“Home rule” is the blessing and bane of New Jersey. We are a state of towns and villages, and residents take inordinate pride in their local community. The result is citizens with a deep investment in the local fabric of their lives. The downside is a proliferation of municipalities, school boards, and police departments, with all the redundancies, inefficiencies, and burdensome bureaucracy that implies.
As goes the state, so go its Jewish communities. New Jersey has 12 Jewish federations, with leaders and supporters fiercely loyal to their home communities and the contributions they’ve made to building and sustaining them. Yet for years Jewish leaders suspected many of these federations were duplicating services and reinventing the wheel, hobbling their primary mission of supporting Jewish life here and aboard.
In recent years, leaders of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ and the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey began to address these challenges with a series of joint ventures, including collaboration on IT services, Jewish camping, public advocacy, and, yes, even this newspaper.
Now they are taking that collaborative spirit one step further and entering into serious discussions about a possible merger.
The merger of any institutions — whether corporations or synagogues — is a delicate thing. There are important questions about resources, personnel, governance, and history. There are indelicate questions about egos, turf, money, and, in this case, the disparity in sizes between the two partners. The committees discussing the merger have pledged to address these issues forthrightly and sensitively.
The merger talks are being announced in an economic climate that demands efficiency and hard choices. But the leaders appear genuine when they say that this isn’t merely an economic decision, but a strategic move whose primary concern is what is best for the Jewish community and Israel. If a merger means increasing our capacities to support both, then it will be a shidduch well worth celebrating.