Despite lengthy negotiations, careful compromise, and even a launch in May attended by students from both schools, the Jewish Community School (JSC) planned jointly by Har Sinai Temple, a Reform synagogue in Pennington, and Adath Israel Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Lawrenceville, will not open this fall.
Alan Kline, president of Har Sinai, and Stephanie Loesberg, past-president of Adath Israel, wrote an email to NJJN about the decision: “While we continue to believe this type of effort will best serve the Jewish community at large, it is, understandably, a complex process to seamlessly bring together two organizations to serve one purpose. To that end, despite our best intentions, there remain a few unresolved issues which will prevent us from starting the JSC this fall.”
The impetus for the school was to stem the decline in membership and school enrollment at both synagogues, but its vision went beyond serving students at the two congregations. The school was to be “a resource for Jewish education” for unaffiliated Jews, and “a place of inclusion for Jews of color, LGBTQ Jews, and interfaith families,” said Magda Reyes, Har Sinai’s director of education, who was to head the new school. To draw in unaffiliated families, students through fourth grade did not have to be synagogue members.
For two years the synagogues, situated just 10 minutes apart by car, hashed out compromises over educational programs and curricula, location, b’nei mitzvah preparation, kashrut, requirements of wearing kipot, and Shabbat observance.
Rabbis of both synagogues saw the community school as an opportunity for mutual understanding. Rabbi Benjamin Adler of Adath Israel looked forward to students who “will be more comfortable in different environments and different synagogues, and really understand how people approach Judaism differently.” Rabbi Stuart Pollack of Har Sinai called the new school “an experiment, the joining of Reform and Conservative ideologies for Jewish education.”
In spite of Adler’s admonition that “you have to create partnerships because the realities we face are ones we can’t necessarily face alone,” She said that “Because the Jewish community is changing, we have to evolve and change our model to meet different needs”—the Jewish Community School will not open this fall.
Kline and Loesberg did not say in their email to NJJN, received just before the newspaper went to press, whether they planned to open the school in the fall of 2018.