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Members vote to merge two temples

Members vote to merge two temples

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Members of two area synagogues have agreed to merge as one congregation with a new name.

The congregations of Temple Beth El in the Town of Tonawanda and Temple Shaarey Zedek in Amherst both voted Wednesday to approve the merger.

The State Supreme Court must now sign off on the merger to make it official.

The new congregation will go by the name Temple Beth Tzedek, which translates into "House of Righteousness."

Both congregations overwhelmingly supported the merger, said Ed Drozen, president of Temple Beth El.

Synagogue leaders said 32 people -- or about 5 percent of those who cast ballots -- voted against the plan, developed after months of discussions between the two synagogues. The merger required approvals from at least two-thirds of the voting congregations.

Leaders in both temples supported the merger as a way to maintain and strengthen Conservative Judaism in Western New York.

"There's a great sense of relief," said Drozen. "We've worked for many months on this, and to see it pass is very gratifying."

A merger has been talked about for years, but both congregations resisted more serious discussions until last year.

Like many congregations in the area, their memberships have become significantly smaller -- and older -- in recent years, due to population shifts and changes in levels of religious observance.

It's unclear how long it will take the court to consider the merger request.

"We have no idea, but there's nothing contentious here, so we don't foresee any problems," said Lawrence Levin, who served as co-chairman of a merger committee at Temple Shaarey Zedek.

The name Temple Beth Tzedek was chosen and voted upon from among nominations submitted by members of both congregations.

Combined, the new congregation will have about 775 members. It will be housed at 621 Getzville Road, the current site of Temple Shaarey Zedek.

The buildings of Temple Beth El are for sale.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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