(JTA) — It’s been a rough few weeks for Conservative Jews in the Boston suburbs known as the South Area.
First, Rabbi Barry Starr, the longtime spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Sharon, resigned amid allegations that he used synagogue discretionary funds to pay about $480,000 in hush money to an extortionist to hide a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old male.
Then came the news that the area’s only Conservative Jewish day school, the Kehillah Schechter Academy of nearby Norwood, will be shutting down at the end of the school year. With the next-closest non-Orthodox day school more than 45 minutes away, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for South Area Conservative Jews — notably in Sharon, the single largest source of KSA’s students.
“It’s a double whammy for me personally because I’m a member of the shul,” said Gregg Rubenstein, KSA’s board president. “But the temple will survive. It’s not an institution-threatening incident. The school, on the other hand, is disappearing.”
Like Rubenstein, many KSA parents are also members of the scandal-plagued Temple Israel.
Now some community members are trying to salvage some good news with a campaign to create a new local pluralistic day school to replace KSA.
Dubbed Ner Tamid — Hebrew for eternal flame — the school is still in its embryonic stages. It doesn’t have a site, nor is it clear if there’s a viable business model. Plus, current KSA students — who represent the target population of the new school — already are in the process of enrolling at other schools for next year.
But Elana Margolis, a school parent whose husband also works at KSA, says she’s determined to give it a try.
“Just because the school has decided to close doesn’t mean there won’t be Jewish educational options in this area,” said Margolis, who is also the associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “We feel it’s important for our community to have something local. We think crisis breeds opportunity. This is time for a rebirth, a reboot.”