In a move to help maintain a more lasting membership, a Jewish congregation in Westchester has merged with a larger congregation in Manhattan Beach.
The longstanding B’nai Tikvah Congregation in Westchester combined membership with the Congregation Tifereth Jacob in Manhattan Beach July 1st, forming the Congregation Tikvat Jacob, or “Hope of Jacob.”
The two synagogues celebrated the merger during a special Sabbath service Friday, July 6th, on the sand between 26th and 27th Streets in Manhattan Beach.
The B’nai Tikvah Congregation sought the merger after struggling with dwindling membership over the last few years, said congregation Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen, who continues as one of three clergy members in Tikvat Jacob.
The Westchester synagogue wanted to ensure that its programs continue and found a “good philosophical match” in Tifereth Jacob, the rabbi said.
“We’ve been struggling for a very long time and we tenaciously held on to our existence, but unfortunately the demographics got the better of us,” van Leeuwen said of the reasoning behind the merger.
The Westchester congregation had approximately 100 members prior to merging with the larger congregation in Manhattan Beach, van Leeuwen said. Congregation Tikvat Jacob will have a combined membership of about 350 members.
The move occurred nearly four decades after B’nai Tikvah was formed in 1968, when Congregation Beth Tikvah in Westchester joined with B’nai Israel of Inglewood, van Leeuwen said.
The merger was overwhelmingly supported by the B’nai Tikvah Congregation, with about 94 percent of the membership voting last July to support the move, the rabbi said. The merger occurred rather quickly, the rabbi noted, as congregations can sometimes take a few years to join together.
“We’re very excited about it and we’ve really embraced it,” van Leeuwen said.
State Assemblyman Ted Lieu, who represents the two communities in the 53rd Assembly District, attended the Sabbath service on the beach July 6th to present an Assembly resolution and offer his support for the newly merged congregation.
B’nai Tikvah, which had rented space from the Westchester Christian Church to hold services, has moved to Tifereth Jacob’s temple at 1829 N. Sepulveda Blvd. in Manhattan Beach. Van Leeuwen said B’nai Tikvah plans to retain its nursery school facility in Westchester.
Congregation Tikvat Jacob leaders said the merged congregation is committed to forming a “vibrant, egalitarian spiritual center for the enjoyment and practice of Judaism.”
Congregation leaders said they expect to have a diversity of focused and enhanced programs, from nursery school to adult education.
Among programs the synagogue will offer are summer beach services.