In the March issue of Har Sinai’s monthly newsletter The Connection, congregational president Kenneth R. Bell announced that the Owings Mills synagogue and Pikesville’s Temple Oheb Shalom have renewed merger talks.

Kenneth R. Bell

Har Sinai President Kenneth R. Bell wrote that he is optimistic that his congregation and Temple Oheb Shalom’s leadership will issue a joint statement about merger talks on March 7.

“We have held two meetings to date, one on February 4 and the other on February 25,” he wrote. “The purpose of the first two meetings was to get to know one another better and to lay the ground rules for all future discussions.”

Bell wrote that another meeting between the congregations was scheduled to be held on March 3.

“Our hope is that after this meeting, a joint statement from myself and the president of Temple Oheb Shalom will be prepared and released to both congregations on Thursday, March 7,” he wrote. “The Future Committee continues to meet and further develop other potential options as previously discussed. We also continue to market the sale of our building, but unfortunately have no news to share on potential buyers at this time.”

In September of 2017, the two historic Reform congregations announced they were exploring the possibility of a merger. But last May, Har Sinai announced a “30-day pause” in merger talks after allegations surfaced against Oheb Shalom’s longtime spiritual leader, Rabbi Steven M. Fink. The accusations were “of an improper incident of a sexual nature that may have occurred a number of years ago involving Rabbi Fink and a then teenager, who was a minor at the time,” according to Oheb Shalom’s leadership.

Rabbi Fink, who came to Oheb Shalom in 1999, was initially suspended with pay and terminated by the temple last October. He has vowed to take legal action in the matter.

A couple of weeks after announcing a 30-day pause, Har Sinai’s leadership announced that the temple temporarily postponed the merger exploration talks with Har Sinai to focus on “managing our own needs at this time.”

Last August, Har Sinai’s Rabbi Linda Joseph announced in The Connection that merger talks were completely discontinued. Instead of pursuing a merger, Rabbi Joseph wrote that her congregation would “concentrate our efforts on finding a viable road map for Har Sinai Congregation in the future.”

At press time, phone calls from Jmore to leaders of Har Sinai and Oheb Shalom were not returned.

Temple Oheb Shalom

Founded in 1853, Temple Oheb Shalom is located at 7310 Park Heights Ave. (Photo by Solomon Swerling, Jmore)

The oldest continuously Reform congregation in the United States, Har Sinai, founded in 1842, is located at 2905 Walnut Ave. and has a membership of 260 households

Founded in 1853 and located at 7310 Park Heights Ave., Oheb Shalom has a membership of approximately 625 families. The synagogue hired an interim spiritual leader, Rabbi Marc L. Disick, who has been leading services at the temple.