Merging Our Tents - Out of Necessity or Desire?

Just as we see a lot of mergers and acquisitions taking place in the for-profit world, we are now experiencing the same in the Jewish community. However, what is often taking place in the secular community (Google gobbling up tech start-ups for their talent more than for their market niche) is not necessarily what is motivating the various mergers in the Jewish community. Rather, it is sometimes a declining population that forces two institutions (former “competitors” or representatives of different religious movements) to merge. Sometimes, it starts out as a simple space-sharing arrangement, since many of the edifices that were built to accommodate the suburban baby boom in post-World War II expansion often stand empty. Thus, these mergers are usually motivated by economic necessity rather than by shared values. Is this a reflection of post-denominational Judaism? Or perhaps it is a step toward the eventuality of post-institutional Judaism (something no one wants to talk about).

I wonder: what would the community—and its myriad institutions—look like if we decided to share space, or to merge, because we believe that it will benefit the community and the people we serve, instead of as a result of the economic downturn or the shrinking community? If we highlight the positive values such mergers can represent over the latter expressions of survivalism, could we create institutions (not campuses) that reflect the ideals of Big Tent Judaism—where there would be different expressions of worship, different expressions of Zionism, and different forms/formats for study all under the same roof? Perhaps before your institution makes its next decision about its building and facilities, we can look at the community around us, and work in the direction of merging our tents for the betterment of the Jewish community.

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