As merger process moves forward, BSKI and Shaare Zedek elect inaugural board

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

An inaugural board has been selected for St. Louis’s newest Conservative congregation as the merger process between Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and Shaare Zedek Synagogue kicks into high gear.

“We’ve yet to make the most difficult decisions, that is, decisions about our future home, our future name, our future employees,” said Gary Kodner, who chairs the joint committee dealing with communications, “so I think that it’s important that we’ve reached this juncture because one of the things that I stressed at the meeting is that we now talk as one.”

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The two synagogues voted overwhelmingly to merge in late September at the conclusion of an on-again, off-again process that dates back to 2009. A Dec. 2 meeting chose 24 board members for the new institution, 12 from each of the congregations. Officers were selected as well including two vice presidents, a secretary and a treasurer.

As part of the merger agreement, BSKI president Sue Cort will continue in that role for the joined synagogue while Shaare Zedek president Mitch Shenker will be the new board chair.

The board will help guide the nascent entity as it begins to navigate the complicated road ahead, which is presently being charted by 16 subcommittees dealing with everything from finances to facilities. Kodner’s group was one of several to report at the meeting, which he said set a general target date of March 1 for the new synagogue to begin operations. In the meantime, the parent organizations continue to exist as normal. In fact, Kodner, also a Jewish Light board member, noted that Shaare Zedek just elected a new board, presumably its last, which will begin serving in January.

A naming committee was among those to report during the meeting, which Kodner estimates was attended by about 175 congregants. A non-binding straw vote was held on various names with a few finalists set to be presented to the new board.

Kodner said the ritual committee has already merged the daily minyans and e-mail blasts are already going out under a joint header. The congregations will begin issuing a single newsletter by January.

Kodner said that although the decisions have not yet been made, he anticipates the board will grow.

“Keep in mind that once a set of bylaws and a constitution are completed, my suspicion is that they will also add presidents of Sisterhood and Men’s Club and past presidents of the two legacy congregations to join the board as well,” he said.

The new board is slated to meet for the first time tomorrow.