Collaboration: A recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals.
Merger: When two organizations join together into one, with one organization surviving and the other disappearing. The assets and liabilities of the disappearing entity are absorbed into the surviving entity.
We are at a time in American Jewish history that’s transforming the Jewish Community as we have known it to be. Agencies are responding to the recession by closing down, merging, collaborating in new ways, and re-identifying themselves. And so we hear about two agencies merging and we mourn for the loss of one of them. Or congregations create a combined high school and we are saddened at the implication that their numbers were too low on their own so they had to collaborate as a matter of survival. We assume that when congregations merge, they are in a position of weakness and they had no other choice.
But mergers and collaborations are potentials for streamlined efforts, for exciting new initiatives and for stronger communities. When a congregation can reflect on its strengths and weakness, and
work with others in the community
to support and build on the others strengths and weaknesses, the end users, the congregants (and the community) are the beneficiaries.
We know that this is a difficult time for synagogues; population studies are showing us that our communities are older, intermarried and not affiliating, and shrinking in size. Research is showing us that Movement demographics are shifting; buildings are aging; both Day Schools and Congregational schools are struggling to fill their classrooms (with students and qualified, quality teachers.) And in many communities, synagogue leaders are territorial – if it doesn’t happen within our walls, it’s not good for our congregation.
So what is a congregation to do?
How does the leadership consider options for moving beyond the proverbial four walls and network and share with other congregations in their area in order to strengthen their home congregation?
This is part of my work at the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education/Jewish Outreach Partnership www.acaje-jop.org (a recently combined agency still working on a new name). Later this week we will be meeting with synagogue leaders to talk about collaboration and how building relationships and networks can provide opportunities. It is our belief that there are numerous ways to collaborate without losing institutional identity while providing services to the community, often at a higher level of quality.
The difficult economy has a silver lining for the Jewish Community if we can take a step back, reflect, and see what we have to offer each other. Kohelet, Ecclesiestes said it quite well – Tovim ha-shnayim min ha-echad: Two are better than one.