest gift you entrust me with as your Rabbi is the key to your hearts and souls at some of the most joyous and difficult moments of your lives. It is an honor that I do not take lightly, and I deeply appreciate the trust you place in me to walk with you, to celebrate with you, and to support you through the ordinary and extraordinary challenges of life.
Born and raised in the Midwest, the Cherry Hill area has been my home for the past 13 years. And throughout that time, I have found that some of the best moments have been sharing in multiple simchas or other life-cycle events for families, some of whom are relatively new to the area, and some who can trace their family history back several generations in the same congregation. I look forward to sharing in the moments of life and building something new together.
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s the power inherent in feeling connected to others and the strength we find in being part of a community, part of something bigger than ourselves. In a world that can be challenging and isolating, we have the potential to create a new synagogue community where we can find renewed meaning and purpose, where we can seek inspiration and build life-long friendships, where we can make a difference in our building and beyond our walls, and where we can show up for one another, realize we are not alone, see the divine image in one another, and share in transformative experiences that can bring us even closer together.
It is my hope that we will have many occasions to gather together over these next few months, and certainly beginning in July. And it is with much excitement that I look forward to continuing to work with Cantor Harrison, Rabbi David, Cantor Schnitzer, Cantor Hochman, and Rabbi Disick, along with all of our combined staff and leadership teams.
We are stronger together, and while there is much work to do and a lot of new people to meet, may we always be committed to being a place, a home, a family, where holiness resides.
Hinei mah tov u’mah nayim shevet achim gam yachad
Behold how good and pleasant it is for us to dwell together.
Rabbi Jennifer L. Frenkel
Clergy Comments about Unification
Rabbi Jennifer L. Frenkel, Senior Rabbi
We are standing at the threshold of an incredible and exciting opportunity! At a time when we see the landscape of Judaism and synagogues change around us, we are bringing together our collective strengths to create a community that infuses the deep roots of our past with a boldness to grow and envision a new path forward together.
As a community that honors the divine image in one another, where Jewish values guide our actions, where we constantly strive to seek sparks of the holy in the moments of our lives, and where we can find a heightened and transformative sense of meaning, purpose, and connection wherever we find ourselves on our life-journey, we look forward to being on the cutting-edge of leading the way into the future.
I look forward to partnering with our clergy, staff, leadership team, and members of our new synagogue family as we take this next step together, committed to inspiring generations of our families through engaging in study, prayer, and making a difference in the world.
Rabbi Jerry David, Rabbi Emeritus
This is the moment…the stars have lined up…and the strengths of our two synagogues will unify to form a dynamic new entity. We are building something new, Innovative and exciting. Yet, there will be a constant…there will always be a constant and that constant is our FAITH. The Talmud teaches that the first step is the hardest. And it is. We have taken those first steps and will keep moving forward as we go from Strength to Strength.
Cantor Rhoda J. Harrison, Ph. D., Senior Cantor
I am delighted and honored to be part of the unification of these two congregations into a vibrant center for progressive Judaism. Chazak chazak v’nitchazek – we all, both the members of our to-be-named new Reform congregation and the community beyond its walls, will be strengthened by our joining together in our pursuit of Torah, worship, and social justice.
Cantor Neil M. Schnitzer, Cantor Sheini
The only constant in life is change. The key to change is how we respond when it comes. That is the time when we call upon our faith. Not only faith in God, but also in the people with whom we share our journey. I am truly honored and look forward to the opportunity of working with the combined leadership of this wonderful new entity. When we bring to this change our core values and our combined strengths, together we will create, b’ezrat haShem, a rejuvenated progressive Jewish spirit in the South Jersey community.
Cantor Anita Hochman, Cantor Emerita
Chazak, chazak v’nit’chazek! Be strong, be strong and we will strengthen one another!
With open hearts and minds, creative and thoughtful vision, our unified congregation will serve us, our community and our people with renewed vitality and commitment.
I pray for our unified strength and wisdom to move us forward in joy so that together we may Shiru L’Adonai Shir Chadash ~ Sing to God a new song!
Congregation M’kor Shalom
Frequently Asked Questions on Unification
Why is unification between the two reform synagogues in the Cherry Hill area being considered?
We wish to create a vibrant, thriving, and innovative reform Jewish congregation in South Jersey.
A Mission and Vision committee, led by Rabbi Frenkel with members from Temple Emanuel and Congregation M’kor Shalom, has begun working on a comprehensive mission and vision statement. This document will incorporate the core values and mission statements of both congregations and be a guide for broader goals for the new congregation.
What has happened so far?
The Presidents and select members of each Executive Committee from both congregations held numerous meetings to see if they should pursue more detailed discussions.
Each Board voted to engage in formal discussions and then announced those decisions to each congregation. The two congregations then formed joint working groups with members from each to discuss specific subject matter areas: Governance, House, Education, Finance, Ritual, and Membership.
The Presidents of each congregation held meetings with Rabbi David Fine of the U.R.J. to discuss oversight of the unification process and provide guidance.
The congregations created a Unification Management Committee with 6 members from each congregation to begin compiling the information, recommendations, and questions from the working groups and to address any open issues.
The congregations held additional meetings with the clergy of both synagogues to begin a dialogue as to how the new clergy team’s roles, obligations, and responsibilities would be managed, with Rabbi Frenkel taking the lead as Senior Rabbi and Rabbi David as Rabbi Emeritus. To facilitate these discussions, the Unification Management Committee has recommended the inclusion of an outside clergy consultant (at the recommendation of Rabbi Fine) to assist with these ongoing conversations.
The congregations conducted virtual “meet the clergy” meetings to introduce clergy members of each congregation to the other.
In addition, both congregations held open meetings to discuss specific areas of congregational life, with the purpose of identifying areas of agreement and to highlight which areas requiring further discussion.
Temple Emanuel hosted several tours of its building led jointly by members of the M’kor Shalom and Temple Emanuel executive board members so M’kor Shalom members could gain familiarity and comfort with the space that would house the unified congregation.
Both congregations voted in favor of unification during meetings on January 24, 2022. Temple Emanuel will join together as one new congregation effective July 1, 2022.
A Transition Team will immediately begin the logistical, legal, and practical work of combining the two entities with a date of July 1, 2022, as the start of unified operations.
Who will the clergy be for the unified synagogue? The unified congregation will retain all current clergy. The congregation would retain Rabbi Frenkel as the Senior Rabbi and Cantor Harrison as the Senior Cantor. Rabbi David will have an active Rabbi Emeritus role and Cantor Schnitzer will serve as Cantor Sheini, focusing on Brit Mitzvah training and education. Cantor Hochman will continue as Cantor Emerita in a similar role to the one she currently enjoys, as will other current teaching clergy such as Rabbi Address and Rabbi Eron.
Will the current clergy combination be enough for a larger unified congregation?We will work to obtain a full time Assistant Rabbi once the unification vote is finalized. In a new, larger congregation, we want to have all the necessary resources to effectively provide for all needs and events in congregational life (lifecycle, ritual, educational, programming, etc.).
Where will the unified synagogue be located? The current Temple Emanuel campus, located at 1101 Springdale Road in Cherry Hill (across the street from the Jewish Community Center), will house the unified synagogue. We reached this conclusion after conducting an analysis of both physical locations. We determined that the Temple Emanuel building is more than adequate for the size of the anticipated unified congregation – the Temple Emanuel building previously housed a congregation of over 1,100 families. In addition, the Temple Emanuel building is newer, has less deferred maintenance, fewer infrastructure problems, has a recently replaced roof and HVAC systems, and has a substantially smaller mortgage.
What will happen to the current M’kor Shalom building? M’kor Shalom would sell its current land and building. Based on discussions with the commercial realtor, M’kor Shalom believes that the lot/building (under current zoning) would make 850 E. Evesham Road a desirable property to several potential purchasers. With the proceeds from the imminent land sale to PSE&G as well, the new congregation could carry the property maintenance and mortgage for at least 18 months without a negative financial impact on the new synagogue. We would offset moving expenses with the proceeds from the sale and use the proceeds to fund a capital account and possible endowment. The Board of the new entity will have the authority determine where to allocate the money from this sale.
What will happen to the contents of the current M’kor Shalom building? Understanding the logistical and emotional challenges of unifying the synagogues, the leaders of Temple Emanuel have committed to finding a location for everything that the M’kor Shalom congregation (through the ritual committee) finds sacred or meaningful. The goal is to create a unified space that feels comfortable, traditional, warm, and holy to members of both congregations. This is a complex undertaking and the parties have already held many tours, meetings, and discussions regarding moving sacred items like Torahs, memorial/dedicatory plaques, and M’kor Shalom’s Tree of Life and T’zur Chaiyenu. We have secured bids for the work of transferring the main stained-glass window at M’kor Shalom (currently fixed above the bimah), as well as the larger side panels from the sanctuary. We also anticipate moving the Torah table and clergy lecterns at M’kor Shalom for incorporation into in the main sanctuary at Temple Emanuel. We are also considering plans for additional details such as M’kor Shalom’s chapel ark doors and other display items. In addition, Temple Emanuel currently does not operate a gift shop, so the parties are discussing the feasibility and financial consequence of moving the M’kor Shalom gift shop over to Temple Emanuel to be run by the unified congregation.
Will there be an increase in dues/shares? We are not planning for any significant change in the cost of membership (+/- 5%) following unification. Based on our preliminary review of the income and expenditures of a unified congregation, we foresee significant operational efficiencies. We have also analyzed our dues and cost structures, which are quite similar. We are planning to accommodate existing specialty membership categories. Our goal is to create an inclusive unified congregation that serves the needs of our Jewish community, consistent with the overall mission statement for the new congregation. To that end, we do not wish to place any unneeded new financial burdens on our members.
Will there be a new building fund requirement? No. Any member who has already fulfilled a building fund commitment need not contribute to another building fund as part of the unification. However, members who are still paying their current building fund would be obligated to continue such payments until the commitment is satisfied. We also anticipate that the sale of the M’kor Shalom building would result in a fund of approximately $1 million, which we would use in part to cover the burdens of future large capital expenditures.
How will dues relief work? Both congregations have current mechanisms in place to support members who have financial circumstances that limit their ability to pay full dues. A combined congregational finance team would create the protocol to be followed in order to apply for dues relief. A core value of both congregations is the same – no one should lose the ability to participate as an active member based on financial circumstances. For that reason, the new synagogue remains committed to inclusion and opening its doors to anyone who wishes to be a member.
Who will be the leaders of the religious school? In addition to the education working group meetings, the current religious school leadership at both synagogues held meetings to discuss the mechanics and management of a unified religious school. We anticipate that Sheri Greenblatt, Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Emanuel, would serve as the director of the unified religious school. Jill Moghadam would retain a primary role in running the school along with Sheri, and Adam Roth would continue as both the Inclusion Coordinator (a role that is not currently filled at Temple Emanuel) and the Hebrew High School Coordinator. Jill’s role would focus on curriculum, student engagement, youth programming, extracurricular programming, educational programming, and synagogue-wide education in addition to her religious school duties. We would incorporate teachers from both current religious schools into the new unified school, with the hiring decisions ultimately delegated to Sheri, Jill, and Adam in formulating the new program.
What will happen to the Early Childhood Center/Preschool? The unification will enable us to deliver an expanded, outstanding and nurturing preschool education. Temple Emanuel has a thriving early childhood center in addition to an infant room, providing a service that M’kor Shalom does not currently have. In addition, Temple Emanuel opens earlier and ends later, hours that would help many with needed childcare. Temple Emanuel’s current preschool Director, Laura Hoffman, would remain in place to lead this successful program. Stacey Unterlack, M’kor Shalom’s current Assistant ECC Director, will have the opportunity to continue in the same capacity in the new unified preschool. The Temple Emanuel preschool is financially successful, and unification will only improve by incorporating the children from M’kor Shalom. Any current student/child in either ECC school or program will be guaranteed a spot in the new unified ECC if registered by March 15, 2022. As with the religious school, the staffing decisions for the new preschool will be left to the program directors.
What will happen to Hebrew High School? This is an area of considerable strength for M’kor Shalom, and following unification, we will maintain and expand the program. The percentage of post Brit Mitzvah students that continue their Jewish education at Temple Emanuel is smaller in comparison. Together, we have a long history of providing compelling and challenging Jewish education to our high school students, and unification will allow us to expand upon these programs. We will maintain and build upon many existing programs, including the Confirmation Israel Trip.
What staff and teachers will be retained? We do not currently know which specific teachers and administrative staff we will be retained nor in what capacity. We will leave this decision to the School Directors after the unification vote.
What ritual observances remain in the unified congregation? This is a unique opportunity to integrate traditions of both synagogues into something new and different. Our clergy and lay leaders are looking forward to this opportunity to energize our various rituals, while maintaining the most meaningful and important elements from each congregation. The unified congregation will create something new that is both beautiful and holy, while maintaining the most important traditions and elements from both congregations.
What time will Shabbat services be?Which prayer book will be used?We have not yet made any specific decisions on these topics, although one of the purposes of the initial transitional year is to explore different options. We note that both congregations use the same Mishkan T’filah prayer books, albeit different editions, so there is easy integration for both Shabbat and the holidays.
Will there be a congregational choir? Yes. Music is an important part of both congregations, and both have a strong choir. Cantor Harrison will lead the unified choir. We have also invited Dr. Julia Zavadsky, Temple Emanuel’s professional choral conductor, to serve as a Guest Conductor for designated events, services, or special moments during the year. We have not yet finalized the decision on a choral accompanist.
What about musical accompaniment for services? Both congregations incorporate a great deal of music into worship services. Musical accompaniment during worship is a wonderful element of both synagogue traditions, and following unification, we will retain it in a meaningful capacity. Because the music is not identical at both congregations, members from both congregations should expect some differences following unification, but these changes should foster creativity that we think will only enhance our ritual experiences.
What about assigning dates for upcoming Brit Mitzvot? All dating conflicts for currently dated Brit Mitzvah students have been resolved. Part of the transition process will include a combined dating calendar so no new conflicts arise.
When is the proposed unification date? The calendar year for both congregations end on June 30, and so the target date for the official unification is planned for July 1, 2022. Both congregations would continue to operate separately until that date and commence joint operations on that date.
Will there be a “transition year”?Following a successful unification vote by both congregations, we will have a “transition year” for the first year beginning on July 1, 2022. During the transition year, a combined Board of Trustees (12 from each congregation) and combined Executive Committee (6 from each congregation) will govern the unified congregation. We have chosen the temporary name of “Temple Emanuel M’kor Shalom” for this transition year only. We are planning on sitting a working group after the congregational vote on 1/24/2022 to help identify a permanent name. We created a governance working group of the two synagogues that is preparing a draft of proposed by-laws.
Who will be the President of the unified congregations?During the transitional first year, we will have two co-presidents. From M’kor Shalom, Drew Molotsky will serve the second year of his existing term. From Temple Emanuel, Sallie Brown, the current Executive Vice President, will serve as co-president.
Has budgeting been explored? Yes. The finance working group has prepared a preliminary “pro forma” budget for the unified congregation, which the Unification Management Team has revised and edited. For now, we have prepared numbers conservatively, including lower overall membership and higher expenses than we anticipate. We have also assumed the possibility of carrying the costs of M’kor Shalom’s building for an entire year after unification. Even with this conservative approach, the overall budgeting was very favorable, showing a substantial budget surplus. The eventual sale of M’kor Shalom’s building would further provide funds to secure or endow operations, capital expenditures, or repairs. If unification is approved by both congregations, we would present a joint budget for the unified congregation for approval in the normal budgeting window in the Spring.
What decisions have been made about specific staff? Other than clergy and religious school and preschool leaders, we have not made decisions regarding specific staffing needs of the unified congregation. We know there are many unknowns for the 2022-23 year, but we are committed to maintaining as many administrative and teaching staff as possible from both congregations. We will not give preference or priority to staff based on whether they are currently at Temple Emanuel or M’kor Shalom.