Our new Annual Commitment structure sets a base commitment amount as well as commitment levels for a range of income levels. This new structure has raised an interesting question from some of our families. They say that they just don’t ‘use’ the temple that much. They may live far away, or they just don’t choose to come to services or participate in temple activities very often. They wonder why they should contribute the same base amount as those who are here all the time. I haven’t been able to address every question like this individually, so I’m going to attempt to do so here.
If you are a Jewish consumer looking for value in any traditional ‘fee for service’ sense, this argument has merit. In fact, you can get almost all of the benefits that synagogues purport to offer to ‘members’ either for free or at a lower cost if you buy them a la carte. You can attend Shabbat services for free and even grab something to eat at the oneg, and High Holiday services are available for individual purchase. Classes and events are often open to nonmembers for a modest price differential, and, in any given year, you probably won’t need a rabbi for a wedding or a funeral. You can rent a rabbi (not ours of course) for a private bar/bat mitzvah service. So why pay for something you can otherwise get for less?
Well, belonging to a synagogue is not like membership at a country club. It is not a transactional experience. That’s why we avoid the term ‘membership’ all together. We join a synagogue because we value its presence in our community and care about the future of Judaism for our children. We join a synagogue because we believe in supporting Jewish institutions. It’s not about ‘using’ our services; your Annual Commitment ensures that our temple will be here to enrich all of our lives now and for generations to come. And, certainly a time will come when you or your family or your friends will need our rabbi and our temple. Because you were there for our congregation, our congregation will be able to be there for you.
Clearly, everyone’s circumstances are different and everyone decides for themselves how they want to connect to CBHT and how much they can afford to support us. I think that many of us have considered increasing our Annual Commitment, despite any complaints we may have, because it is a place where we connect to something larger than ourselves — to our community, to ideas that can transform us and our world. These intangible benefits are the ones that make the cost of belonging to CBHT “worth it.”
These “Days of Awe” from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are a gift to us – a chance to step back and look at our lives and to consider the impact of the choices we make every day. May we all choose well.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, and my fellow officers, and on behalf of my family, I wish you a very happy, healthy and sweet new year.