Carrying the Scrolls to a New Place
July 4, 2012 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Two synagogues in the Buffalo area decided to merge. One is Reform and one is Reconstructionist. While I have a good idea of what these particular movements are in and of themselves, what would a merger of these two temples mean for everyday life for members, temple services, rabbinical duties, etc. I am interested as one of the articles mentions this is the first merger of its kind for both movements. Thank you!
posted by oflinkey to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As the article says, they are "striking out in new directions to maintain the valued history and traditions of both." So as in any other merger, it's hard to say how it will play out. However, it's not unusual for Reform temples to lean Reconstructionist, anyway (more Hebrew, more emphasis on community, more incorporation of traditional Jewish practice). Although there are people who strongly identify with one movement or the other, I daresay that lots of liberal Jews looking for a congregation to affiliate with would visit both the Reconstructionist and Reform congregations in their town and pick the one that they liked best. It's nothing like a merger between, say, a Methodist and Baptist church. Short answer: the merger is likely not going to make a huge difference in the everyday life of the average congregant.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:01 PM on July 4, 2012

Yeah, in my experience attending/working at both kinds, the only major difference is the liturgy/services--Reconstructionist services are a LOT more Hebrew intense--very similar to Conservative Jewish services/liturgy. Reform Judaism has been moving toward a more Hebrew-heavy service in the last couple decades, but is nowhere near that level. Presumably they'll compromise on that in some way, and otherwise things shouldn't be too different for their congregants.
posted by leesh at 1:05 PM on July 4, 2012

They probably have different prayer books, different tunes that they use when they sing, maybe different times for services, different dates for their groups (which is hard because people have organised themselves around the time their bookgroup or whatever meets), they may have a few overlapping bar/bat mitzvahs, different slants on what they expect from a sermon -- nothing insurmountable, but just traditions that will change and that will be difficult.

It is possible that they have different rules for kashrut, head coverings, tallises, formality of services, amount of Hebrew, etc, and these will be more difficult to reconcile, because these can be things people feel strongly about -- is the food space kosher? How do we define kosher? Can I bring food in as long as it's dairy-only, even if I made it in a non-kosher space?

It depends how both synagogues have chosen to interpret things, because there's a lot of latitude.

(I have been a member at both a Reform and a Reconstructionist synagogue.)
posted by jeather at 1:12 PM on July 4, 2012

The issues that jeather lays out are certainly issues but I want to make clear that they would be present even if the synagogues were in the same movement. They are the basic issues that have to be determined when forming any synagogue, especially with liberal synagogues where "what's the strictest thing we can come up with?" doesn't cut it.

The only thing I can think of that's a real difference between movements might be if they used the movement's version of the prayer books, but even so - the text likely doesn't vary much, and the tunes vary from synagogue-to-synagogue (and sometimes day-to-day) even within one movement.
posted by Lady Li at 1:57 PM on July 4, 2012

The article you linked to describes how the leadership will be shared.

In churches where this happens there is lots of negotiation that occurs so that members of both original congregations feel that their traditions are part of the new community.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 4:19 PM on July 4, 2012

My favorite topic!
I didn't read the article or anything, but after having gone to a technically-non-denom-but-really-recon synagogue for a while, I can say that a Recon-Reform merge probably might not change that much. Our Recon synagogue was really into singing the first lines of songs in hebrew...but not reading the whole thing in hebrew (just to give an example). Not really Hebrew-intensive, all things considered, especially since (IIRC) the Recon siddur has lots of transliteration. A lot of talking from the rabbi in between the davening. That sort of thing would depend on what the community wants, just like anything.
The Reform siddur, furthermore, is trying to become more traditional and is including more Hebrew. Actually, the traditional shift of Reform would look a lot like Recon, in my opinion. I believe they also both share a lot of practical ideology--e.g. female rabbis, patrilineal descent, egalitarianism, "individual autonomy," very liberal views of halacha (kashrut, shabbat, and so on), etc.
It shouldn't look too different.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 6:40 PM on July 4, 2012

Oh, and anyone who says Recon services are similar to Conservative services haven't been to (traditional) Conservative services! The Conservative service, AFAIK, still keeps a good percentage of the liturgy (sans the korbanot readings and the stuff about the candle wicks and stuff like that)...whereas Recon has absolutely no reason (ideologically speaking) to keep the traditional structure if the community doesn't want it. The seriously got rid of a lot. Like, a lot.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 6:43 PM on July 4, 2012

Reconstructionists won't say they are "the chosen people".
posted by brujita at 12:42 AM on July 5, 2012

Lady Li is correct; none of these issues would be non-issues with two Reform or two Reconstructionist congregations moving, except possibly the issue of prayer book choice. (Both synagogues I went to used the standard for their movement, where the Reform one recently changed to the new Reform version. I did see Reconstructionist rabbis named in it -- for hymns or translations, maybe.)
posted by jeather at 3:39 AM on July 5, 2012

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