Two of Leeds' Orthodox synagogues could merge in new plans

Etz Chaim and Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogues are in talks to create a new shul


The long-running merger talks between two of the three main Orthodox synagogues in Leeds are back on after previously reaching a standstill.

Etz Chaim and Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogues said they were “currently in discussions regarding a merger, or rather, the creation together of a new Shul.”

Early this year the JC reported that a senior source at Etz Chaim said that the talks had “hit a brick wall”.

However in a letter to members this week Martin Port, President of Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue and Paul Gross, President of Etz Chaim said: “We have appointed a joint working group to finalise all elements of the project and to identify the best ways to bring our two communities together.

"We are excited about the potential benefits of the project, which include the opportunity to create a stronger, more vibrant community that can better serve the needs of our members by providing greatly enhanced service levels.”

The pair said that the plans for a new shul for the community had already “made excellent progress.”

They added: “Both presidents, together with the executive and honorary officers, have an absolute commitment to achieving our goal of creating a new shul that will bring together the best of both of our communities.

Mr Gross had previously told members that Etz Chaim had approached BHH 15 years ago with a proposal to create a “new combined shul”.

While focus groups involving members of both congregations BHH had been set up to sound their views, the process had been interrupted by Covid.

Both Mr Gross and Mr Port said they hoped “to be able to go to a members vote in the final quarter of this year 2023.”

13 years ago, BHH’s Rabbi Jason Kleiman publicly advocated a merger not only between the two communities but one that also brought in the United Hebrew Congregation as well.

“It’s a demographics issue," he argued. "We have three very expensive buildings, all much of a muchness. The argument is not about a dwindling community - it's the exact opposite. I want to see a united community, a new entity with the three leaders of these shuls working together.”

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