Ask Her…For A Donation
* This is a real congregant profile but the name has been altered for privacy purposes *
Elaine is 92. She and Joe have been members of a synagogue for most of their adult lives. When their children were young they belonged so the children could attend Hebrew School. They maintained their membership throughout the years occasionally participating in interfaith programming which was a keen interest of theirs. This included a visit to Israel as part of the synagogue and a neighboring church. In retirement they moved to the Metro New York area to be nearer to their children and grandchildren. They joined a synagogue where Elaine’s sister and brother and their families had belonged for many years. They attended on the High Holy Days and for Yahrzeits. When Joe passed away two years ago at 96 of course the new young rabbi performed the funeral.
Elaine is very well off. She was a teacher for 30 years. Joe was a successful surgeon and medical school professor. Money has never been a concern. Several years ago, they had moved to a community that had levels of care. Elaine remains in the Independent Living section and now has the help of a 24 hour a day Home Health Aide. She doesn’t drive anymore, but still owns a car. Either the aide, a paid driver, or one of her children takes her to where she needs to go. Which during COVID, has been limited to medical appointments.
Elaine hasn’t paid her synagogue dues this year. Services have been online and while she appreciates greatly when her children are visiting and they set up the Shabbat worship via Zoom, she has no interest in learning this aspect of technology. Her primary means of communication are her cell phone and texting with her children and grandchildren. She has Yahrzeit candles for her parents, brother and husband and a prayerbook.
If you were to ask Elaine about her end of life plans, the new young rabbi is still slated to lead her Memorial Service.
Regarding synagogue philanthropy, Elaine and Joe always paid their dues in one check in September. They made nominal donations at the time of Yahrzeits, most often to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund. In 65 years of belonging to synagogues, they made two capital campaign contributions each for $10,000.
In all this time, no one has ever asked them to name any of the synagogues to which they belonged in their wills.
The synagogue should continue to send reminders about Yahrzeits via regular mail. The rabbi should call Elaine monthly. When things return to a more normal schedule, she might arrange to offer Elaine a ride to the temple for Shabbat worship when she has Yahrzeit.
And someone should ask her to name the synagogue in her will. 65 years of being a congregant is really quite an accomplishment. Even if it is $10,000 or $25,000, the synagogue has had meaning to her life and it is something she is likely to do. She just needs to remain involved. And she just has to be asked.