Congregation Beth Ahavah, the thirty-three year old small, but free-standing Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) congregation in Center City Philadelphia, learned it was to lose the lease of its space, a storefront which had been its home for the last fifteen years. Congregation Beth Ahavah did not have the financial resources to rent another space due to skyrocketing real estate costs in the area. A nearby synagogue, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, invited Congregation Beth Ahavah to use its space until a more permanent solution could be found.
Negotiations between key members of each synagogue’s board of directors/trustees culminated in an affiliation agreement detailing how Beth Ahavah and Rodeph Shalom are affiliated in spirit and share a sacred home. Beth Ahavah members now enjoy dual membership in both congregations and have full rights and privileges to participate in the services and events of both congregations. Beth Ahavah members have, for the first time in its history, access to three rabbis as well as a religious school. Beth Ahavah continues to enjoy its congregational status in the Union for Reform Judaism as well.
The procedure of a small congregation affiliating with a larger congregation offers an alternative to merging, (which implies a loss of identity) or dissolution. An affiliated congregation retains its congregational status in the eyes of its members, the community at-large, and the Union for Reform Judaism.
Resources: affiliation agreement; expanded summary