Why are you forming a new community?
Both of our legacy communities have always had a shared ethos - not surprisingly since we are both members of Liberal Judaism - and our buildings are only a few miles apart. A few years ago both begun looking at the future of their respective communities and the need to refurbish their buildings. As a consequence they begun to start having informal talks about working more closely together.
In due course this led to more formal discussions about the potential benefits of forming one community. The respective Councils, having kept their membership fully informed, then sought a mandate from their members to hold formal talks about joining together as one community.
Did your members agree to becoming one community?
Yes, the Councils of both communities kept their members fully informed throughout the discussions and the members of both communities voted on resolutions to dissolve their existing communities in favour of forming a new single community.
Of those voting, 81% of Woodford members and 86% of Bet Tikvah members voted in favour of the motion.
What is going to happen about your two buildings?
For the moment, we will be a single community operating out of two buildings. Over a period of time, we will have more joint services - especially during festivals and other special occasions - and bring together other aspects of communal life.
While we build our new community, we have also set up a Property Action Group to explore all options about the future of the buildings and how we eventually move into a single home. This is likely to take some time to progress but we think it's best to take some time to get this right rather than rush things.
What happens to your existing Councils and how will they manage the transition from two communities to one?
The existing councils, elected by the membership of their respective communities, continue to manage the affairs of those communities. Officers and some members of each of those Councils have come together to form an Interim Council to manage the transition process. Interim Council is supported by a number of sub-groups looking at specific areas or issues such as the Property Action Group, Finance, Rites & Practice, etc.
An all members meeting will be held in February 2017 to review progress and, as the work of the respective Councils winds down, to endorse the ongoing arrangements regarding the Interim Council. As soon as it possible to do so the new community will hold its first AGM and elect its first council (the board of directors of the new company).
Will you now have two Rabbis and how will they work together?
Yes, we will have one full-time Rabbi and one part-time Rabbi. Fortunately, they have known each other for several years, working more closely together in recent years. They have both fully supported the discussions on creating one community.
They have different styles, strengths and working preferences. We are looking forward to seeing how they work together; finding out how to make the best of their respective expertise, experience and approaches to judaism - working together to help create our new dynamic community.
Are you really forming one community of two equals or is it one community taking over the other?
It was very obvious from the start of the informal discussions that these were talks between two equals. Membership numbers, demographics and financial positions were similar - both also recognised that they faced shared challenges going forward.
At all times during the discussions, and in creating the Interim Council, efforts have been made to maintain parity between the two communities. There are exceptions - Woodford had a bigger and more vibrant Cheder, so it made sense to encourage Bet Tikvah children to attend the Woodford Cheder. No doubt other exceptions will develop as we play to our different strengths in the weeks and months ahead.
However, this is the coming together of two communities of equals and not one community taking over another.