Same Shul … But new affiliation and focus
Through the course of twenty-two years, B’nai Torah went through a series of growth opportunities, pains and challenges. Membership steadily rose to an all-time high of 540, only to drop to 430. During this period, three rabbis, each with Orthodox Smicha, were hired to serve the congregation despite the increasing difficulty of attracting ones who would be willing to forgo a Mechitza service. Religious school enrollments dropped dramatically, concurrent with and due to a simultaneous spike in Day School attendance.
The congregation decided to explore the topic of affiliation. Since there had been a steady growth of dissatisfaction among the membership for a number of years, a committee was assembled to uncover the main issues and concerns.
After a year of analysis, conclusions indicated the need to address:
> The disconnection of young children and teenagers from Shul life;
> Requirements for more lay leadership support systems and resources;
> Access to a pool of rabbinic candidates;
> The desire for more creative programming and education;
> Ways to acquire professional development and administrative support;
> Gaining access to regional or national organizations.
To some, an obvious answer was to join the Conservative movement. The key debate, however, involved B'nai Torah's ability to retain traditional ritual practices -- full Torah readings, full repetitions of the Amidah, not counting women for a Minyan, etc. -- while being a member of this movement. The Board and a vocal minority were unable to reach agreement on the path to take. So, Harry Silverman, the Southeastern Regional Director of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), was invited to attend the Board’s June meeting. He patiently answered probing questions and gave reasons for and against joining the movement, but it became clear that the discussion would have to be taken to the congregation. In mid-November 2003, B’nai Torah voted to become Atlanta’s newest Conservative synagogue with its unique traditional niche!
Next, we moved on to the challenge of finding a new Rabbi. It must have been Beshert! After only three months of searching, the congregation voted to hire its new Rabbi. Rabbi Joshua Heller, the 31-year-old Director of Distance Learning at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, accepted the position of spiritual leader and Mara D’atra of B’nai Torah, effective July 1st, 2004.
Our decision to join the Conservative movement -- combined with our traditions, experience, maturity, wisdom, and faith -- will enable us to create a new legacy for the future. Utilizing a new support structure, we have resolved to work together to recreate the energy and dreams that were the foundation of our original spiritual home. B’nai Torah wants to be a place where our Jewish past, present, and future can coexist.
Friday Night Services
Saturday Morning Services
(for children services and times click here)
Saturday Mincha Services
* Saturday Afternoon Class
Following Saturday Mincha Services, please join the Rabbi's Torah Study Class