$75, $2900

As I walked into my synagogue on the High Holy Days, there were two police officers in uniform greeting everyone. They had big smiles on their faces as they closely observed those walking through the doors, perhaps enjoying the human ongoing human contact that this assignment afforded them.

I was also thinking about the $75 security fee on my invoice from the synagogue.

With 515 members, the security fee falls short of $40,000. I can’t imagine that is quite enough to pay for the High Holy Day team of police along with the armed, and uniformed security guard who is always at the entrance whenever we are at the synagogue for Shabbat worship or for a meeting. And for any security enhancements like video that I keep hearing about. I imagine that $40,000 goes very quickly.

Of course there are so many other things that $40,000 could be spent towards. Like a full time youth staff member. You all could think of so many other things, too. But at this time, just having the security fee, as well as the police officers on the High Holy Days and the security guard gives people some peace of mind.

The other thought going through my head was $2900 in annual dues is a lot of money. If my two children were back in religious school, the total outlay to the temple would be $5000. There have been so many articles written on the cost of being Jewish. We should be so appreciative of every congregant for both their financial and time commitments.

But where is the ceiling? Perhaps 10 years ago, I had a similar thought about paying $2,000. And it would not surprise me if 10 years from now the cost of synagogue membership is $4,000. If religious school tuition rises in a similar fashion, families with two children might have to pay $7,000 annually to be a part of our Jewish community. 

And that $75 security fee? Either it will be incorporated into the overall fee structure, like salaries and other building costs, or it, too, will be considerably higher.

People know that costs go up. For salaries and for everything associated with the operations of synagogue life. This happens throughout our daily lives for so many things as well. But is there an amount that will make people think twice?

I am not sure we want to test this theory.

Finding other streams of income to support synagogue operations helps synagogues to not be so reliant on synagogue dues and religious school tuition. Like renting out your building either on a long-term basis or for events.

Or the infamous High Holy Day Appeal. Studies have shown that Jews are most philanthropic around the High Holy Days. And Americans are most philanthropic in December. So there is a window of 3-4 months to take advantage of people being in a synagogue frame of mind and being philanthropic.

Growing your endowment fund is another stream of income. This can take the form of a comprehensive endowment campaign similar to what happens at hospitals and universities. Or even a bequest program that take the long view – perhaps 10-15 years – of growing a synagogue endowment.

Whatever you use for a dues model, in order to see real financial growth, you have to do some other stuff, too!!

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