153 White Meadow Road | Rockaway, New Jersey 07866 | 973-627-4500 | email@example.com | Calendar and Candlelighting Schedule
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Rabbi Charlie Mahashavoth
Dues & Do’s
The subject of synagogue dues is a difficult and downright uncomfortable subject. It is also a necessary subject. The synagogue – any synagogue – needs money to function: to pay its staff (clergy, educational, administrative, maintenance), its costs (utilities, repairs, insurance), to fund its programming (educational endeavors for youth and adults, holiday activities, social events, religious services), and even to plan for its future development (surveys, consultants, construction). It is not only unrealistic, but absurd to expect a synagogue to provide all that it should for its members and for the community without asking something from its members. However, I will leave the issues of dues to our lay leadership (who are tackling the financial issues of the synagogue with great seriousness and responsibility – we should be very proud of them!).
What I want to discuss with you is the topic of do’s, the other obligations we have toward our schul. And we do have other obligations. As members of a synagogue, we are members of a community, a community of people with shared values and visions that we seek to put into practice. Social action, education, prayer, cultural activities, holiday celebrations, support for Israel, even social get-togethers are more than just activities on a calendar; they are expressions of what is important to us as Jews. Therefore, to truly be members of our community, we should be doing all that we can to support our endeavors – not just with our money but with our persons.
Woody Allen once quipped, “Eighty-five percent of success is showing up.” Perhaps the greatest challenge facing synagogues (and churches, and various non-profit organizations) is participation. We would all be more successful if our members actually “showed up.” And I don’t mean just attendance – as important as that is. Participation is also a sense of ownership, of pride in the life of the congregation. Do we know what’s going on in our own schul? Do we pay attention to e-mails, announcements, and bulletins? How often do we tell friends outside of our synagogue community what is happening at White Meadow Temple, and how often do we invite them to participate in one of our programs?
We are blessed with wonderful experiences in our schul, and truth be told, our participation rates would actually embarrass larger congregations. However, we have so many wonderful experiences happening at White Meadow Temple: our services and social events, our school programs and Adult education offerings, Seniors’ events and Shabbat/Holiday programs for little ones. For our own benefit, more of us should enjoy all that goes on in our schul.
Another challenge is the need for volunteers. Professionals can only do so much, and even large synagogues can only afford to hire so many professionals. So, if we want our schul to offer the types of experiences we desire (social, educational, cultural, religious, youth) we have to be willing to get involved in the planning and execution of this programming. One or two people do not make up a committee – no matter how talented and capable they are – nor can the same “cast of characters” be on every committee. What makes our synagogue (or any synagogue) special is the different interests, abilities, and perspectives of its members. The more everyone takes part, the richer our experiences.
Moreover, we are all busy in our lives. It is rare to find individuals who alone have the time to perform all the tasks necessary to develop and implement activities for an organization. Yet when the work is shared, much more is accomplished with much less of a burden on any one person.
In the three decades that I have been a rabbi, there have consistently been three types of comments I hear from members: 1. “Why don’t we do/have more (name the program or activity)?” Or: 2. “Rabbi, this (name the program or activity) was wonderful!” Or: 3. What’s in the synagogue for me and my family? These are all statements. There are fabulous things going on at White Meadow Temple, and there could and should be more. But the ultimate success and growth of our community depends not on “them,” but on us.
So, I am encouraging everyone to start paying do’s, to make schul membership an active, exciting, and participatory experience. Volunteer for one of our committees, come to services, help out with activities and events. And come to our many wonderful events, be a cheerleader for our outstanding community. For any of us, what we can pay in dues might be limited; but what we can pay in do’s has no end.