Super-size us: Key Reform shuls are talking merger


The leadership of Hendon Reform Synagogue has recommended a merger with Edgware and District Reform Synagogue to form a super-sized congregation.

Although Hendon still serves around 700 families, it has an ageing profile and little more than 10 per cent of members live in the area. With 2,000 families, Edgware remains one of the country's largest synagogues.

A merger on this scale, involving two of London's most established Reform synagogues - Edgware was founded in 1935, Hendon in 1949 - would be unprecedented within the movement. But it reflects the shift of the Jewish population further north-west.

Many of the children of Hendon members have moved out to the expanding Hertfordshire congregations. Although it still has a nursery, the children are mostly from local Orthodox congregations.

In a notice posted on Hendon's website, its council said the merger offered a "wonderful prospect" for the Reform community.

Barely 10 per cent of Hendon members live locally

It would give an opportunity to "enhance the spiritual, educational, youth facilities, social and welfare and security needs and broaden its congregational support for our members in north-west London".

Neither Hendon chairman Philip Bright nor his Edgware counterpart Stephen Garfinkel wished to comment ahead of further discussions among their congregants.

But Mr Bright has previously said that "with the rise in the number of Jewish schools and the changing day-to-day requirements of our communities, we need to consider the long-term effect this will have on our synagogues and membership".

Hendon members have been invited to attend a meeting next week to put forward their views ahead of a vote on the plan in May.

The synagogue council has also considered other proposals including redevelopment of its current site or relocation to areas such as Mill Hill. But these options were not felt to be either "financially viable or in the best interests of our membership".

Reform movement chairman Robert Weiner observed that the merger plan arose out of the particular demographics of the two communities and was not an indication of membership decline within the movement itself.

"Overall, Reform communities have more members this year than they did the year before," he said.

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