Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved.” Exodus 25:2
As Jews, we almost have been conditioned to begin any conversation with a new synagogue with one question – how much are your dues?
The question is realistic – all of us have financial constraints under which we operate – but also diminishes the basic reality of synagogue life in the 21st Century – without the financial commitments of our members, we fail to exist. Yes, in the beginning, G-d said let their be light. But it’s up to us to pay our electric bill.
A synagogue is not a fee-for-service institution. It is a vital component not just of the Jewish community but of the larger community as a whole and by making a financial commitment to a shuel, you are supporting the wider Jewish community here in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
A synagogue is a community of people who are committed to the ideals of Judaism. A synagogue is a place to share our joys and sorrows together. It is a place where we can find people who share a common interest – a love for Judaisum. Synagogues are a place to teach our children so that they can grow up to be inspired by Judaism.
As Jews in North America we have for the most part become assimilated into the mainstream culture of America. We tend to live in communities with people from different religious and cultural backgrounds rather than in homogenous communities as we may have done in the past.
Because of this, the role of the synagogue has changed. Some may believe that the synagogue will always be there when it is needed and therefore do not feel a need to financially support it. If everyone where to think that way, when we do need a synagogue there will not be one for us to attend.
The synagogue cannot survive without a financially committed membership.
So rather than think of a monthly payment as dues, akin to a health club membership, let us look at it as a financial commitment to the Jewish community so that the synagogue will be there l’dor v’dor. Members’ support and commitment help congregations maintain this connection to the community and to its future and ensure the continuity of synagogue life in the future.