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Letters to the Editor

Shaky ground for
synagogues?
I am concerned that the future of Conservative Judaism is on shaky ground in Louisville.
It is obvious to anyone who has gone to shul in the last few years that we have aging Conservative congregations. In fact, according to numbers provided to me by Adath Jeshurun, 70 percent of its congregants are over 60. Loss from death outnumbers new members 2 to 1. I presume that demographics at Keneseth Israel are similar. At the end of 2021, AJ had 406 members, and KI had 260, they said. The old cultural differences will soon have died out. At least, for most of us.
Members from both congregations agree that merger is inevitable. What are we waiting for? If something is not done soon, one or both congregations may not exist. Is that fair to future generations of Conservative Jews?
If for no other reason, the financial numbers make the decision easy. Merge the two congregations into one building and build an income- producing facility on the grounds of the other building. The staff could be cut in half; the overhead would be cut in half, and only one rabbi and one cantor would be needed. This action would increase the life of one solid congregation, and Conservative Judaism, for years.
The real problem now is that both congregations have hired new rabbis in the past 12 months. Maybe we could work around that, but how long do we keep spending twice the money that we need to and risk the demise of one or both? Let’s think long term for the sake of Conservative Judaism. Let’s have this conversation now.

Chuck O’Koon
Louisville

A joint response from AJ and KI
We appreciate Chuck’s passion for Conservative Judaism, which we share as well. On paper, mergers look practical. In actuality, mergers are very complicated.
Adath Jeshurun and Keneseth Israel have discussed the possibility of merger numerous times over the past few decades. In every case, the outcome was a preference to maintain separate synagogue communities. Members of both synagogues have ties to their spiritual homes. This includes generational connections, familiar traditions, pride in their building, relationships with clergy, bonds with fellow members and memories of many joyous occasions.
In 2019, the Louisville Council of Jewish Congregations, in conjunction with the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, embarked on a sustainability study by the Rosov Consulting Firm. The issue of a possible merger was discussed. The consultant’s response from the report stated:
“We understand that each congregation has a unique culture and history, and simply merging those of like denominations is not the only – or the best – solution for this sustainability challenge.”
Chuck’s letter states, “The real problem now is that both congregations have hired new rabbis in the past 12 months.” We don’t view the hiring of new clergy as a “problem.” In fact, we view this as a wonderful opportunity to energize Conservative Judaism in Louisville.
With the arrival of Rabbi Ben Freed at KI and Rabbi Joshua Corber at AJ, we feel doubly blessed by this dynamic new infusion of youth, energy and ideas. We are very excited about the future of Conservative Judaism in Louisville.

Cybil Flora, president
Adath Jeshurun Board of Trustees

Leigh Bird, president
Keneseth Israel Board of Directors

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