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Merger Q&A 30th September 2021

Lasts nights final Q&A session gave our members the opportunity to answer any questions they had regarding the merger or merger vote. Please see the questions and responses from our Merger Team. Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!

Q: Why have the community not been given a comparison of fees in a situation where we move against the merger not going ahead.

A: The fees for EBMC will increase this year, by the same amount, regardless of whether we merge. That reflects the fact that we have not increased fees for several years, and have to cover additional costs of having a Rabbi and returning to physical services.

The projected fees for 2022 onwards if we do merge have been set out in the summary document and circulated to the community (though these are only a guide – it is not possible to give a firm commitment as to what fees will be). They will increase over a period of three years to bring EBMC’s fees into alignment with EMS, and to reflect the fact that we will have a full time Rabbi and a building. However, no one will be prevented from becoming members if they cannot afford fees. We have not sought to predict any fee increases over the next three years in the event we don’t merge, and it is therefore not possible to provide a comparison.

Q: One of the features of EBMC that people like is that we have small services. Why do the merger document and summary not set out how that will change?

A: If we merger, we will of course be a larger community with more members. EMS have said that, before the pandemic, they had around 40 people attend Shabbat morning services. We think that is a nice number that will not dramatically change the feel and nature of the services. Moreover, it should avoid a situation where we have, on rare occasions, not had a minyan. Further, as we grow and attract more people, we can explore the possibility of smaller satellite services, such as explanatory services, or discursive services.

Q: EMS have fully kosher facilities. Will this stop us having ‘bring a dish’ kiddushes and how will it increase the cost of kiddushes.

A: This is in large part because EMS have a fixed building. Members have a reasonable expectation that the shul facilities are kosher, and we think that is a sensible and appropriate policy to have when a new building is established in Elstree and Borehamwood. We think it will still be possible to have ‘bring a dish’ events in people’s homes (as is the case with other Masorti communities). We have not specifically looked at the costs of having a fully kosher Kiddush, but given the wide availability of kosher certified products, we do not anticipate there being a significant increase in costs.

Q: What steps are being taken to recruit members to a new shul.

A: This was covered at the previous Q&A, and a summary is available at page 47 of the merger report. In short, we would have a publicity campaign after the merger (similar to the one we had after the appointment of Rabbi Danny) which would focus on the merger, the plan to open a shul in Borehamwood and what a Masorti community has to offer. We would hope to involve members of the community with relevant expertise in that project.

Q: Have positive steps been taken to find a site for a synagogue in Elstree and Borehamwood.

A: We have already started looking for sites and, where appropriate, making enquiries. However, there is a limit to how much this can and should be progressed before the vote on the merger. If the merger is agreed, this will be an area of focus for the merged community, and we would hope to bring in people from the community with appropriate expertise.

Q: There is a lot of focus on young families, which may put off people who are single, for example, because they are widowed or divorced. What are we doing to attract those people.

A: Although there has been a lot of time considering what we can offer families, there has been no intention that it is to the exclusion of other members of the community or potential members. One of the things we hope to offer as a merged community is adult education and other facilities and opportunities for all members of the community, regardless of age and family situation. One of the big advantages of merging with EMS would be to harness their experience of offering an interesting and varied program of events to a diverse community.

Q: The merger is being structured so that all members, assets and liabilities move to EMS. Is it therefore a takeover rather than a merger?

A: The structure of transferring members, assets and liabilities has been adopted for administrative ease and to reduce costs associated with the merger. If we were to create a new entity for the new merged community, there would be significant costs and administrative burden, for example, in transferring employees from EMS and notifying the Charity Commission. Although the merger is being structured in this way, there will be a guaranteed number of 4 representatives of EBMC on the New Council and a merger agreement that clearly sets out what has been agreed between the communities and that, in effect, cannot be amended without agreement from current EBMC members as well as EMS members.

Q: If the merger does not work out, will it be possible to separate out EBMC’s members and assets.

A: A lot of effort has gone into ensuring that the merger is a success, and both communities have sought a lot of community involvement throughout this process. Further, the merger will not happen without approval from both communities. It will also be in the interest of both communities to make the merger work. For all these reasons, we hope and think that this is very unlikely. However, we have discussed this point during merger team meetings and agreed that, while it does not make sense to include a formal mechanism, the communities will work together to ensure that if that situation arose, it would be amicable and a fair resolution is agreed.

Q: When will we know the results of the merger vote?

A: EMS are having their EGM at the same time as ours on Monday, 4 October. We will be in touch with them as soon as we have our results, and they will do the same, though their meeting may take longer to complete. We will then notify the community as soon as the result is clear.

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