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“Of Shuls and Country Clubs:” A Frank Conversation

This is the time of year we receive inquiries from people wishing to join our synagogue.  It is also when we learn which of our members will not maintain their affiliation.



People leave a synagogue for any of a variety of reasons.  Sometimes they join another congregation.  While I wish they would stay, I respect and understand that we may not meet everyone’s needs or expectations or that their religious philosophy may cause them to be more comfortable in a different setting.  One of the nice things about living in a diverse Jewish community is that individuals have choices and options.



What concerns me are those who decide not to renew because they assess the frequency of their attendance or participation at synagogue events, and they conclude that their “limited use” does not justify the expenditure.  As I have written and said before, synagogue affiliation should not be viewed in the same way one looks at belonging to a country club.



My goal is to build a vibrant and vital synagogue which touches the lives of many and plays an influential role in the Jewish community as well as in the lives of its members and their families.  Even if one does not take advantage of all that our shul has to offer, I hope those who are not active realize how important it is to continue to be members.



We can only achieve our goal of serving the Jewish community when we have a strong membership.  I cannot emphasize enough that by being a member you are supporting all that we do.  You should feel good knowing that your support enables us to do what we do on behalf of the local and greater Jewish community.  Paying dues helps allow us to maintain our facility, so you are indirectly supporting the religious education of our youth, as well as other educational, social, cultural programs and acts of hesed (loving kindness).  Think of it as a contribution, as tzedekah you are giving to strengthen the Jewish community and to help to ensure that our facility, staff and programs are here for the benefit of all.



I urge individuals who can increase their contributions to do so at this time, as our needs are greater than ever.  If someone is experiencing a true financial setback, we want to be there for them.  Financial hardship should not be a reason to drop out of the synagogue.  We are always willing to help to ensure that members can and do stay affiliated.  I want you to know that we have had more requests for dues and fees variances than ever before.  The only way we can survive these rough times is if those who can afford to contribute do.  In the final analysis, it is a choice.  I urge each of you to stay as members and increase your contribution regardless of your level of involvement.  Do not exempt yourself from the obligation to support the synagogue, and do not leave the responsibility to others.




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Stuart Weinblatt

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is the President of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America. From 2009 - 2014 he served as Director of Israel Policy and Advocacy for the Rabbinical Assembly.
Rabbi Weinblatt is the rabbi of Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland, a vibrant Conservative synagogue of 650 families he founded in 1988, along with his wife and a handful of families.