They marched in joy and they marched in sadness, under a sweltering sun. And for the marchers, it was an ending and a beginning, the poignant close of one chapter and the promising opening of another.
More than 250 congregants joined in a ceremony Sunday in which seven Torahs from the Bethpage Jewish Community Center were carried some three miles to their new home at the Midway Jewish Center in Syosset as the congregations officially merged.
Leaders of the 50-year-old Bethpage congregation cited demographics with a resulting drop in membership as the reason for the move. Its synagogue is expected to be sold. “A number of synagogues expressed interest [in a merger] and Midway is a very attractive place with a good reputation,” said its spiritual leader, Rabbi Perry Rank. “What sold the two congregations on each other is that when we got together it was as good bond.”
By the time of the consolidation, Bethpage had only about 120 member units; Midway had 670. Bethpage’s Hebrew school had only seven students; Midway had 300.To accommodate Bethpage’s traditional congregation, Rabbi Rank said there would be a separate, non-egalitarian service held at Midway in addition to Midway’s regular egalitarian service.
Bruce Greenfield, executive director of the New York Metropolitan Region of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said this was just the latest in a series of mergers of Conservative synagogues on Long Island in recent years due to demographic changes. Other mergers have brought together synagogues in Hicksville and Plainview; Farmingdale and Wantagh; Lindenhurst and Massapequa; Dix Hills and Deer Park. Greenfeld said he could see another six or eight congregations merging in coming years.