November 6, 2023 Message and FAQs
Dear Fellow Congregants,
I hope this message finds you well during these challenging times. We are pleased to share the latest updates regarding our exploratory process for the opportunity to join Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple as one congregation.
Since mid-September, we have engaged in meaningful conversations with many of you about our vision for creating an innovative, multi-generational congregation where everyone feels welcome. Together, we have the potential to strengthen our congregation, enhance programs, engage with more members, and attract new ones. We are immensely grateful to all those who attended our town hall meetings, sent emails, and asked thoughtful questions.
The feedback we have received has been invaluable. Many of you had similar questions, ranging from how a merger would impact religious education and lifecycle events to how it would strengthen our Reform Judaism movement and where we would worship. To address these and many other questions, we have included a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) at the end of this message. Here are the highlights of our next steps in the process:
- Our joint task force has developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which reflects our areas of alignment: a clergy team led by Rabbi Rob Nosanchuk, a unified home at the current The Temple-Tifereth Israel building, a unified educational program, a unified administrative operation and team, unified finances to support a combined congregation, and one unified Board. Both Executive Committees will vote on the MOU on November 7. If they approve it, the Boards of both Temples will meet to discuss and vote on the MOU on November 27. If the Boards approve the MOU, we will hold a congregational vote regarding unification, in the next few months. We are currently planning the logistics for the vote and will provide additional details in the near future.
- We will be offering more opportunities to hear from clergy from both Temples, connect with congregants from both Temples and share additional information. On November 17, each Temple will have visiting clergy from the other Temple for a Shabbat of Gratitude, giving us an opportunity to connect and engage on a spiritual level just before Thanksgiving.
- On December 3, our Temples will host a joint Conversation with Clergy at our Temple. This gathering will allow you to listen in as clergy from both Temples talk with each other, tell their personal journeys, and share their hopes for the future. Immediately following the conversation, we will have the opportunity to chat with the clergy and fellow congregants from Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, and we will offer tours of our building.
A lot of work, thought, and care has gone into the last six weeks since your last update. We have learned more about Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, and we have seen tremendous potential for a shared future with a stronger, combined community. We encourage you to engage with us at the upcoming events to learn more about this exciting vision for the future and to build new connections with our fellow members of the Cleveland Jewish community.
Thank you for being an essential part of our congregation. We value your input and support as we look forward to the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.
Board President, The Temple-Tifereth Israel
FAQs and Answers
Potential Unification of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple & The Temple-Tifereth Israel
Why are we considering unification?
Both Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and The Temple-Tifereth Israel are historic, vibrant Temples with engaged and committed congregants—but we believe we will be better together. Both congregations are facing external demographic changes that are causing our membership and budgets to shrink. Together we can share resources while using our assets more efficiently, which will allow more opportunities for innovation, expanded programming, community impact and outreach. Together we enhance long-term financial sustainability, allowing us to flourish for future generations.
Do I have a say in this decision?
Yes! Your input is important. We’ve gathered tremendous feedback through our town halls, one-on-one meetings and via email. Members of both congregations will be able to vote on unification. Before the vote, we will have additional programs where you can learn more about the potential unification. More details will be coming soon.
What would be the timeline for final decision and potential unification?
On November 7, the Executive Committees from each board will review and vote on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) developed by the joint task force to define expectations and responsibilities going into a potential partnership. If the Executive Committees approve the MOU, the Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and The Temple-Tifereth Israel boards will vote on November 27. If both boards approve the MOU, we’ll hold a congregant vote. Should congregants decide to unify, we would develop and share a transition process and implementation timeline. The effective date of unification would be July 1, 2024.
What does the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) say?
The MOU reflects the areas of alignment, developed by the joint exploration task force, which have been shared with the congregations. These areas include clergy leadership, led by Rabbi Rob Nosanchuk, a unified home at the current The Temple-Tifereth Israel building, a unified educational program, a unified administrative operation and team, unified finances to support a combined congregation, and a unified board of trustees.
What happens if we don’t unify?
We will move forward independently, having learned more about ourselves and each other and built deeper ties between us.
Are we in danger of closing if we don’t unify?
If we decide not to unify, these historic legacy congregations will continue independently, examining strategies to address the challenges each faces. If we do unify, we will be able to do more than survive—we can thrive.
Is this a done deal?
No—a decision has not been made. While the joint task force has aligned on a shared vision for the future and developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to guide the principles of a potential agreement, the ultimate decision is with each congregation through a congregational vote.
How will this unification support Reform Judaism?
Reform Judaism is a worldwide movement. Both of our present congregations are vital parts of that movement. The new entity will continue to affiliate with the Union for Reform Judaism as each of the current synagogues were among the earliest members in the Reform Jewish movement, having coordinated much of its social action with the Religions Action Center of Ohio and Washington DC, its URJ camps and NFTY youth movement. Within the Cleveland community, we will continue to be a source of great collaboration with other Reform synagogues by bringing together teens to share 7-12 grade retreats, Monday night learning modules and co-hosting NFTY regional activities in Cleveland.
Will unification be hard?
While unification would be a significant change for all of us, it offers tremendous potential to create a more vibrant, unified Reform Jewish community in greater Cleveland.
Why is Rabbi Nosanchuk recommended to lead a potential unified congregation?
Rabbi Rob Nosanchuk has a strong record for two decades serving as a Senior Rabbi, building and sustaining deep-rooted personal connections with communities he serves. He prioritizes establishing teams of rabbis and cantors to share pastoral, liturgical and educational responsibilities with mutual respect, trust and integrity. He invests energy engaging young people—the “soul” of his rabbinate.
Who is Rabbi Nosanchuk?
Rabbi Nosanchuk has been senior rabbi at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple since 2009. He is the devoted spouse to Joanie Berger (whom he married at The Temple-Tifereth Israel at University Circle with Rabbi Klein as a co-officiant) and proud father of two children.
Rabbi Nosanchuk was ordained at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 2001. Prior to Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, Rabbi Nosanchuk served as Senior Rabbi at Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston, VA and Associate Rabbi at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in Baltimore, MD. He earned the Washingtonian Award in 2009 and the Best ofReston Award in 2009 for path-breaking interfaith work between the Jews and Muslims.
Rabbi Nosanchuk’s achievements at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple include reviving the strategic engagement of young people after B’nai Mitzvah, leading hundreds of congregants in four trips to explore the State of Israel and leading an interfaith trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories for imams, pastors and rabbis.
He has volunteered for the Union for Reform Judaism in youth engagement and camp programs, served on the board of NATAL, a center in Israel for building resilience against post-traumatic stress, and as co-chair of the Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC).
Should we be concerned about Rabbi Nosanchuk’s health given his recent bout with cancer?
Rabbi Nosanchuk has been open and transparent about his experience with cancer. In 2019, he shared with his congregation that he was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma. While maintaining his role as Fairmount Temple’s Senior Rabbi, he sought and received two years of cancer immunotherapy treatment that saved his life. He has since achieved great progress in physical rehabilitation. His doctors have expressed confidence in the opportunity for him to move from his current, stable scans to remission.
What will the rest of the clergy team look like?
Rabbi Klein, Rabbi Dadoun and Cantor Sebo (The Temple-Tifereth Israel) and Rabbi Caruso, Rabbi Muhlbaum and Cantor Lapin (Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple) will all be part of the clergy team. Senior Rabbi Emeritus Richard Block (The Temple-Tifereth Israel) and Cantor Laureate Sarah Sager (Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple) will also continue in their roles.
Why would the current The Temple-Tifereth Israel campus be the location of a unified congregation?
The building located at 26000 Shaker Blvd, currently the site of The Temple-Tifereth Israel, is a better physical home for a larger, unified congregation. It was fully renovated and expanded in 2016. If we move forward, a team of members from both current Temples will work together to make the building the home of the new congregation while honoring the legacy of both The Temple-Tifereth Israel and Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple.
Will the building that is currently The Temple-Tifereth Israel Beachwood location need to be renovated to accommodate the new congregation? If so, what does that entail/how long will that take?
An initial architectural study indicates that the building can accommodate a larger congregation with space for worship, classroom and social activities. If we decide to unify, a facilities plan will be developed to determine what renovations are needed for the administrative and clergy team. That process and timeline will be shared with congregants.
What will happen to the Fairmount Temple building?
If we decide to unify, we anticipate selling the Fairmount property and using the resources from that sale to further the mission and vision of the new congregation.
Is this because of the fire at Fairmount Temple?
No, the decision to explore unification is unrelated to the fire that happened at Fairmount Temple. The conversations with The Temple-Tifereth Israel began well before the April fire.
What will happen with the renovations at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple?
Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple is working hard to restore public spaces so that the building can be used to bring people together. Given this consideration of unification, we are conservatively approaching the restoration process, with a focus on keeping Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple clean, safe and dry, and also reopening some of the large spaces for us to gather this winter. In the meantime, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple has been celebrating and gathering successfully and creatively in and around our Temple in the undamaged areas.
How will we manage security concerns if we unify and grow?
It is paramount to provide a space where all congregants feel safe and welcome. Our joint task force is actively discussing ways to enhance security for a potential unified congregation at the current The Temple-Tifereth Israel location.
STAFF, BOARD & GOVERNANCE
Who will be the executive director?
No decision has yet been made regarding the organizational chart and who will serve as executive director. The contracts currently in place with the executive directors of both Temples remain in effect.
How will staff be impacted?
No decision has yet been made regarding the organizational chart. Any contracts currently in place remain in effect. If we move forward, we will communicate directly with staff regarding the process of creating a unified organizational structure and any impact that it may have.
How will the boards be combined? What will be the new board and governance structure?
No decisions have been made regarding a new board and governance structure, however, a joint task force of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and The Temple-Tifereth Israel members will develop proposals for a new governance structure for a single founding board with equal representation from both synagogues. The proposals will include a process and timeline for implementation.
When will the new joint religious school be operational?
We are currently determining a transition structure and timeline to bring our educational programs together. We will communicate with our congregants directly and frequently on this plan, should we move forward.
Will there be room for all religious school kids currently enrolled?
We’re still figuring out the logistics of a potential transition for religious education, however, there will be room for all students currently enrolled.
Do the congregations currently have different requirements for religious school before Bar-Bat Mitzvah? If so, how will the students be affected?
These issues were explored, and it appears that both congregations have similar requirements for the students. All planned and scheduled B’nai mitzvot will be accommodated if this merger occurs, with no doubling involved.
Will the preschool be combined? If so, will you be able to offer the same number of spaces in a unified preschool program? How will you manage the upcoming preschool registration?
We are currently determining a transition structure and timeline to bring our preschool programs together. We will communicate with our preschool families directly and frequently about this plan before registration opens in January, should we move forward with unification.
Will our dues/fees go up?
Our financial modeling currently shows no dues increase in the first year. Our financial committee has determined that our Temples are materially better together—more financially stable and able to invest in best practices and innovation. We are also committed to pursuing alternative forms of support in addition to dues.
How will our endowments be managed?
If we move forward with unification, we intend to unify all financial assets. We continue to conduct due diligence related to finances, including the management of all endowments. We will be certain to honor donor intent.
Will we combine all financial resources?
If we move forward with unification, we intend to unify all financial assets, including both foundations. We continue to conduct due diligence related to finances.
VALUES & CULTURE
What will be the values and culture of the combined congregation?
While unification would be a significant change, we believe, at our core, we will maintain the same Jewish values that have sustained both congregations since inception. The combined culture will be additive and be an innovative, multi-generational and vibrant spiritual community that celebrates the diversity among us.
Will the cultures of the two congregations fit together?
Yes, we believe there is a great cultural fit between the two congregations. There is already a fit with our clergy teams, as we saw with the shared Selichot service in September, and the shared management of Mayfield Cemetery for decades. To help give congregants a preview of our combined culture, we’ll hold a Conversation with Clergy event on December 3 where clergy from both Temples will share personal stories, inspiration and hopes for the future. Congregants will have an opportunity to engage with clergy and with each other.
Will social justice be an important part of the mission of the new congregation?
It is our vision that social justice advocacy will continue to be a key component of a unified congregation, just as it is part of each Temple’s work today. Both synagogues have been engaged in this work, independently and in partnership with other organizations such as the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) through the Religious Action Center and Greater Cleveland
What will the new, unified congregation’s posture be on interfaith marriage?
Members of the clergy from both Temples currently celebrate interfaith marriages and will continue to if the unification occurs.
NAME & LEGACY
What will the name of the new congregation/Temple be?
We have a joint task force of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and The Temple-Tifereth Israel members who will develop a process for choosing a new name.
What will happen to our heritage/legacy/heirlooms/artifacts? How will donors to the Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple building be honored?
Both congregations have rich histories. It is a priority to honor those traditions and contributions while embracing the opportunity for innovation and creativity for the future. We have a committee of The Temple-Tifereth Israel and Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple members working on ideas for how to preserve and bring forward each of our legacies and artifacts should we decide to unify.