Two Jewish congregations in the Lake Norman area are merging, and they plan to have a new name and combined leadership and resources by the end of the summer.
The discussions about merging began among friends, as members of Lake Norman Jewish Congregation and Beth Shalom of Lake Norman had casual conversations wondering whether the two congregations should become one.
“Everyone was kind of asking those questions on their own,” said Slade Goldstein, president of Lake Norman Jewish Congregation and co-president of the merging group.
Official conversations about merging have been going on for about five months, and now the two officially have announced they will transition into a single organization.
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The new congregation, which will have a new name in a few weeks, will have about 170 families, Goldstein said. About 45 are from Beth Shalom, and 125 are from Lake Norman Jewish Congregation.
Rabbi Michael Shields, who became Lake Norman Jewish Congregation’s first full-time rabbi in 2008, will lead the merged group.
The two congregations have similar origins; in 2006, a Jewish group in Lake Norman split into two groups: the conservative Beth Shalom and the reform Lake Norman Jewish Congregation.
They will affiliate with the Union for Reform Judaism, Goldstein said. He said that theologically and spiritually the groups are “on the same page,” although families who want to have a strictly conservative experience may join another congregation.
“Overwhelmingly, the majority of people are very happy,” Goldstein said.
The new congregation will launch a combined religious school and Bnai Mitzvah program, and it will officially launch during the Jewish High Holy days in the fall. The will merge governing boards and develop branding for the merged group.
Goldstein said the combined congregation will have a “louder voice” and a broader reach in the community.
“I think one of the things both congregations had hoped to do was intertwine the Jewish community into the fabric of the community we live in,” Goldstein said.