After 50 years, Long Grove synagogue writing final chapter as independent congregation

After 50 years of serving the Northwest suburban Jewish community, Temple Chai in Long Grove is about to close its last chapter as an independent congregation.

The synagogue is in the process of selling its building at 1670 W. Checker Road and its members will be absorbed into a Northbrook congregation.

“We have an agreement in principle. We have a contract, but it's not yet closed,” said Noam Alon, the temple's board president.

At next month's meeting, the congregation will vote formally to sunset itself, while also deciding how to disburse the sale proceeds, he said.

Alon said the Reform congregation plans to wrap up its programming year in June, after which its members will be welcome at Temple Beth-El, 3610 Dundee Road in Northbrook.

Already, the congregation is experiencing staff changes, with Senior Rabbi Ilana Baden moving to Temple Sinai in Las Vegas, and Director of Congregational Learning Laura Siegel Perpinyal heading to Temple Beth-El. Alon said Perpinyal accepted the position before formal talks began with Temple Beth-El.

Among the reasons behind the sale is the changing demographics of the Jewish community in the Northwest suburbs, with fewer Jews affiliating, Alon said.

“This is not just a Temple Chai issue,” he said.

The Temple Chai building, which once welcomed as many as 900 members, now serves 340.

“It's a lot of building for the number of congregants that we have, and so that's where we started exploring that possibility of selling the building,” Alon said.

In the late fall, the board realized it needed to “consider some choices that would basically help our congregants continue to find fulfilling and thriving opportunities in the Jewish community,” while also considering “that our strength as a community would be better if we were able to essentially come together with another congregation,” Alon said.

After speaking with several congregations in the area, the congregation landed on Temple Beth-El.

The Northbrook congregation had the closest alignment with the Temple Chai community and its priorities and values, Alon said.

He emphasized it's not a merger. Instead, Temple Beth-El is embracing the Temple Chai community, he added.

“We are entering a relationship in which we're going to provide a place for those that choose to come,” said Temple Beth-El President Amy Huck. “We're excited. We spend a lot of time in our synagogue talking about being a welcoming environment and an inclusive environment. What better way to do that than to open our doors and embrace a new community?”

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