The primary source of strength and continuity in Judaism
is the synagogue. The community wants synagogues, clergy, religious schools, lifelong learning, life-cycle events, and communal support available when needed. So, the
community should support our synagogues during those years in between those needs. The synagogue functions as a beit Midrash (school), a beit Knesset (community center), a social hall, a
political center, a social service center for pastoral counseling, and a youth center. The costs for maintaining those services are substantial.
The next step is to assess what resources we might need or prefer from a shul: a rabbi, a school, children’s programming, special interest groups, adult education programs, to name a few. Prospective members always have one question: “How much does it cost?” We need to recognize that sometimes financial considerations keep people away from synagogues. Voluntary dues can be a hard sell to a congregation. Some people think they are unrealistic. The bottom line is that synagogues need dues as a basis for their budget. Synagogues don’t have readily available cash flow other than dues and donations, so it’s not an appealing practice to have voluntary dues or abolish dues.
Synagogues do not pass around collection plates during services, as churches do. This is largely because Jewish law prohibits carrying money on holidays and Shabbat. Instead, synagogues are financed through membership dues paid annually, through voluntary donations and the purchase of various types of memorial plates and signs.
It is important to note, however, that you do not need to
be a member of a synagogue in order to worship there. If you plan to worship at a synagogue regularly, and you have the financial means, you should certainly pay your dues to cover your fair share of
the synagogue’s costs. Then the synagogue is available for you, your family, your neighbors and your community, when you may need its services.
There is a thought in some Jewish communities that the financing structure of synagogues is out of date, out of touch, and unsustainable, particularly in these difficult financial times. First, two interesting facts: The average cost of maintaining a synagogue is $2,400 per household regardless of number of members. Approximately 80% of all Jews belong to a synagogue at some point in their lives, and 90% of households with children belong to a synagogue at some point. Therefore, the financial problem with synagogues is not recruitment, but retention.
At Temple Beth Or, we work to maintain a reasonable amount of dues so that the individuals who can afford to give donations over and above the minimum will do so. It should not cost thousands of dollars to call yourself an affiliated Jew. Synagogue membership is a voluntary act, and contributing to one’s synagogue community should be a reasonable amount. That is why our dues are relatively low. We ask that you give voluntarily in addition to the amount of dues set. If financial circumstances limit a sustaining gift, then consider giving your time. We need volunteers, too.
In the Torah, a community focus is central. We are told to leave a portion of our field unharvested. We are told not to glean the field or vineyards. In a traditional sense, a person is in a living, dynamic covenant that should reflect generous giving. Even a recipient of tzedekah (giving justly), must give to those with less. We Jews should seek to be members of a “caring community.”
According to recent surveys, dues represent from 45 to 65 percent of the revenue for most Jewish congregations. Dues require broad-based congregational support, legitimacy and reflect a community’s sense of obligation.
For our Jewish community, Temple Beth Or, your voluntary dues will support the general operating budget. Much of the general operating budget goes towards rabbinic salary. This ensures that there is someone available to visit the sick and dying who are members of TBOR, or unaffiliated. There is someone available for Jewish funerals, weddings, bnei mitzvah education, baby naming and to teach classes of interest to the community. There is someone who will work on bridging the gap between various Jewish groups within Reno and who will maintain interfaith dialogue. Additional tzedakah supports cultural endowment work. We would like to bring Jewish culture to the Reno area. All of this is of course a work in progress; programs and services will grow along with our congregation. We have just started a monthly Israeli movie night, along with weekly conversational Hebrew.
I chose Temple Beth Or because of a desire to learn more
about my faith. My Jewish journey has led me to Rabbi Beyer and Temple Beth Or. I feel comfortable that I can know a little or a lot, and I will be welcomed to learn and ask questions. I am
drawn to Temple Beth Or because of the warmth and friendliness of its members and its Rabbi. The people here welcomed me, and have helped me find my new Jewish community. Please join us if
you are interested in a spiritual community that encourages and inspires you.
Please call me, Don Kurzman, our Ombudsman, or the Rabbi, if you have any questions or concerns about the dues for Temple Beth Or. My number is 742-5736, and you can reach Don at 852-4504. Thank you for your support of our shul.
Barbara Ries – Treasurer