A proposed merger between two Downbeach synagogues is now called off after one of the congregations voted against the move.

The boards for Congregation Beth El in Margate and Beth Judah in Ventnor, both members of the United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism, had approved a merger proposal in December that could have meant a joint congregation by the end of 2013.

But first the proposal had to go through a joint steering committee, and the plan shifted from the Beth El building hosting the new congregation to the Beth Judah building serving as host.

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Beth Judah President Barney Linn said the steering committee, both executive committees and boards voted "overwhelmingly" to recommend adoption of the merger plan, and a vote earlier this month by the Beth Judah congregation approved the plan 281-43. The Beth El congregation, however, voted against the plan, with 110 opposed and 43 in favor.

"It just wasn't supported," Beth El President Gerard Spanier said. "It was very, very soundly defeated in our synagogue. Not even close."

Moving to the Beth Judah location, he added, "would have made it next to impossible for our rabbi to go there, because he won't travel on the Sabbath."

The merger, Spanier said, "was a very emotional issue, that much is for sure."

Linn, meanwhile, stated in a letter to the congregation that while disappointed, "I speak for our entire congregation when I thank our friends at Beth El for their hard work and dedication to the concepts of positive change and growth for our Jewish community that have come out of the past two years of effort."

"I commend my Beth El counterparts on the Merger Steering Committee for their integrity, energy, and most of all, their friendship," Linn said. "We may not have seized this moment, but we have reached out to one another to take the hand of trust in ways that will last much longer."

Linn added Tuesday that "consolidation in the local Jewish community is inevitable. And if managed intelligently and carefully, it will help us preserve local Jewish life at the shore."

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