A pair of Conservative synagogues in north Toronto have called off their merger talks

A potential merger between Toronto’s Beth David and Beth Tikvah Synagogue is no longer being pondered.

The two Conservative synagogues, which are both located in the city’s North York district, began discussing the prospect in 2021. These conversations were publicly kept under wraps until the story was reported by The CJN.

The attempt was abandoned because Beth Tikvah’s leadership did not believe they would reach the two-thirds membership majority required to go through with it, said Douglas Millstone, the president of Beth Tikvah. (He declined to comment further.)

Currently, morning and evening weekday services for Beth Tikvah members and guests are held at Adath Israel Synagogue, along with an online streaming option. But the Beth Tikvah website is also promoting that events can now be booked for 2024 at its longtime building.

The prospect of a merger was first introduced because of many similarities between the shuls, said Andy Pascoe, president of Beth David.

“We were facing similar challenges, we have a lot in common in terms of our history and our membership and our halachic practice, and that through a merger, we would have a unique opportunity to build a more robust and stable egalitarian, conservative community in Toronto.”

Pascoe also said the process of investigating the merger was positive and collaborative. The two shuls identified key issues to address including ritual matters, programming and staffing, facilities, finances and governance.

They created joint steering committees and working groups and provided regular updates to their respective boards and members. An interim report, published in June 2022, laid out solutions to all of these key areas.

While the merger didn’t work out in the end, it still provided valuable information and potential inspiration for the shuls going forward.

“We both did extensive consultations with our communities and we developed a shared vision for what a… merged egalitarian conservative community would be able to achieve in Toronto. And that’s certainly something that adds a lot of learnings and support for other opportunities we might pursue soon,” Pascoe said.

Beth Tikvah was founded in 1964 as Shaarei Tikvah. It changed its name two years later after merging with the Bayview Synagogue Association. Over the past decade, its membership has declined from 1,100 family members to around 900.

Its website relates that in April 2017, “with a clear and resounding voice,” members voted to become egalitarian.

Beth David merged with B’nai Israel Congregation in 1960 and with Beth Am Congregation in 1977. Its formal name is Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am.

The synagogue became egalitarian in May 2013, permitting women to lead services and be counted in a minyan. It tallies an estimated 750 family members.

Last fall, the Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue—which is also located in North York—announced it was engaged in “strategic cooperation discussions” with Adath Israel, prior to the recent move by Beth Tikvah to re-direct its own weekday attendees there.