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The Philadelphia Jewish Voice
October 2005  > Community

CJC Seeks CJC for a Serious Long-term Relationship

Congregation Beth T'fillah of Overbrook Park, a Conservative synagogue which is more than a half-century old, is exploring a merger with one of two Lower Merion Township synagogues due to a combination of declining membership and lack of congregants available for leadership positions, said synagogue co-vice president George R. Arthur.

The congregation, whose temple is located at 7630 Woodbine Ave. in Philadelphia's Overbrook Park section, could select a synagogue with which to pursue a merger at a meeting scheduled for Sept. 27. The two synagogues under consideration are Adath Israel, 250 N. Highland Ave., in Merion Station, and Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, 1001 Remington Road, Wynnewood, according to Arthur.
"I myself like either one," Arthur said. "I'm impressed with both synagogues."
Beth T'fillah congregants attended a meeting at Beth Hillel in mid-September and a meeting at Adath Israel in August for presentations about their programs and services, he recalled. Both shuls are also Conservative.
While Beth T'fillah maintains a membership of 175, most congregants are elderly with an average age of 71, Arthur explained. Other congregants do not want to hold leader positions, including Arthur, who said he turned down an offer to become president.
Three former presidents, all grandfathers, share the position of president, and Arthur is one of three co-vice presidents, he said.
"There was a lot of resistance to merging. The people who have leadership positions are tired of being leaders," Arthur said. 
He noted that more congregants live in a City Line Avenue condominium adjacent to the Overbrook train station than in the main neighborhood. He estimated that the once heavily Jewish community is now 10 to 20 percent Jewish.
No daily minyans are held for lack of turnout, he said.
Beth T'fillah, originally called Overbrook Park Synagogue, started as a tent on City Line Avenue 57 or 58 years ago and moved into its current building 50 years ago, a half-mile east of City Line and Haverford avenues, Arthur recalled.
At its peak, the synagogue's congregation numbered 800 members, he added.
Arthur said both synagogues currently being considered have agreed to retain longtime Rabbi Robert B. Rubin for an unspecified period of time - possibly as a co-rabbi or associate rabbi - which will be worked out in negotiations.
He pointed out that the synagogue is in good financial shape, especially since it is due to receive a large inheritance.
The congregation plans to sell the building once the merger goes into effect, he said.
"We'll be glad to be regular congregants again, Arthur sighed.

- Bruce S. Ticker