We’re Married

Two Congregations Getting Married? Really?
Yes, the metaphor of a courtship has characterized the relationship between two congregations anchored in the Cincinnati Jewish Community – Ohav Shalom in its 137th year and B’Nai Tzedek which just celebrated its 50th anniversary in December, as they explored the possibility of uniting.

“The congregations have worked to offer something new to the community and are writing the textbook on cooperative consensus building”, stated Russ Rosen, one of the architects of the process. “It’s been a 20-month process” declared Simon Newman, first President of the newly named ‘Congregation Etz Chaim’ a name that was chosen by congregants. “In the beginning, I was unsure that it would work”, but as the congregations got to know each other better through regular joint services at each other’s facility and began active joint committee problem solving, Newman realized there were emerging synergies that could create something bigger and better than the sum of the two parts.

Randy Slovin, outgoing President of Ohav Shalom and co-lead with Russ Rosen and Darrell Radin in initiating and nurturing the process, both agreed. “We had some tough decisions that were filled with emotion but we kept our eye on the bigger picture”, stated Slovin.
“We are all founders”, said Terry Brodof, Vice President of the new entity. “I can just picture the next generation looking at our photographs and marveling at the matriarchs and patriarchs, the pillars of “Etz Chaim”.

“March 29th, 2015, will be the date we will tell our children we rejoiced in a Wedding Event to symbolize the union and officially unite as one new synagogue family”. “We’re planning a one of a kind ceremony and celebration to which the whole community is invited to share in this joyful occasion”, said Chava Vidal, Youth and Family Program Director, and Chief Wedding Planner! “Too often we unite in the face of anti-Semitism or to show solidarity with Israel during a crisis. This is an opportunity for the community to share in the simcha – share the joy and promise of a new beginning”, added Chava.

“I can just picture our grandchildren recounting our story of how the members of two old established congregations stepped out of their comfort zone and embraced a vison, mission and set of core values that would trajectory them into the future”, imagined Candy Kwiatek, a member of the Steering Committee and Educational Director. “Making that kind of history is pretty cool”.
Every congregant will participate in creating a canopy by individually decorating 12” x 12” squares that will be quilted together creating a beautiful work of art which will serve as the “wedding chuppah”! In that way every individual will have their hand in “making history”! Not only does this event mark a joyous celebration, but heralds the day the two congregations insure not only that their legacy continues, but begins an era of new growth initiatives and spiritual upliftment.
A new Joint Ritual Committee, Co-Chaired by Barry Joffe and Barbara Taggart-Milberg has been formulating practices that will blend the treasured traditions of both congregations. Ritual Committee member Paul Nidich congratulated the Committee on the success of the first fully joint Shabbat services on January 30th-31st. “Mazel Tov to us”, he wrote, “what an amazingly wonderful weekend. There is still a lot of heavy lifting to do, but our future looks bright”.
The community is invited to share in the simcha and lend its support to this historic occasion. The Wedding Ceremony begins at 2 PM on March 29th, followed by an elegant dessert reception and champagne toast. This will take place at 8100 Cornell Road in Sycamore Township where Etz Chaim will be located. Please call the office at 489-3399 to make a reservation and enquire about sponsorship opportunities. Attend a wedding ceremony like you have never experienced before!