Wishing Each Other Well
With B'nai Israel's closing, some members will remain
with Shaarey Zedek while others plan to set up new shul.
Shelli Liebman Dorfman
n the heels of an announce-
ment that Congregation Shaarey
Zedek (CSZ) will close its West
Bloomfield B'nai Israel Center came a sec-
ond announcement that a group of mem-
bers intend to leave CSZ and form their
On July 7, the congregation's board of
trustees voted to consolidate operations
of their two facilities into the synagogue's
Southfield campus after the completion of
Yom Kippur services on Sept. 18.
"CSZ has over 1,500 member families,
and [we] have been studying this issue
for months and ultimately concluded that
the synagogue community is stronger
together — both financially and program-
matically — than it is apart;' said Brian
Hermelin, CSZ president. "Many members
who regularly attend services at B'nai
Israel have expressed a willingness and
intent to join us back in Southfield:'
Some, however, have not. A committee
of individuals that had organized with the
hopes of keeping the building open now
is working toward opening a synagogue of
Plans are under way for the creation of a
new institution that will be separate from
Shaarey Zedek, but will keep the B'nai
"We know that this was a difficult and
heart-wrenching issue for the CSZ board
as it addresses its challenges': Frank Ellias
of Farmington Hills said on behalf of the
B'nai Israel committee. "We have been
overwhelmed by the support of local syna-
gogues and temples offering assistance to
B'nai Israel to find a new spiritual home.
"We are currently negotiating for a
location that will continue to serve our
community, including our shomer Shabbos
(Shabbat observant) members. We expect
to identify our new home shortly.
"We eagerly anticipate our future as an
independent B'nai Israel:' he said, adding
that "many have expressed interest" in the
One Focus, One Home
Hermelin cited financial reasons and
building a stronger synagogue community
as motivation for the decision.
Since the May 4 announcement that the
July 15 * 2010
Congregation Shaarey Zedek
6'nai Israel Center
Bina! Israel Center in West Bloomfield will be closed after Yom Kippur services on Sept. 18.
board was considering closing the build-
ing, discussions have been ongoing among
synagogue leadership, members and the
B'nai Israel committee.
Referring to the vote to close the build-
ing as "very difficult but necessary:'
Hermelin expressed a shared sense of loss
for the CSZ members who "view the West
Bloomfield campus as their spiritual home'
In a July 7 letter to the congregation,
he highlighted the "sincere and tireless
work" of the B'nai Israel committee that,
he said, "advocated for the community in
West Bloomfield while always maintaining
a deep respect for our entire Shaarey Zedek
family and recognition that, as a congrega-
tion, our diversity is our strength and that
financial stability is a long-term necessity:'
Hermelin said the closing of B'nai Israel
will move the congregation into a better
long-term financial and operating posi-
tion, but that the synagogue will continue
to run an operating deficit, although with
a much smaller gap. He added that new
fundraising initiatives now can be focused
on one location and one programming
"The synagogue has been funding
unsustainable operating deficits through
endowment distributions, annual con-
tributions and, ultimately, by borrowing
on a bank line of credit:' he wrote in his
congregational letter. "We are not different
from many other institutions in our corn-
munity, but we are determined to be pro-
active in addressing our financial realities
so that we can continue to provide Jewish
programming, services and education to
the largest congregation of Conservative
Jews in Michigan.
"We cannot devote financial or profes-
sional resources that stretch and discon-
nect our membership:' he wrote. "Instead,
we know the only way to strengthen the
Shaarey Zedek community is to come
together with one focus, with one home."
Hermelin said the diversity of program-
ming and services in the synagogue's two
buildings, including the lay-led participa-
tory services at B'nai Israel, will be wel-
comed at the Southfield facility.
"We are reaching out to all of the mem-
bers at B'nai Israel to join us back in
Southfield, where we can, and will, bring
a variety of minyanim and programming
to the campus': he said. "We have Shabbat
dinner clubs, youth programming, family
education programs and a full dergy com-
plement to inspire engaged Conservative
Jewish participation for all life-cycle events."
A committee is being organized to build
new and diverse Shabbat family program-
ming at the synagogue.
In addition, CSZ will continue to offer
religious school classes in West Bloomfield
and is working to confirm a location.
"We are confident that we have made
the tough decisions that will allow us to
focus and build upon the tremendous
heritage and legacy we have at Shaarey
Zedek," Hermelin wrote in his letter.
For many who plan to leave the con-
gregation, the decision is an emotional
"Many of us at B'nai Israel are from
families that have been members of CSZ
for generations, some since Chicago
Boulevard:' Ellias said. "This is where we
attended religious school, learned to read
Torah, had our bar and bat mitzvahs, our
weddings and raised our families. CSZ has
a wonderful and long tradition that I am
certain will be continued. We will always
cherish our memories of CSZ and wish our
friends at CSZ success in the future."