Beth Am Seeks Smaller, Less Expensive Facility

A public hearing will be held tonight regarding the Buffalo Grove Park District's plans to convert the Congregation Beth Am building into a performing arts center.

As officials pursue plans to purchase the facility, religious leaders are working to find a new home for their members.

Congregation Beth Am President Michael Schwartz said all options are on the table as the congregation determines which location will best serve its needs. The building that has housed the congregation since 1999 , and the park district officials hope to acquire the property and .

The park district's plans will be presented tonight (Sept. 5) to the Plan Commission, which will make a recommendation to the Buffalo Grove Village Board. A public hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at .

Schwartz said while purchasing a smaller building is an option, the congregation will most likely rent its next space or share it with another entity. While it hasn’t been determined where that will be, Schwartz said they hope to stay in the immediate area.

“Probably 80 percent of our members are within a 5-mile radius” of the current building, he said.

The congregation’s membership includes 365 families, he said, down from its peak of about 700 families just seven or eight years ago. He said changing demographics and the struggling economy have played roles in the declining membership. The decline has taken its toll on Beth Am’s finances, as the congregation relies solely on membership fees and donations. But, Schwartz said, “we have a solid core of members.”

“We’re not shutting our doors,” he emphasized. “Things are not as bad as some might lead others to think. We are not shutting down.”

Beth Am has formed a relocation committee, Schwartz said, composed of members who are exploring nearby options. The committee is expected to produce a few recommendations in the coming weeks, he said. They hope to identify their next home by the end of the year.

Schwartz said the current facility will house Beth Am’s religious programs and offices through June. Services, including the High Holy Days, will be held there through October 2013.

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