After 68 years of hosting religious services, Temple Emanu-El of East Meadow will merge its synagogue with Temple B’Nai Torah in Wantagh.
The early stages of the merger have already begun, but Rabbi Daniel Bar-Nahum of Temple Emanu-El, and Rabbi Howard Nacht, of Temple B’Nai Torah said that both synagogues will officially merge next July.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Bar-Nahum said. “But it’s something that we need to do to ensure that we provide the best religious experience for our congregants.”
Bar-Nahum said that the idea of merging Temple Emanu-El with a nearby synagogue arose three years ago after the executive board concluded that the number of congregants was slowly decreasing year after year.
“It takes a lot of money to run a building the size of Temple Emanu-El,” Bar-Nahum said. The board also concluded that the synagogue’s budget could not maintain the repairs and management that the building required to continue operations. “The clear choice was to merge with a nearby temple.”
After brainstorming several ideas, the board decided to merge with Temple B’Nai Torah. The decision became official after congregants from both temples voted in favor of the merger this past summer. Nacht said that more than 90 percent of voters favored the consolidation, a figure that both Nacht and Bar-Nahum were surprised to see.
“We’ve had some very positive reactions from both sides,” Nacht said. “Even before talk of the merger, we decided to hold some joint services and try and get a feel for each other and see what the chemistry would be like — we realized that we shared many of the same values and a unified vision.”
Temple B’Nai Torah, on Jerusalem Avenue in Wantagh, has members from surrounding communities such as Seaford, Bellmore, North Bellmore, Merrick, East Meadow, Levittown and Massapequa.
With a space large enough to hold 700 families (B’Nai Torah currently hosts around 400, while Emanu-El hosts 200), Nacht said it should be no problem fitting more families into the building, which has been done before.
The Wantagh temple is no stranger to merging with other congregations. B’Nai Torah is the result of a union between Suburban Temple and what was once Temple Judea of Massapequa 10 years ago.
“Temple B’Nai’s experience and expertise has helped alleviate some of the anxiety,” Bar-Nahum said of the merger. “They are very open to doing things in different ways, and our leadership has become nothing but mission-focused, hoping to bring these two congregations together in a very big way.”
Although Nacht will retire next July 1, he said he is confident that the new congregation will thrive with Bar-Nahum taking the reins.
“Even though we will be one congregation, representation from different committees and different governing bodies will be equally split,” Bar-Nahum added. “With the expectation that three years down the road, we will not feel like two parts of a whole but will feel like one whole and one temple coming together.”