There was a time when all Jews belonged to a synagogue. In the Middle Ages, all Jewish people were assessed a “Shabbat Candle Tax” which served to support the Jewish community. In truth, there was no such thing as “membership dues;” only this tax of inclusion, and the generous contributions that individuals would make in addition to the tax.
And today in some European countries, there is no specific “synagogue dues” or membership fee. Rather, individuals indicate on their tax forms with which religion they identify, and a percentage of their tax money goes to support the institutions of that religion. Here in America, where we have separation of Church and State, there is no such government contribution to religious institutions. “Members” tithe (give 10% of their income), or pay “dues” as a way of supporting and identifying with a religious institution, and availing themselves of the services offered. Yes, the ideal is that all Jewish people be “affiliated” with a synagogue, the home of Jewish values and visions in every generation.
At Shaaray Tefila we have always believed that what a person can afford to pay our Temple should not determine their inclusion among us. Some of us are more blessed than others; many of us have expenses which often stretch our income to the limit. And from our inception, we of this congregation have believed and affirmed that a person’s value to us is not determined by how much money they give the temple. We also need heart, and vision, and commitment and enthusiasm, and the kind of hands-on involvement that will keep us dynamic and relevant and responsive to people’s needs. “Only do not make the Temple your last priority!” That has been our policy. Express a desire to be a part of our community and to enrich our community, and we will do all in our power to make that possible.
I realize that I am “preaching to the choir” in my words above. But it is important for us to understand and affirm that we are a welcoming and embracing congregation that values people for much more than their wealth and affluence. Please help us to spread that message throughout the larger community, and convey to your unaffiliated friends that we look forward to welcoming them into our congregation. Yes, we believe that there are both opportunities and responsibilities that come with being Jewish and that each generation must strive to pass on something good and worthy to the next. That is one of the core values of our congregation. .