Rabbi David Ellenson, PhD & Chancellor Arnold Eisen, PhD – March 15, 2019
Congregation Beth Israel welcomes all who wish to affiliate with a Reform Jewish synagogue. Every congregation depends on the financial support of its members. Here at Beth Israel, we ask each member to make an annual Fair Share Dues Commitment based on each family’s ability to contribute, regardless of their level of income. A small select committee appointed by the Board of Trustees is dedicated to establishing our fair share dues system to meet the financial needs of the congregation and accommodate the needs of our members. Any Fair Share adjustments are recommended and voted on by the Board of Trustees after an extensive annual budgeting process. All Fair Share information is held in strictest confidence. Answers for many of our frequently asked questions are included in our FAQ section below. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Sara Kaiser, Membership Administrative Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our doors are always open… Every congregation depends on the financial support of each of its members to be able to open its doors every day. That means money to pay for the building, cover the payroll, air conditioning and other utilities, insurance premiums, office supplies, maintenance, and programming needs. Our dues pay those bills and enable us to provide a Jewish home for our members.
• A place to connect and call home… Our synagogue is a place where we can feel at home, connected to our Jewish roots; a place to learn and be inspired; a source of great strength and comfort; a place that touches us at some of the most significant moments of our lives. Dues enable us to provide these things, not as a fee paid for benefits offered, but as an investment in ourselves, our children, our community and future generations.
• An investment and legacy…Well-known author and Rabbi Lawrence Kushner once wrote, “Congregations are a lot like homes; you get what you pay for…there are no substitutes for investing in and maintaining something of quality and lasting value.” The values that we consider so important in our homes and in our congregation may often seem intangible, but we know they are indispensable. So, it does take all of us and is our collective responsibility and legacy to share and support our community and congregational home, Beth Israel.
What is fair? Fairness is an important issue in deciding how any congregation raises money to sustain its operations. Some choose a fixed dues system, where everyone pays the same amount. Others, including Beth Israel, prefer a system of graduated dues, where congregants are asked to give an amount that reflects their financial ability to contribute.
• You decide. Our Fair Share dues plan is based on self-assessment. Our actual cost to provide activities, services, and support life cycle events for our congregants is nearly $3000 per family every year. We understand that every member has a different capacity to give. Identifying the amount of your annual gift to Congregation Beth Israel is a personal decision, and should be considered carefully. You can be assured that you will never be asked to reveal your income. But we do hope you will consider your resources when you determine the amount of your commitment.
• Fair Share vs. Fixed Dues: A Fair Share dues system allows Beth Israel to accept many members who otherwise would be unable to afford membership in a fixed dues system where all members pay the same level, regardless of their financial situation.
• Affordable and open to all: A Fair Share dues system is flexible, allowing members to pay according to their ability. Our policy ensures that membership is affordable to all who wish to be members. It is the essence of our tradition of tzedakah, justice and righteousness. It is not the intention of the plan, nor is it possible, to pinpoint the income of a particular individual or family. No one is denied membership at Congregation Beth Israel for financial reasons. All Temple dues information is held in the strictest confidence.
• 72% of Annual Budget: Fair Share dues are a critical component to the financial health of Congregation Beth Israel, and account for approxiamtely 72% of our Temple’s annual budget. While some congregations have significant endowments or other funding sources, at this time, we are almost solely dependent upon our Fair Share dues to support both the operating and capital expenses associated with supporting all of the programming and community activities provided by the Temple.
• It’s up to you! Because Fair Share dues are such a large component of our operating budget, we truly depend upon our congregants to support the Congregation at a level that is commensurate with their ability to do so according to our Fair Share system.
• “Why do I have to pay so much if I rarely attend?” – This is always a tough question, but definitely a fair one. Many members say: “I only come to services twice a year.” “I only want to be buried there.” and therefore don’t feel that they should contribute at a level commensurate with their ability to do so. If a religious congregation only held services a few times a year, this argument might be valid, but our congregation is open year round so that families can celebrate their simchahs as well as receive support in times of loss or need — any day of the year. Fair Share dues support all of the operating and capital expenses associated with making our Temple and our Clergy available to its Congregants.
• Commitment to Excellence… Beth Israel is committed to excellence — in programming, education, staffing and service. Excellence includes meeting our budget. Beth Israel exists today because previous generations recognized and fulfilled their responsibility toward its preservation. When you join Beth Israel, your commitment to conscientious dues support helps assure future generations that Beth Israel will be here to serve them.
• Our responsibility and legacy…Beyond all of the tangible activities and services our Congregation provides, we are building and sustaining a Jewish community. Your financial support helps sustain our Jewish congregational home, and makes our Temple a vital part of the wider community and a center of Jewish life, 52 weeks a year. Beth Israel is a place that is worth your commitment, a place to gather alongside others committed to the rewarding work of creating a vital Jewish community. From generation to generation, it is our responsibility and our legacy to share.