Synagogue Dues

Can’t live with them. Can’t survive without them.

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Comments (33)

(27) Miriam, September 27, 2012 5:36 PM

Cant afford

My husband fell away from his shul when his mother died and they expected to pay two memberships, one for himself and one for his brother who was developmentally disabled. Over the years we talked about going back, now that his brother has passed, but the 2 to 3 thousand dollars a year for a memebership we can't afford. My husband needs to reconnect with his faith, and I cannot believe that G*d wants this seperation from his people. We are called on to look out for the poor and the widows, but if they cannot even be members of the shul how can we take care of them (out of sight is out of mind).

(26) Yisroel, September 22, 2012 10:43 AM

Turned me off Judaism for years and still does

#1 Years ago I went to High Holiday services at the synagogue where my wife was teaching Hebrew school. Right in the middle of Rosh Hashana services, the president started a reverse auction "Dr. Schmelowitz and his wife have donated $10,000, are there others who like to match their donation". On it went, down to the level of Chai. I left services, disgusted to be part of race/religion that embraces this activity. To this day, I carry the image and the disgust of that event with me. #2 Years later with pre-purhased tickets to another synagogue, I walked in the main door a few minutes after services had started. As I approached the sanctuary doors, the usher didn't say "Welcome" or "Hello" or "Shana Tova", but "Where's your ticket". If I could have done so without consequence, I would have decked the old geezer And synagogues wonder why membership is on the decline and no one wants to come to shul

(25) Anonymous, August 26, 2012 4:40 AM

Dues yes, High Holy Days no

My small synagogue asks for yearly membership dues, but it doesn't require "tickets" for the High Holy Days. It isn't right to deny someone the right to attend synagogue on the holiest days of the year, nor is it right to ask someone to pay a lot of money to celebrate the New Year or to atone for sins. Dues are okay; tickets for holidays are not.

(24) Anonymous, August 26, 2012 3:16 AM

Our world needs the prayers

I am thankful Chabad does not charge a fee to attend High Holy Days. I pray no one is turned away from any shul because they can not pay to attend or because they are ashamed to say they can not afford to pay. May all be able to pray together. Our world needs these prayers.

(23) Judith, August 25, 2012 7:09 PM

I dislike when they charge the same fee for a a full family (with a man / men who get alyiot and every possible cavod potentially three times a week or more) and single women, who even if thy showed up every single shabbat do not get a tenth of what men can. In Israel you can find different prices for different amount of people in the family buy it's still the same for both genders...

(22) anonymous, August 24, 2012 5:22 AM

chazan costs around 8 thousand alone besides shul costs!

Obviously, shuls need some way to raise money to pay its regular monthly... bills, electricity (we expect heat and A/C don't we?), rent/mortgage....etc. However, my issue is that as the other person commented about PRIORITIES! Many shuls charge a lot for membership but do not make priorities. I personally do not want my membership money going for things that are not really needed like giving free kiddush.... So too, although davening with a "real" and experienced chazzan is nice.... , my relative who is a chazan said they pay chazzanim around 8 thousand for these high holidays so is the membership money/seat money going toward basic bills or to pay for a "real" chazzan. I know some of you might say this is ridiculous, but let's forget about the chazzan, hire a "regular" which would be one ninth of the price! For those of you that say, "of course we need a 'real" chazzan for these high holidays, well, then don't complain about the charge for seats, who will pay for these expensive chazzanim? yes, as that person commented about priorities, maybe pay less money for your lease (like maybe get a less expensive model car), get less expensive cuts of meat....all those things so that you could pay the extra 300-500 for the shul to be able to stay open! However, I do want to see how these shuls spend their money since I am paying membership!

(21) Andy, August 23, 2012 4:24 AM

joke re praying comes to mind

Chabad does this well. They encourage donations but don't charge .obe reason they are successful in reaching so many Jews. You're video brings to mind the joke about the gut who shows up without a ticket but is allowed to come in when he agrees not to pray

(20) Marilyn Stein, August 22, 2012 11:04 PM

There is a solution.

My synagogue charges dues and they are not cheap. But if you can't pay the full dues, you explain and you get full membership including voting at the annual congregation meeting and high holiday tickets.We have 40 families who pay nothing. No one knows who they are and that's the way we like it.

(19) Melanie Vliet, August 22, 2012 2:01 PM

I Think This Is an Easy One!

This is the first time I've commented on one of your videos, although I always enjoy them and find them thought-provoking and well-thought-out and executed. We give to G-d and His work because we love Him and he has required it in his word. Membership and tickets, on the other hand, are not to be found in Scripture. We give what we can out of a joyful heart of gratitude for all He has done for us. Our ability to do so, or our selfing failure to do so, should have no bearing whatsoever on our right and obligation to obey His command to come together to worship Him. Giving is voluntary or it is meaningless. He gives us the privilege of participating in His work here on earth; If we reject that privilege, we refuse to receive the blessing.

(18) Anonymous, August 22, 2012 1:34 PM

differing rates

It is true that synagogues have to have money. They cannot keep the doors open or lights on without it. At the same time the people of the synagogue are responsible for caring for poor; NO one should be turn away, Right? Here is my idea. Have differing rates for tickets and membership dues. The prices will be base on the economic status of the individual. This way everyone can give something. Sound good right, but what about those who might try to cheat the system. Well a panel could be set up so that when a person asked for the reduced ticket/dues, the panel can make a decision based on things like check subs etc.

(17) Raphaelle Do Lern Hwei, August 22, 2012 10:54 AM

Get Sponsors To Cater Kosher Festive Meals

We had that problem just last week when we brought 60 volunteers and senior citizens living alone for a sponsored boat trip around Singapore's Marina Bay. One option was to approach the local Buddhist Lodge which churned out copious amounts of free vegetarian lunches and dinners. We need only to pay for the packing materials and eatiing tools (forks, spoons and chopsticks; or any Sikh Temple which also has an open vegetarian kitchen. The food is not offered to any deity in both places. Should be acceptable. They will be happy if we thank them by cash or reciprocal voluntary service. Good to practise cooking both cuisines.

(16) Uriel, August 22, 2012 2:27 AM

Very easy

If a synagouge has dues and/or membership, it is a very good indicater to STAY AWAY from that synagouge and members. A synagouge is a place to pray and connect to Hashem. Who ever invented this idea of dues should have their bones grinded to dust. All members do not have yrat shamaim. Its a very easy solution. I'm not here to advertise, but I know for sure, that every Chabad house does not apply this disguting concept.

David Handler, August 22, 2012 1:26 PM

Who will pay for the costs of running the shul?

Dear Uri, I spend a good number of hours in my shul every day whether it be in learning, praying or setting the shaonei Shabbat. I can tell you that almost all if not all members have yirat Shamayim. We have never turned away anyone from any tefila, shiur, aliya latorah or even from a kiddush because he didn't pay dues or isn't a member. It costs a lot of money to run a shul. Where Chabad gets their financing is not for me to know. It is an obligation of the person to help support the shul so it can be available for everyone. Some people may object on principle, apparently as you do, but in that case, they should surely give donations to the shul to help them cover the many expenses. There is no way that the shul can remain open without getting income from somewhere. As far as people who are destitute, the dues are reduced to a minimum (actually near nothing), so the member will not feel that he is a "shnorrer". In addition to dues, the shul often gets donations usually for honors given to members as well as non-members. Without this income, the place that you want to connect to Hashem would not exist. If you look in the holy Torah, you will see that Moshe Rabeinu was told to "TAKE donations" from the people and then later he had to tell the people to stop bringing. Try giving donations and not cursing the ones who dreamed up dues with grinding their bones and maybe you too will have to be told "enough". May I take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy and meaningful new year. To Rabbi Salomon. I sometimes agree with what you say, I sometimes disagree but I always enjoy listening to you. May you and your family be inscribed in the book of life along with all of Israel.

Uriel, August 23, 2012 11:23 AM

I understand that a shul NEEDs funding, but that should come for donations, not a tax of some sort. In the time of the Rambam, honouraries were given to the wisest, and oldest attenders of the shul. Take a look at the Rambam's laws of a shul in sefer Ahava I believe.

(15) Misrable, August 21, 2012 10:01 PM

Tuition vs dues vs food

Many people in my neighborhood (Baltimore) can not even afford food and basic needs, espicially with Tuition, did I say Tuition. So yes many of us can't pay membership to our shul, let alone for High Holiday tickets. It is simply a fact, I am 800 in the whole every month and I am trying to get a second job. A friend of mine is off the derech because of the high cost of being Orthodox and it is hard not to follow along. If I could join I would but I can not. I go to shul and I will on the High Holidays, being a Jew I get to that, even if I don't pay membership. It is just getting harder and harder to continue to do this. In order to afford tuition I have to become a Begger (Ahvas Israel), Thief (use money grandparents set aside for kids future), and an embezler (if we work a second or third job on the books they will raise tuition too much and it won't help so have to break the law-whihc means breaking halacha- to teach my kids halacha in Yeshiva, oh well when I get to Hell I will have plenty of company).

(14) Ellis, August 21, 2012 7:18 PM

Shuls need funding in order to provide services.

Every shul needs a source of funding if it is to keep its doors open and provide the services the community wants. It doesn't matter whether you call it dues or charity, every Jew is morally obligated to support his or her shul. Even if you only attend three days a year, you have an obligation to help fund operating costs. My shul has a dues fee schudule and we expect members to pay their dues and other obligations. We have members who are not able to afford the scheduled fee. Our membership chairman works with these families to establish a reduced rate that fits their situation so that they can participate fully in our community. We do not have tickets for the High Holidays and we do not turn people away but we do expect (a sign is posted) non members attending to make an appropriate donation for the "services received". Members of our membership committee try to introduce themselves to people they do not know and welcome them in order to establish a potential membership connection. Without adequate revenues there is no shul for anyone. Everyone should expect to pay towards the up keep of the organization.

(13) Rivkah, August 21, 2012 6:24 PM

my solution

High Holidays are a great time for charity....why not sponsor a family/person tickets? So as not embarass anyone don't tell the giver or receiver who was helped. You get the mitzvah of helping a fellow jew pray and lift the prayers of the shul higher! My shul doesn't charge for seats but takes donation for honors. I would also like to encourage others not to bad mouth other jews especially during this time...if reform or conservative jew is going to shul every little bit of their prayers are wanted by the Almighty we need to be united my friends.Have a meaningful High Holidays!

(12) Drew, August 21, 2012 5:22 PM

"Pay to pray" is a crass excuse for not supporting your community

The reality is that someone has to pay to provide the physical space and pay the rabbi, the cantor, and the person who maintains the building. If you are not providing financial support to your local community, and you have the ability to do so, then you are praying in a space provided by others and not contributing your fair share to the maintenance of the community, because in most cases, the community needs to maintain the building and pay the professional staff throughout the year in order to have it and them available to you during the Yomim Noraim. However, no community should ever turn away those who want to pray, but are truly unable to contribute. Those who believe that a synagogue can run on donations alone have never been actively involved in the management of a synagogue. I would ask those people to think about whether their annual donations to the house of worship they attend would support their share of its operations. Said another way, if you believe that donations are enough, take the donations you made last year, multiply that amount by the number of families who are members, and consider whether that covers the cost of a mortgage, the rabbi's salary, the bills for heating, lighting, maintenance, insurance, the cost of replacement of things like pews, tables, payerbooks, etc.

(11) John Shore (Schorr), August 21, 2012 4:56 PM

Paying to use Synagogue

Ludicrous. Having to pay to worship God is beyond my understanding. Man made rules about God is forbidden regardless of who makes them. God's plan and guidelines for living are simple otherwise those of us not highly educated would not be able to serve God.

(10) Channie, August 21, 2012 4:35 PM

Two half shekels make a whole

Our very first Temple required "memebership dues" of half a shekel tor "bulding maintenance". The truth is we live in a world that is comprised of two overlappping realms, the physical and the spiritual. Our very lives are comprised of the physical body and the spiritual soul. Within this world, neither can exist without the other, and each needs its appropriate nutrients to stay healthy and grow. The same is true of the physical structures that serve a spiritual purpose, our synagogues and our religious schools. The Torah itself saw a need for at least a minimum membership dues assessment. The remainder was to be made up through donations . It was this minimum half shekel requirement that left each Jew feeling he had a stake in the central Temple, and it is only when two halves symbollically join, say our Sages, that we create a whole and a unified body. Certainly we should create a means for allowing everyone whose heart desires to join us in our services not just for the High Holy Days, but also throughout the year, but to really "belong" requires at least a minimum physical (cash) investment, even if on a very graduated level.

(9) Alan Brochstein, August 21, 2012 4:20 PM

Dues: One Jew, 3 Opinions

I have some experience in this area and spend a lot of time thinking about it. In a perfect world, people would voluntarily fund the temple out of duty and also because it is worthy of being funded. Of course, "free riders" will always be a problem, but compelling someone to pay when they don't want to do so isn't a good long-term solution. The efforts of the rabbis, staff and lay leadership should be to sell the "value proposition", and not just for one or two days a year. In some synagogues, it can make sense to create a competitive environment, where financial support for the temple is shared publicly, with generosity resulting perhaps in specific benefits. In a small town, it's next-to-impossible to expect a synagogue to be able to exist without compelling membership. Unfortunately, the survival of "God's House" can depend upon forcing guilty "twice-a-year" Jews to support the temple. I always remind folks that it's impossible to have an edifice and a rabbi for just two days a year - these things must be supported 365 days a year or they won't persist. We don't live in a world where the synagogue gets its "fair share". In some situations, compulsory dues are a necessary evil. In those cases, the temple should ALWAYS have respect for the individual's financial means and not make joining the temple truly a financial burden. In other cases, synagogues need to get creative and figure out how to get congregants to want to support them, even if it isn't entirely for the "right" reasons. Ultimately, I hope that all temples will strive to create an environment where congregants WANT to support them and for the right reasons.

(8) Anonymous, August 21, 2012 3:18 PM

welcome all who want to pray

space should be made for those who want to pray - a small donation could be asked for separate from the paying membership...?

(7) STAN EHRLICH, August 21, 2012 1:45 PM


In order to somehow address the issue, we put the following wording on our Rosh HaShana seating application form PLEASE NOTE that it is not the intention to exclude anyone on the basis of cost and you are therefore invited to approach the Chairman or Treasurer to discuss possible sponsorship and/or payment terms

(6) David, August 21, 2012 3:19 AM

Charge for admission to your own house...not to G-d's

When I became interested in exploring my Jewish heritage, living in an out-of-town community, I was totally turned off by the Orthodox shul's bizarre and stubborn insistence on extracting exorbitant sums to allow me to pray with them on the high holidays. They only agreed to sell me a ticket on condition that I expressed serious interest in membership (without having first seen what services there were like!). This was a major turnoff. Then when the "rabbi" of the Conservative temple offered us an easy smile and a free ticket, we were easily sidetracked on a multi-year setback in our teshuva. Today I daven at a small shul, but I have an associate membership at a big minyan factory, and I am struggling with whether to drop that membership over the blast email requiring every member to make sure he's paid up or else no seat come yomtov. That's not even the shul I'll be at for the yomim noraim, but I am so repulsed that they would visit on another Jew what I experienced--I don't even want to be a part of it. I contribute to shuls because I want to be a part of the community and support Torah, and that's the only reason anyone should donate. The pressure, the threat of denying access to davenin with a tzibur, especially in these times and really always, when there are those who cannot afford and dignity requires that the kehilla not compel them to grovel. It's painful to me, and I may soon have a larger contribution for my main shul because even though I daven during the week at this minyan factory, I don't want to be a part of keeping the doors open at an institution that closes the door on our community's most downtrodden.

mike, August 21, 2012 3:51 PM


Its very naive to believe a Shul can exist without those wishing for its existence being reliable in its support. Its nice to rely on others to supply you with this privilege. Its just unrealistic. Another alternative is to forego a Shul and pray alone in the desert. If that doesn't work for you then its a pay as you go world. Once you decide on who you will honor with your membership you can pay all its bills so they wont have to ask anyone else for money.

David, October 3, 2012 2:38 AM

We're not talking about Federal taxes for highways and the military...

Apologies for the delayed response--I just saw your note, Mike. I never argued against communal support of synagogues; we agree that the shul's bills are paid by donations. We disagree only about how to deal with those members of the community who cannot afford to pay the stipulated dues. Your position is that we ought to spurn them. I have a different view.

(5) Ernest Miller, August 20, 2012 7:44 AM

The reality is that you have to have dues as a synagogue cannot support itself! Ideally, a shul or synagogue should have enough available seats for the holidays so that non-members can attend as guests and pay thieir way to the synagogue for the pirivlege of praying there.

(4) Sidney, August 20, 2012 4:10 AM

Obligation to Pay

(I am not talking about a true pauper) Boy are we spoiled in the USA and separation of church and state contributes to our convoluted thinking. From time immemorial it was a HALACHIC obligation for Jews to belong to the local Jewish community and pay their dues. (In some countries the local congregation even had taxing authority to collect.) So even though there is no compulsion in the USA to pay one definitely should.

(3) Charlotte, August 19, 2012 11:16 PM


Why can't you run on donations made throughout the year?

(2) Rho, August 19, 2012 5:10 PM


I pay my dues. But I am Sephardic, everyone is welcome, member or not. You do not have to buy tickets for the High Holy Days, it is a house of prayer.

Anonymous, August 21, 2012 3:53 PM

but what if?

But what if the Shul doesn't have enough money to stay open? Do you close the Shul or ask for donations? Unless someone decides to foot those bills the Shul is closed for everyone.

(1) Anonymous, August 19, 2012 5:02 PM

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

It is really interesting that when the high holy days come around, many people start to talk about synagogues and Jewish community. At the end of the day, this phenomenon can be divided into two distinct parts: 1.) The community needs vs. individual needs, and 2.) Priorities. As regards to the first, when someone complains about cost or the 'facts of life', i.e. buying a shul membership to be admitted, its the Yetzer Hara speaking out loud. Why? If you translate, what they are saying is as follows: "I want to be in the prime seat for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur at my _____ (insert name here) synagogue, and what really matters is that I get to be at my shul, on my terms."...The whole reason for shul membership in the first place is so that a community can thrive, and a shul can offer a broad range of services to its congregation to help them grow. When one says all they are concerned about is 'getting their fix' on the high holy days, it ignores the 'bigger picture' of synagogue life - Hashem wants this to be about ALL the Jews of that paritcular community (or on a broader level, the world). Getting to sit in your seat, on your terms, is about you, and not about serving Hashem by thinking about your fellow Jew. 2.) Priorities - everybody has them. Some are high on the list, some aren't so much. With the exception of a very limited number of people, resources are scarce, and so you have to prioritize your money and figure out how to allocate it for the best Return on Investment (ROI). So lets get this straight: I (I am guilty of this too) bought a cashmere sweater earlier in the winter this past year, and a shiny new watch...but shul tickets at $375 a pop? No way!" That is the thinking. We choose our priorities, and like it or not, shul is unfortunately low on some people's priority list. When it comes time for the things that really matter, people have empty pockets. Its not a matter of too little money, its a matter of mixed up priorities.

Alan Brochstein, August 21, 2012 4:22 PM

Well Said, Anonymous

Yes, priorities! May this be the year when we all put Judaism as a higher priority in our lives!


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