The Jew Rant

Alright, here it is at last.  The Jew Rant.  It’s been waiting 10+ years to finally escape my brain, and here it is.

I love Judaism.  I can’t stand other Jews.

I can’t stand your Mercedes-Benz in the Synagogue parking lot.  I don’t care about what medical school your kids are going to.  I’m irritated by your stuffy, lukewarm establishment liberalism.  I can’t stand being shoved aside by little old ladies with Jersey accents at the kiddish table.  I am sick of your tortured rabbinical gymnastics that build fences around fences around the Torah, and yet somehow provide a back door that lets you do exactly what the Torah says you shouldn’t.  I cannot sit through another of your roteShabbat observances, that remind me of nothing so much as a bunch of zombies going through the motions.  I am bored with your sick fascination with Christianity: fighting it as if it is still a grave threat to your Jewish identity, and then desperately trying to outdo it come the holiday season.  I am disgusted by your wretched "art" – stuck in a decades-old holocaust-haunted version of the "modern" style, when the rest of the world has long realized that "abstract" is just a nice way of saying "butt ugly".  I am left cold by your watered-down morality: just liberal enough to keep up with the California Joneses, but not so liberal that you make any waves.

But those are just the minor annoyances.  You know what I truly can’t stand about Jews?  The fact that Western Judaism is a Wealth Club.

No other major religion I know of (with the possible exception of Hinduism in India) is so focused on getting it’s hands into it’s adherents’ pocket-books.  Enter a conservative or reform synagogue and you will be accosted on all sides by thesymbology of wealth.  First of all, the very building itself – architect-ed to impress, and fitted out with rich carpets, recessed lighting, and dozens of specially-commissioned pieces of art in their own little alcoves.  Then, the little judaica shop with it’s hideous little "artsy" menorahs and mezzuzas – what other religion (Scientology doesn’t count) has merchandising built right into the place of worship?  Then you notice the plaques.  Every object in theschul – the seats, the art, the cabinets, the bricks in the patio, the windows, probably even the fucking urinals in the men’s room – has a little brass plaque next to it informing the reader which respectably well-off Jew got to immortalize his name by making a monetary donation.

But all those little donations aren’t enough.  No, in order to be a "member in good standing", you must pay an exorbitant yearly membership fee.  Yes, modern Western Judaism is by subscription only.  Now, I have had Jews justify this to me by saying that the synagogue offers a lot of services to its’ congregants, and all that upkeep isn’t cheap.  The argument is that donations alone wouldn’t cover all those expenses.  Which would be a convincing argument to the free-market economist in me if it weren’t for the fact that the American Christian church has proved it utterly and completely wrong.  If it were a legitimate argument we wouldn’t have Disneyworld-esque megachurches cropping up like messianic mushrooms in every town in America funded entirely – yes, entirely – by donations.  Are the justifiers of membership fees saying that Jews are just too cheap to donate on the same scale as Christians?  Do they really want to propagate that particular libel?  Don’t forget that tithing – that voluntary act of charity that keeps so many megachurches affloat – was invented by the Jews.  It’s not like Jews can’t give freely of their own accord.  Is it, perhaps, that Jews in America don’t care enough about the various services their synagogue offers to finance them if they didn’t feel threatened by the shame of being members in less-than-good-standing? 

You know what?  If your membership can’t be relied upon to subsidize your services without guilting/demanding them into it, it’s time to reevaluate what you offer.  Maybe you should be meeting at someones house, or in a community center, like other religious organizations do when they can’t afford an oppulent building of their own.  Maybe you should make the kiddish table pot-luck.  Maybe you should fire the secretary.  Maybe you should sell off some of your statuary.  Or would all that be a little tooplebian, a little too protestant for your little upper-class religious yacht club?

But all of this – the ostentation, the mandatory fees – pales in comparison to the greatest travesty of all: the high-holidays ticket.  High-holidays are, as the name suggest, the religious center point of the Jewish year.  If a Jew attends no other services, he or she will still attend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.   And what do Synagogues do to accommodate the wayward congregants who flock in at this time of year?  Why, they charge admission at the door, of course.

At most schuls, simply getting a seat for High Holidays costs upwards of $100.  The good seats – the ones where everyone in the auditorium can see just what a member-in-good-standing you are – may be far more expensive.  Keep in mind,Yom Kippur is the holy-day on which Jews seek forgiveness for any sins they have committed over the course of the year?  You want absolution, you gotta pay up.

Economists have a name for the practice of charging money for a resource that you control and others need: rent-seeking.  It’s widely regarded as one of the baser and less laudable ways of making money.  Progressive-minded Jews who would be appalled at some corporation charging money for drinking water in a drought-blighted third-world nation don’t even blink an eye when their Synagogue does the moral equivalent come high-holidays.

It is this devotion to the almighty buck, more than anything else, that has kept me out of regular participation in any Jewish congregation.  I have made attempts form time to time, but inevitably the constant reminders that it’s really all about doctors and lawyers and landowners comparing wallet size become too much for me, and I have to walk away.  I have yet to find a group of Jews who I can feel comfortable meeting with without feeling like I’m wearing a balance-sheet instead of a tallit.

EDIT:  I want to quote a comment by tinyrevolution here, because it’s such a great response to the argument that most schuls will waive fees at need:

It takes more than personally "waiving a fee" after a meeting with the Rabbi or whatever, to make a community welcoming – the welcome needs to be proclaimed loudly and strongly in order for it to stick.
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  1. Your rant reminds me of one my grandfather has made many a time. While very observant in his home, he refuses to go to synagogue because of the economic aspect. Something about when he was a boy not being allowed into high holiday service because his family couldn’t affort it. He had gone to the rabbi, and was told that his family would have to pay for tickets, just like everyone else. He was disgusted and left the synogogue.

    I attend services at a local synogogue, however I am not a ‘member’ because I don’t pay. I like the congregation and would give what I could, but the dues process is daunting to me, and hence I don’t ‘belong’.

    When I was in the service (United States Marine Corps) I was very happy that I was able to attend services to include High Holy Days without ever being charged to worship. The synagogues nearest to my installation were always charitable in this respect. And I thought it should be pointed out that I have had this experience of being welcomed without payment (while in the military) at 5 different congregations across the country. Although this should be applicable to more than just service members, I feel that you may want to know that there is a little compassion out there.

    1. Thanks for adding your viewpoint!

  2. That’s an eye opening post. I never realized that they charged for the holidays. I am aware of tithing in other religions (especially Mormonism) but that’s crazy. Is it like this in every community that you’ve encountered?

    1. It’s close to universal, yes. The Lubovitchers, who are considered to be something of a cult by more mainstream Jews, offer free High Holidays services in order to draw more people in.

      1. Wow. I’ve never seen any of that.

        I’ve never seen someone turned away from any shul I’ve ever been in for not having a ticket.

        I’m in Boston. I’ve gone to about a half-dozen shuls. And they ALL have “everyone welcome” policies. Yes, you buy tickets for the holidays. They even send them out for you.

        They do not, however, COLLECT them. Because doing that would potentially shame people who DON’T buy tickets.

        1. Oh — and I’m not Orthodox. Most of the communities I’ve been to count themsevles as “unaffiliated”, or “kinda Ega; Conservative” or “Traditionalist Reform” or stuff like that.

        2. The point is that the tickets are available for sale. So the well-to-do members get to feel a special warm glow as they buy their ticket, and the less well-off members get to feel a little tug of nagging guilt. Meaning you have a psychological incentive if you are wealthy, and a psychological disincentive to attend if you are poor. Further insuring that the congregation remains a wealth club.

          A country club can be “open to the public” and still be exclusive if they set things up so that non-paying members feel embarrassed when they enter the gates.

          1. And that DOESN’T happen with donation-based churches?

          2. I’m sure it does at some, but I’ve never seen that attitude at any church I’ve been involved with (mixed religious background, long story). Whereas by charging a waive-able “fee”, at synagogues it goes from being a potential degenerate state of the system to being the rule.

          3. What attitude HAVE you seen?

            I’ve seen a LOT of pressure to donate a LOT, with a good amount of social sanction against those who don’t. I’ve never been a member of a Christian church myself, but I’m from a mixed marriage, and most of my ostensibly-Christian family is non-practicing, for that sort of reason.

          4. I’ve mostly seen the attitude that (understandably) tends to stick in other religionists’ craws: the desire to get as many people in the door as possible, because by gosh we need to save their poor souls!

            Which is an attitude generally incompatible with any form of exclusivity, whether overt or subtle.

          5. Have you ever seen a collection plate? ‘Cause those are WAY more disturbing than dues or tickets.

          6. I think we’ll just have to agree that we are disturbed to different degrees by different things and leave it at that. I’m not a fan of collection plates by any stretch, but I don’t find them as morally objectionable as dues.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I have another example of this monetary focus that I think is even worse than those you’ve pointed out. My mom is very ill and has been living in a nursing home for three years. She’s at the point where all the monies she and my dad saved up are gone and she’s on Medicare and Medicaid. As you do when someone is at her stage in life, we’ve begun planning for funeral and burial. There is only one jewish cemetery in the city my mom lives in. In order to be buried there, you have to be a member in good standing at one of the city’s 3 synagogues. Only problem is, Medicare and Medicaid will not pay her dues. Luckily, I am able to afford her annual dues but what would happen if there was no one who could pay them? I think this is a damn shame and judaism at it’s worst.

    1. Wow, that’s nuts, and a great example of the kind of thing I’m talking about.

  4. While I agree with your premise, I would quibble about some minor details that don’t detract from the strength of your argument. That is, you’ve misrepresented the megachurches–they also charge for lots of things their congregants would otherwise purchase in the larger community such as childcare and “bowling league” type social organizations. And Catholicism (and a few other large denominations), like major universities, subsists mostly on investments of previous donations–they own a lot of land and other income-producing resources.

    What bugs me is that the highest form of giving is supposed to be anonymous, so why do we encourage a less charitable form by offering to commemorate them with naming things?

    And the High Holidays tickets: a travesty. If you’re already a dues-paying member, why should you have to pay extra to come to services? In my town there’s a large congregation of Reconstructionists who have since their beginning as a havurah hosted *open* High Holidays services. Before they ever had a building or even a rabbi, they would rent a space bigger than they needed for members and have open, free seating for HH. At this point they rent a huge theater space that seats several hundred, and they pay for this out of their budget (that is, members pay high dues in part so the congregation can afford to sponsor HH for the community). Why can’t more congregations do this?

    1. Thanks for your comment! Sounds like you have an enlightened reconstructionist schul. Very cool.

  5. You reference Reform/Conservative Judaism primarily, I’m guessing because you also say “progressive” that Orthodoxy is off your radar. I haven’t had experiences that you describe within Orthodoxy. If you can’t pay your shul fees, they are waived. If you can’t afford high holiday tickets, well, they are free if you were a member to begin with, and they can be greatly reduced if need be. If you are a member and cannot afford the shul’s Hebrew day school, fees will be waived. Our shul is tastefully decorated, but not extravagantly so. I could keep going…

    So this leniency apparently doesn’t exist in R/C shuls, is this what you are saying? It seems very unfortunate. Within my Orthodox community, we would just rather Jews show up and learn Torah and all that good stuff. We would rather not scare someone away from our shul because of cost or giving them the wrong impression that they can’t be a good Jew if they aren’t rich.

    Also, I think it is worth mentioning that Synagogues are non-profit. They do need to make their money somewhere. I don’t think you can rely on tzedakah, especially not from the R/C community, to keep a shul afloat. Since you can’t pass collection plates during Shabbos(well, I guess maybe it would fly in some reform congregations…:P), they have to do what they can.

    1. This sounds consistent with my overall impression of Orthodoxy. Unfortunately it’s not a path that’s available to me, for a number of reasons. Orthodox schuls are concentrated mainly in big cities – you don’t find them in small-town America. And I fear I am far too liberal/ecumenical/all-around unconventional to be accepted at an Orthodox synagogue. But it’s nice to know that the Orthodox are a little less money-focused.

      1. Fair enough. There’s a lot that goes into the Orthodox lifestyle. When I became observant, I moved across the country, because there was no way in hell I could live within walking distance of a shul where I was. 🙂

        I am glad you can see that though, that’s sort of the point I was trying to make. It seems unfortunate that R/C shuls are like this, but O shuls aren’t. I wish that Judaism would be universal in that aspect, realizing we need to accept people of all backgrounds, financial situations, etc and help them the best we can. THAT is the point of a Jewish community. Maybe one day. :\

    2. branches

      Happy to hear that you have found such a welcoming place. My congregation (reconstructionist) is the same.

      1. Re: branches

        It’s always a great thing to find good communities out there. 🙂

  6. not all congregations….

    I agree with much of what you say, but must caution you that attitudes depend on the specific congregation, and some level of monetary contribution is necessary. And thank you for sharing your views on this!

    I was just discussing a similar topic with a friend from temple yesterday, and share some of the same frustrations. The temple I grew up in is quite like that which you described. Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur are fashion shows, and the few times I’ve been back, I have not felt welcomed. Now, I do have some wonderful memories of that congregation, especially of its youth group, and am quite grateful for them.

    BUT, be cautious!!! I simply do not think that all congregations fit your description, and can say this because mine doesn’t. Yes, we charge membership dues, but those go for paying things like building rent, the rabbi’s salary and postage. Our congregation operates on a fiscally conservative budget, and is careful with how it spends it money. Even with that, we do require money to operate, and I think it is irresponsible for people to expect temples to be there for them when they want them, but not contribute to their operating funds.

    That being said, congregations should always welcome those without much money, and mine does. I often could pay only the smallest fraction of what was expected at my congregation, and was welcomed with open arms. I payed what I could, and that was enough. I was even welcomed to fund raising events, even though I couldn’t pay to go to them. Even when, for the 2 years post college, when I made $600/month, most of which went to rent, food and a bus pass, I still had some material luxuries, and tried to give what I could, even if it meant giving up an “extra” I wanted.

    Do I like paying dues? Of course not, who does? But it is my responsibility to do so.

    No other religions do this? Collection plates? Tithing? I have friends who tithe 10% of their entire income to their church. I think we’re asked for 2%.

    Please, come to Beit Tikvah with me. (we’re reconstructionist) I think you’ll really like it. It has all sorts of services, from traditional to yoga minyan (yes, a service based completely within yoga!) Purim is also coming up, and that’s always fun and irreverent! (I think my costume this year is going to be a “Jews for Cheeses” member. mmmm…. cheddar….). You never have to be a member to come. Never. Yes, we do charge non-members for high-holiday services, but that’s out of fiscal reality. And as a non-member without much money, I was told to “pay what I could”, and the amount was never disclosed to anyone but the temple’s treasurer. You can check out our web page at We really are friendly sorts! We meet at a church where we share the space with 4 other congregations. It’s a wonderful situation. And we are involved with some great volunteer groups.

    OK, enough of my own ranting! I’m looking forward to weather that’s warm enough to join you for a badminton game!!

    Hope to see you soon,


    1. Re: not all congregations….

      The point about giving in other religions is that it really is voluntary. It’s not a fee that is being waived out of the goodness of their charitable hearts. I’ve spent a lot of time in Christian churches (I’ll tell you the long story of my mixed religious background someday), and I’ve never once encountered one that had a membership fee. And yet, they get by, often quite well – because funnily enough their members actually do contribute up to 10% even without making it a “membership fee”. I take the stance that membership in a spiritual community should be based on a) shared values; and b) (maybe) attendance; and c) nothing else. I have never heard of a church or other religious organization which took this view of membership AND genuinely met it’s members’ spiritual needs failing due to lack of funds.

      I really would like to attend services with you sometime – in many ways I think the reconstructionists are closer to my own conception of Judaism than any other group I know of. But I must tell you I was depressed to discover that even Beit Tikvah charges $300 a seat for HH. It doesn’t matter a whit to me if they’ll lower or waive the charge for someone who can’t afford it; the fact that that person is getting in on charity rather than on an institutional understanding that matters of spirit should be separate from matters of finance just kills it for me. I was heartened, though, to read the account in one of the earlier comments about the free and open HH service hosted by one reconstructionist schul.

      Sorry if I seem a little bristly. It’s just that coming from a mixed religious background, I know that the “fiscal reality” argument is just plain false. If a schul can’t meet their fiscal responsibilities without charging a membership fee, they aren’t meeting their congregant’s needs – because if they were, they’d be getting MORE than those membership fees in voluntary contributions. I can’t believe that American Jews are THAT different from Christians in this regard. At least, I don’t *want* to believe that.

      1. Re: not all congregations….

        Here from

        I understand where you’re coming from, but I think the situation is more nuanced. I have too been frustrated by certain aspects of the “wealth club” approach to Jewish life, but 1) I don’t think it’s as prevalent in all liberal Jewish communities as you portray it and 2) in my experience, it is more prevalent in Christianity than you assume.

        I’m also from a mixed religious background and attended a grab bag of churches growing up, and I have to say, almost all mainline churches are hurting for money and constantly trying to stay out of the red. I was a member of an urban Episcopal Cathedral for a few years, a large, vibrant community, but one with financial problems. During the years I was there, several priests had to be laid off due to budget cuts, among other things. The collection plate is voluntary, but there were guilt-inducing speeches attached to it every Sunday, and there was an annual campaign every year where the pressure to give (and the implication that it makes you a better Christian) was stressed. Every person who donated was listed in the back of the Church bulletin. People who make large or special donations to the cathedral do get plaques. Once, during a service, there was a special moment of recognition for everyone who had chosen to include the cathedral in their estate planning; all those people were called to stand up while the priest spoke some extra words of praise.

        I also attended a large African-American church a few times, and there when it was annual campaign season, they called the names of people who had not tithed aloud in church–and also gave them phone calls at home. Believe me, people hurried up to the collection box at the front of the room to make a public donation after that.

        I admit the “pay for everything” aspect is stronger and more prevalent in Judaism, and I’m not thrilled with that. It seems it’s a struggle for many religious groups, especially liberal ones where the tithing aspect isn’t emphasized as much, to remain financially solvent. I know I’ve been frustrated with my own Jewish young adult community where, for example, social dinners may cost more than a meal at a decent restaurant. Yes, they’re kosher, but they’re often not great cuisine by any means….

        1. Re: not all congregations….

          Pt. 2

          I would say the community I mentioned above is geared toward “young professionals” but is less feasible for someone like me, who is a student with much more limited funds. On the other hand, pretty much all fees can be reduced or waived if you talk to the rabbi, and no one will ever know.

        2. Re: not all congregations….

          Well it WAS a rant, they aren’t really known for nuance 😉

          Interesting experiences at churches. I confess I’m thinking more of the low-ceremony protestant churches than the old-line Catholic and Catholic-esque churches. The latter have similar financial issues to synagogues, and, I think, for similar reasons. That experience at the African-American church is really something though.

          Thanks for your comments!

    2. Re: not all congregations….

      Something jumped out at me in a second reading of this comment.

      Do I like paying dues? Of course not, who does? But it is my responsibility to do so.

      I’ve made a lot of donations over the years, to one organization or another. And I have never once felt anything but pleasure in the process. Even when I felt it was me “responsibility”, it was a joy to support something I believed in.

      Levying fixed dues sets up a negative, businesslike dynamic between schul and congregant that has no place in a religious relationship.

  7. I pretty much agree with you. One of the reasons I left Christianity is because it is a wealth club in my area. It’s all very ridiculous.

    You should come to my (Reform) shul in Alaska. It’s pretty different. The parking lot is dominated by Subarus. Our building is nice, but it’s really pretty modest. There is some art, but no special alcoves. There is a Judaica shop, but that’s because there isn’t a separate shop in town. People are friendly; they will talk about medical schools, but only if you want to. We talk politics sometimes at Kiddush, but most of us are involved in the causes we talk about.

    It’s a bit out of the way, but I think you might like it.

    1. Thanks! I really want to visit Alaska someday (we’ve even thought about living there), so I hope I have a chance to drop in 🙂

      1. it’s Congregation Beth Sholom in Anchorage. If you make it up here, let me know, I’d be happy to show you around.

  8. Thank YOU – I edited the post to quote you, because you put the problem with the “fee waiving” argument so well.

  9. I think that a lot of the problems with membership fees, High Holiday tickets, etc. really do come down to the fact that we can’t have collection plates. The act of contributing is decoupled time- and space-wise from both the thing you’re contributing to and the social pressure to do so, and this breaks a fundamental rule of charity collections – if you want people to give you money, make it easy<\i> for them to do so. Otherwise you may have to resort to making it mandatory.

    1. It’s a good point. I’m not sure WHY Jews can’t have collection plats (not that I’m suggesting they should!); but it seems like there are plenty of other ways to put the basket in front of people without actually coming out and charging for services.

      1. OK, so the above reply was a brain-fart on my part. I guess I see schul as so money-focused that it’s hard to remember that Jews technically don’t/shouldn’t handle money on Shabbat.

        1. Yeah… and even for the less-observant Reform Jews who may handle money on Shabbat outside of synagogue – you know you’re not *supposed* to, so doing it in synagogue, with the official blessing of same, would feel really weird.

          1. What if you didn’t handle the money on Shabbat, but instead put it in an envelope and wrapped it in duct tape and then froze it in a small block of ice a few days before and then brought that block of ice to the synagogue and tossed it in a special box for collecting ice? You can handle ice on the sabbath, right?


  10. As someone from a working class background who attends a Reform congregation, I sympathize with a lot of your criticisms. It’s hard to be a have-not among the haves. It’s hard to keenly feel your lack of everything next to those who have everything they need and most of what they want. Especially these days, when economics are so hard.

    However, I have to point out a couple of things.
    According to my husband, there aren’t Judaica shops in shuls where there is a large Jewish population. The Judaica shop in the shul is not so much a money-maker, but a place you can buy Jewish stuff in a place with not many Jews. They don’t carry Kiddush cups and mezuzot at Walmart.

    Also, at a Christian congregation, a dynamic develops where a lot of people ostentatiously drop large sums of money in the plate as it’s passed around and people shame each other that way. Jews can’t do collection plates because it’s an obvious violation of handling money on Shabbat. I know people violate Shabbat all the time these days, but there’s no need to be egregious about it.

    People are people. Some have a craven, Keep up with the Jones (or the Steins) mentality about their religious institutions, and some have genuine interest in the spirituality that brings a person closer to God. This is true no matter what the external religious structure may be.

    1. Interesting point about the Judaica shop, but in counterpoint my grandparents’ schul has always had a Judaica shop, and they live in an area of NJ where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a Jew.

      It seems to me that it’s possible to set up a dynamic where the heavy tippers can still pat themselves on the back without the less affluent feeling like they are receiving a special consideration for being a poor charity case.

      1. But maybe the area where your grandparents live hasn’t always been that Jewish and they just never got rid of the store. Are there Judaica shops elsewhere in that area? My husband was talking about his experience in Toronto, which has a shul of some kind on every street corner in some areas.

        I think that your criticisms are valid, to some extent – I just don’t think the grass is greener on the other side of the religious fence.

  11. This post reeks of self-loathing stereotypes.

    As other people have noted, there are literally thousands of congregations in all major American cities where you can attend services for free or at a reduced rate, calculated based on your income. Jews are no more demanding for financial support than any other religious institution that operates almost exclusively on membership fees. And the only ones who don’t (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu) are bankrolled by political institutions masquerading as religious enterprises. It costs money to offer services, and the money doesn’t come from nowhere.

    My guess is that the reason you haven’t encountered more generosity is that you present yourself as entitled and arrogant, so people assume you have the money to pay, you’re just being cheap. Which may or may not be the case, but this sort of thing happens all the time.

    Are there differences between congregations in how exorbitant their fees are and how welcoming they are to people with less financial means? Of course. But your post is totally off base and does nothing but perpetuate Jewish stereotypes and anti-Semitism.

    1. And the only ones who don’t (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu) are bankrolled by political institutions masquerading as religious enterprises.

      If you’re going to make an egregious accusation like that you’re going to need to back it up with some evidence.

      1. Well, Hamas is a well-known religious institution that operates as a political operative. But they also bankroll tons of mosques and social service agencies.

        The Catholic Church does the same thing.

        On the Jewish front, Aish HaTorah is a large yeshiva that gets money from the Israeli government and private investors, which allows it to run programs in Israel that are free or low cost.

        1. Thank you, good answer!

    2. As other people have noted, there are literally thousands of congregations in all major American cities where you can attend services for free or at a reduced rate, calculated based on your income.

      And as others have also noted, Judaism is one of the few religions in which it is commonplace to have to reveal your financial records to the religious authorities in order to determine what you “owe”.

      1. What makes you think that? Most Christian churches expect you to provide some information about your family’s income. In my experience, in most churches and synagogues it is usually up to people to be honest about this information, but asking doesn’t seem unreasonable. And if you want to lie about it to get cheaper rates, that’s on you. It certainly seems pretty un-Jewish to me to do so, and most Christians would say it’s un-Christian to do so.

        I am not sure what you’re expecting. Cheaper membership? Shop around. No membership fee? Start your own congregation. See how easy it is to run on no money.

        1. A lot of people seem to be interpreting this as me thinking rates should be lower, which is a nice way of avoiding the point. If you take a look at the post as well as some of my other replies, it should be clear that what I’m saying is: a) charging a fee, no matter how waive-able or negotiable, to be a member of a religious group is absurd; and b) a congregation which genuinely addresses it’s members needs and asks donations will make MORE money than they would by setting a fee and treating it like a business transaction. Americans have (comparatively) abundant money, even in these times, and their charity is remarkable when they feel they are a vital part of something special.

          1. well, the dilemma is, if you don’t charge money, you risk not getting any. we just had this conversation at our congregation board meeting recently. we are a young, small congregation, and we have always had open HHD services, but requested people pay at various rates, whatever they can afford, to support the congregation. However, after this led to the previous year in which paying members had to spend their own reflective time haggling with a couple cheap bastards over how much they could afford, we decided this year to go simple and clear – services are for members, if you want to come, pay membership dues.

            now, our membership dues are quite reasonable, and the congregation is very accomodating. my spouse and i pay in installments, because even the relatively low family rate is a little high for us to pay all at once. They don’t hound us, they don’t let us not come if we haven’t paid a certain amount. But we pay. There’s also a low student rate, and reduced rate for people who make less money. But the only reason we can afford to do this is because wealthier members essentially subsidize the congregation.

            No one likes to talk about money, and no one likes to ask for money. But Jewish congregations wouldn’t exist if they didn’t do so. There is no monolithic Catholic church subsidizing congregations so priests can simply ask for “donations.” I much prefer the model where members of the community subsidize each other, anyway. After all, the community is why I joined a congregation in the first place.

          2. There is no monolithic Catholic church subsidizing congregations so priests can simply ask for “donations.”

            It may be convenient to think that this is how all Christian Churches operate, but I happen to know leadership in a non-denominational Church which doesn’t even have an super-organization to back them up theologically, let alone monetarily. The fact is that they get by, they purchase land, they hire staff, and they support charities – all with donations. And like I said, I know these people, and I know the Church – they don’t lay on guilt trips either. People contribute because they genuinely believe in what this modest suburban Church is doing.

            I’ve been to many other Churches. I’ve been to pagan circles. This is the rule, not the exception, in modern small-town American religion. But not among the Jews.

          3. Which churches are you referring to? The evangelical ones that bankroll their operations by evangelizing and getting money from people off of television stations? The Mormon church that takes people in an pays for a lot of things, in return for your complete loyalty and geneology records, and then asks you to donate 10% of your income once they’ve hooked you in? I’ve seen how some of these churches operate too.

            The bottom line is, all churches and synagogues take money to run. Some of them do it in sleazy ways, some of them do it in manipulative ways, some of them do it in upfront and honest ways. But they all have to do it. It is dangerous and disrespectful to imply that Jews are any more prone to not doing things in an upfront and respectful way than Christians are.

            “Guilt trips”, by the way, only work if you feel guilty for not contributing. Why should you feel guilty if you’re not taking advantage of their services without paying for it?

          4. The evangelical ones that bankroll their operations by evangelizing and getting money from people off of television stations?


            he Mormon church that takes people in an pays for a lot of things, in return for your complete loyalty and geneology records, and then asks you to donate 10% of your income once they’ve hooked you in?


            You are clearly out of touch with the bulk of grassroots American Christianity, and know only what you see on TV and/or hear about thirdhand. Oh yeah, that reminds me of another thing that annoys me about most Jews (to be fair, it annoys me even more about Pagans and atheists) – they have a two-dimensional view of every religion that isn’t their own.

            “Dangerous and disrespectful”? Please. Typically the only people who accuse critics of being “dangerous and disrespectful” are people who have a vested interest in the establishment. Do you really want to lump yourself in with that crowd?

          5. Well, as someone who is from a mixed marriage and current in an interfaith, same-sex relationship, I think it would be hard to say I have a “vested interest in the establishment.”

            I just think we should be careful, as Jews, not perpetuating stereotypes.

            I am, in fact, pretty in touch with a wide range of Christians and have seen a wide range of ways of soliciting money and financially supporting their institutions.

            I don’t think Jewish congregations are many more prone to handling the need to raise money more poorly or ingraciously than Christian churches. I think that if you are finding Jewish congregations to be unwelcoming and pushy about money, you should a) explore other synagogues or b) look within yourself as to how you’re coming off about this issue. It’s actually rather entitled to think that you should NOT pay for a service you seek. In no other venue would this even be acceptable: You can’t see a doctor, a therapist, a barber, eat a meal, ride public transportation, or just about anything else in this society without paying.

            Oh, option c) would be to move to Israel. There, the government helps subsidize the synagogues, so they can afford to rely less on money from congregants.

  12. The Jew Rant

    Avdi –

    I too am of a mixed background, but mixed because I mixed it myself in adolescence and later. Both my parents were nonpracticing Jews, and I went to a reformed temple, where I was Bar Mitzvahed. The utter lack of warmth and spirituality, not to mention that the rabbi was one of the nastiest adults I’d ever known, turned me off to Judaism. I realize the faulty logic now, but have other objections to Judaism, or at least, what I think Judaism is, and I acknowledge that I don’t have the whole story. Ideologically, I bristle at the thought of a Chosen People, and much prefer the (true, if not current) Christian ideal of equality of all world peoples. I reject that there is a God who takes sides in ethnic rivalries too, unless there are other principles involved, which there sometimes are. For God’s sake (pun intended), the Old Testament celebrates the murders of the ancestors of the people with whom the Jews share the Middle East.

    I have an alternate experience regarding Orthodox temples. Although I was never a member, there was an Orthodox temple at the intersection of the street where I grew up. They were not nice people at all. An interesting example of their deeds, as opposed to their words, was that they’d park near our house before Friday sunset, and leave their cars there until Saturday night. Sometimes they blocked our driveway rather than parking a couple of blocks further away. One time my little mother, bless her heart, marched into the temple, into the room where the men were praying, and demanded that the guy who was blocking our driveway move his car. As she tells it, a man sheepishly got up and did as she said. Davidette slew Goliath. 😉

    Another time, I was standing with my Mom in front of our house. A guy driving to the temple pulled up, rolled down his window, stuck his hand out, and said “money for the poor?”. Sheesh, no wonder we have a bad reputation. (I know, we’ve done a lot of great things too.)

    After several years in the Unification Church and dabbling in born again Christianity, Quakerism, Ethical Culture, Unitarianism, Unity, Zen Buddhism, Thai Buddhism, a Korean Buddhist sect, Bahai, and probably others I don’t remember, I’ve decided that religions are either too dilute to be inspiring, ascribe to magical thinking I cannot support, and/or require a uniformity of thinking at which I bristle.

    One temple really impressed me, though — it’s a temple in Reston, Virginia that rents out a large meeting room to a local mosque. I introduced a Muslim friend of mine to it, and we were both impressed. One of these days maybe I’ll attend services there, but for me, temple is like baseball — I go to a baseball game once every few years, because that’s how long it takes me to forget how boring it was the last time. 😉

    – Keith

    1. Re: The Jew Rant

      Wow, sounds like quite a varied religious experience!

  13. I’m really not surprised by this…. :/

  14. Time for my rant

    I’ll tell you want drives me crazy, people who can afford to pay for the up keep of the religious institutions that they benefit from but refuse to because they think all of that stuff should be provided by the some magic fairy. I’m sorry, that fairy doesn’t exist, if you do not provide your share other people have to shoulder the burden or things literally fall apart.

    I’ll give you a little view from the other side of the fence. My husband has been working for Church of England churches for the last 18 months. There’s a great quote from a bishop that Anglicans have “deep pockets and short arms”. Boy have I seen this in action. The first church my husband worked for was in a really affluent area, I’m talking 6 possibly 7 figure salaries for the majority of the congregation. It was always strapped for cash. He worked for them for nearly a year during which he was paid below minimum wage. When he took the job they promised him accommodation. He had to live in a congregant’s draughty au pair’s room for months and when they finally put him in a shared flat they tried to refuse to provide him with curtains. He’s still down hundreds of pounds of owed pay which that church is just refusing to pay and we’re never going to see. Call me crazy for thinking that maybe some of the millionaire congregants could have afforded that pay more than a student newly wed couple.

    That’s not an isolated case, it’s what happens when people think religion is free and this all so easily turns into begrudging anyone who works for the church enough income to even approach the standard of living of its members. One of my husband’s colleagues was a former Lutheran pastor who had left his old church when they refused to cover his wife in his medical insurance. He couldn’t afford to pay for medical insurance on the salary he was being paid so he couldn’t afford for his wife to be pregnant whilst he was in that job. I’ve met a rabbi whose congregation begrudged her taking maternity leave.

    I am so aware of how much I have benefited over the years from people giving the time and money they could afford, so that people like me could have access to services and learning when I couldn’t afford to pay.

    As a final note, if you think that Jews have a monopoly on the expensive places of worship with gift shops, please visit Rome. There’s a cathedral there decorated entirely in gold with two gift shops in the church, one of which is staffed by nuns. For that matter visit the Holy Sepulchre, where one of the sects have turned their altar, next to Jesus’ tomb, into a gift shop.

    1. Re: Time for my rant

      You’re not going to like what I have to say. It doesn’t do your husband any good, I know; but if a Church can’t draw the funds it needs from it’s congregants it is time to reevaluate it’s mission. As I commented to above, I know plenty of people in non-denominational Churches here in the States which have no trouble supporting themselves with no organization like the CoE to back them up, and no special guilt-trips or wealth games.

      The sad fact (at least from the point of view of someone who thinks that religion is good for the soul) is that organized religion has been failing in Europe for a long time. Agnosticism and atheism is the norm, rather than the exception, as my English expat coworker is fond of relating – with a touch of pride. If Jewish congregations in the States are experiencing the same troubles as Christian congregations in Europe, they need to take a very hard look at what needs they are addressing, or failing to address.

      Finally, I don’t know where you think I said Jews have a monopoly on this sort of thing. I’m taking the Jews to task because that’s my heritage, and these are the people I have to hang out with if I want to embrace my co-religionists.

      1. Re: Time for my rant

        Finally, I don’t know where you think I said Jews have a monopoly on this sort of thing. I’m taking the Jews to task because that’s my heritage, and these are the people I have to hang out with if I want to embrace my co-religionists.

        Maybe this whole paragraph

        No other major religion I know of (with the possible exception of Hinduism in India) is so focused on getting it’s hands into it’s adherents’ pocket-books. Enter a conservative or reform synagogue and you will be accosted on all sides by the symbology of wealth. First of all, the very building itself – architect-ed to impress, and fitted out with rich carpets, recessed lighting, and dozens of specially-commissioned pieces of art in their own little alcoves. Then, the little judaica shop with it’s hideous little “artsy” menorahs and mezzuzas – what other religion (Scientology doesn’t count) has merchandising built right into the place of worship?

        1. Re: Time for my rant

          Saying that Judaism in the West has a bigger problem with this than other religions – a statement I stand by – is not the same as saying Jews have a monopoly on money-mindedness. Saying “well this one Church I know…” doesn’t magically get Judaism off the hook. I could probably find that “one church” too; but the fact is I’d still be comparing it to every single reform and conservative shul I’ve ever been to.

          1. Re: Time for my rant

            You said “what other religion (Scientology doesn’t count) has merchandising built right into the place of worship?”

            My answer is not “this one church I know” sorry if I didn’t make myself clear, although I did mention two churches specifically, one of which is the holiest site to Christianity. If you go to Rome you will find that every major Catholic church there has a gift shop. It doesn’t just sell devotional items for Catholics, it’s proper tourist tac. These shops are usually within the main body of the church, in fact frequently a side chapel has been converted into a gift shop. In fact every Cathedral or large church I’ve ever visited has a gift shop, usually in the main body of the church. The little church I went to as a child had a stall at the back selling books etc. By comparison, of the shuls I’ve been to only two had shops. None of the shuls in the town I live in have shops, which means that I have to travel 60 miles if I want to buy judiaca in person.

            You keep saying ‘Judaism in the West’ has this problem more than other religions but from what you say you seem to have no experience outside of the US or even outside of certain areas of the US. So maybe you should find out about it before you make blanket statements about the state of ‘Judaism in the West’.

          2. Re: Time for my rant

            A minor quibble – I think you mean “the holiest site to Catholicism“, not to Christianity at large. I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but where I live Catholicism is fading. In fact, growing up I always thought of Catholic churches as being functionally indistinguishable from the Conservative shuls I was familiar with – clinging to bygone glory, going through a lot of empty motions, aging, dwindling attendance, a large once-a-year crowd, and little to no interest in becoming relevant to current generations. So it doesn’t really surprise me to hear of them behaving in similarly pathological ways. I confess my experience is more with nondenominational protestant churches, which are a very different animal, and far more popular among American churchgoers.

            As for my blanket statements – yeah, they are. It was a rant. I’m open to the possibility that things are different in other parts of the country; but most of the feedback I’m getting suggests that other areas differ more in degree than in orientation.

          3. Re: Time for my rant

            No, the Holy Sepulchre is not just the holiest site to Catholicism. It is the holiest site to most denominations of Christianity. If you’d taken the time to even look it up on wiki rather than just extrapolating your experience to the whole of the western world, you would find that the church itself is shared by the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Coptic Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox. Even though no protestant denomination has a custodial position in the church, it is the holiest site in the world to Anglicans, the largest protestant denomination in the world.

            As to Catholicism ‘fading’, it is the largest religion in the world, so I’m pretty sure it has a long way to fade yet before it becomes irrelevant. Even if we’re just talking about ‘the West’ and use that term to include Europe rather than just the neighbourhoods in the US you personally have lived in, Roman Catholicism is still the largest religion. Please realise that ‘the West’ does not just mean the US. If you mean US Judaism say that. If you mean Reform and Conservative Judaism in these areas of the US, say that. Saying Judaism in the West is as annoying as saying ‘Judeo-Christian’ to mean Christian.

      2. Re: Time for my rant

        I think part of the problem is that you think that your model of free house shuls is more inclusive, but it’s not. It’s just inclusive to different people to the model you criticise. There are independent minyanim which meet in people’s houses if that’s what you’re after. However, that model isn’t inclusive to everyone. How will your model cope with the twice a year crowd? Several hundred people won’t fit in your front room (unless you’re one of teh evil rich materialistic Jews with a big expensive house which could have been sold to feed the poor) and even community centres cost money to rent. Money which people who don’t handle money on shabbat and yom tov won’t be able to put in a hat passed around at the service. The reality is that the members of the church my husband attended wanted the benefits they got from a church with full-time staff, they were just delusional about how much it cost. There were non-conformist churches in the area they could have gone to if they wanted to do things on the cheap.

        On the topic of guilt-trips and wealth games and non-denominational churches. My parents used to be involved with the running of a Baptist church. It was constantly in the red. Every so often one of the church leaders would have to stand up in the service and say “We’re x amount in debt/the roof is about to fall down/etc. if we don’t get £x in the next month we’ll have to sell the building and disband the church.” That got the donations in. The problem that I can see in Anglicanism is that if you mention how much it costs to run the church they enjoy attending, the congregants get really offended at how ‘money-grabbing’ you’re being by contradicting their belief in the magic religion funding fairy.

        I go to a synagogue which meets in school halls, has a bring and share kiddush and doesn’t charge for high holy days tickets. It manages because those who can afford to pay do, and even more so because so many people volunteer their time to lead, teach and organise. I’m aware that we can reach out to people who can’t afford to because of that time and money. I think that having a membership fee is a good way of communicating with the membership how much things cost to run. If the members who can afford to didn’t pay that fee, my shul wouldn’t be able to reach out to students to the extent that we do.

        The thing that really gets me about your position is that doesn’t acknowledge how outreach to the most in need is only possible if people aren’t too prissy to donate their time and money to religious institutions. Let me tell you a true story about why organised religion is so important. A friend of mine spent last year as a pastoral assistant (PA) for an Anglican church. It has an ‘opulent building of its own’ in the grave yard of which several homeless people began to sleep. Because they owned an ‘opulent building of their own’ they were able to come to an agreement with the homeless people that they could sleep in the church when it was cold and use its facilities as long as they didn’t cause too much of a mess (they were drug addicts and there was one incident of used needles being left in one of the chapels). They wouldn’t have been able to do this if they met in a community centre. One of the homeless men fell ill and was hospitalised. The PA visited him in hospital and called to get updates on his condition. This meant that she was the only person to contact the hospital after he died. The hospital immediately passed the responsibility of finding his next of kin onto her. She spent the next month desperately trying to find a next of kin, but he didn’t seem to have any living relatives. She did find out that he wanted to be buried rather than cremated. She her church organised to bury him and drove his homeless friends to the cemetery. It was a cheap funeral, but at least it was a burial, conducted by someone he knew, attended by most of the people he knew. If she hadn’t been there, he would have been cremated by strangers. Excuse me if I care a fuck load more about the pastoral needs of homeless drug addicts than the feelings of people who are offended by being asked to contribute to religion.

  15. $500/year? Wow! That’s cheap! In some suburbs of Baltimore, membership at some shuls goes for $3000/yr, others $700. In York, PA(!!) it runs around $2000, iirc.

  16. And another thing

    I’m an economist.

    Charging for high holy day tickets isn’t rent seeking. Rent seeking is when you get income from a resource you control over which is greater than cost of that factor or its opportunity cost. Charging for high holy days tickets would only be rent seeking if high holy day services were a free to provide (perhaps due to the magic religion funding fairy).

    However, we do have a phrase for people who don’t pay for something they benefit from, it’s called ‘free riding’. It’s why public goods which everyone benefits from get underprovided unless you can find some way to make people pay for them and this makes everyone worse off. Do I have to explain how this economic principle applies to synagogue dues and high holy day tickets?

    1. Re: And another thing

      Two questions occur to me, though:

      * Why are other religions’ institutions not as threatened by “free riders”? Not that I would do it, but I would be surprised if I was barred from a Church on X-mas or Mosque on Ramadan, for want of fees.

      * Is free riding a problem? Shouldn’t a not-for-profit institution, like a synagogue, view this as — if not outreach — tzedakah?

      1. Re: And another thing

        * Why are other religions’ institutions not as threatened by “free riders”? Not that I would do it, but I would be surprised if I was barred from a Church on X-mas or Mosque on Ramadan, for want of fees.

        I have never been to a synagogue which actually barred people who didn’t pay for HHD tickets. In fact neither of the two shuls in my town even bother ticketing them. Churches and mosques have more of an opportunity to ask for money during services because there isn’t a bar on handling cash during the festivals. The pressure to donate in churches can be reinforced by the fact that the collection is done through an open plate. I know very few churches which see a difference of congregation between Sunday and Christmas of the magnitude I’ve seen in some shuls. The only places I’ve seen with that kind of difference tend to be cathedrals which make money from tourism and concerts to keep themselves going. There may also be different attitudes between proselytising religions and non-proselytising religions. If it’s not part of your mission statement to get more new people through the door, the congregation may feel less inclined to subsidise a lot of once a year visitors.

        * Is free riding a problem? Shouldn’t a not-for-profit institution, like a synagogue, view this as — if not outreach — tzedakah?

        There is a difference between tzedakah and exploitation. Tzedakah should flow from those who can afford to those in need, not from those who made the effort to those who expect everything in life to be handed to them on a plate (and are often more able to afford to pay). If people put time and money into building a congregation and making services happen and you just take want you want from the congregation and don’t give anything back it’s exploitation. It also doesn’t do someone any good to spend Yom Kippur thinking that they’re a special snowflake who has a right to have everyone running around after him.

        1. Re: And another thing

          Thank you for the thoughtful answers; good food for thought.

  17. Thank g-d you weren’t born a mormon, you’d have to tithe money AND time.

    Maybe if you were catholic, where everyone looked askance at you when you didn’t add to the poor plate weekly, you might be happier.

    You could be pressured into sending your kids to a private christian school, and get hit up for donations for everything, in addition to the astronomic tuition.

    Turn chinese — then every kid on the street will shout “happy new year” with their hand out for hung bao.

    Screw religion, join a charitable organization — or just do some work for one — and the mountain of spam will never end. Think they won’t sell your address to other charitable organizations? Wrong. Get used to the address labels.

    Maybe, just maybe, it’s a society of acquisition that rankles you. You should put away your ipod, your apartment, your car, your tv, a nice meal out, a night at the movies… and turn to a simpler life. I don’t suggest this as criticism, but rather as a rounding experience. Get to know the other side before you join it and you’ll be better able to find a balance in between, you’ll also find it possible to be more at peace with yourself and those around you. Everyone makes choices in this life, their choices might not be right for you but neither are yours right for them.

    1. I don’t have an iPod. Our family of five rents a small three-bedroom house 45 minutes away from my job where the rent is cheaper. Until a couple weeks ago we shared one car among us. We don’t watch TV, we barely ever get to eat out, and I can’t remember the last time we went to the movies.

      Maybe you should put away your assumptions.

      1. A home… with a computer…
        As a stranger I surely don’t “know” you, but it is certainly clear you have a lot of anger and resentment. I am suggesting that you need to know and be comfortable with yourself and with the qualities of a simpler life, both to appreciate what you do have and so that you can be comfortable around those who have different desires.

        1. I actually know avdi fairly well, and have visited his house multiple times and eaten at the table with his family.

          His wife grows her own produce in their back yard, and works at a local CSA to make up the difference.

          Avdi has a computer at home because I gave it to him. (You still using that thing or did you get a new one, avdi?) He also needs one at home, since he is a computer programmer who occasionally works from home to help his wife with their new baby. He is supporting a family of five on a single relatively average salary.

          He and his family are actually pretty happy living a simple life and like having the confidence that comes from knowing they can provide for themselves. That is, until they walk out the door. . .

          A while back avdi wrote a very good post about exactly WHY he is angry and resentful about things like this. His reasons were very good. Go read it here:

          This one is also pretty good:

          I guess what I’m trying to get across here is that this rant didn’t come out of nowhere, and that avdi is not generally an angry and resentful person.

          I do wonder if YOU have children. The entire economic ballgame changes when you have children. As soon as you pop out your first baby, this society sends you a memo. The memo says “Congratulations! Now that you have children we will be raising the interest rate on the American Dream Card to 27%.”

          People with families are struck by the worst of all hypocrisy. We talk up family so much, how important it is, how it is better for children to have a parent at home, how parenting is the hardest job in the world and so on and so on. But the truth is that having a family punishes you economically, unless you follow avdi’s perfect formula (first link above). I’ve gotten to the point where I want to walk up to every single person who says one of those things and say “I’m a parent. Give me $100. Put your money where your GODDAMN MOUTH IS.” That goes for the politicians too.

          I think raising a family of five on a single average income gives avdi the right to be just a teeny bit pissed off, don’t you?

          1. I don’t believe in the benefit of pissed off, as such one never gains the right to it, the option to descend into anger and self-pity are always there, it just doesn’t solve anything. Meanwhile, not being angry can solve a lot.

            The comments you and avdi have interpreted as hostile — and become defensive over — are meant in a rather different light.

  18. It takes more than personally “waiving a fee” after a meeting with the Rabbi or whatever, to make a community welcoming – the welcome needs to be proclaimed loudly and strongly in order for it to stick.

    Does the Executive Director spending Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur morning standing out by the ticket table to leap forward and personally escort in anyone showing up empty-handed help? 😉

    Thank you for a beautiful nutshell comment– and my thanks to Avdi for a post that forces me to see how hard leaders in my community have worked “against the flow.”

  19. Don’t forget to add the racket that is “kosher” foods to your rant list. Kosher Rabbis rake it in.

    On a more amusing tangent, do you suppose that “emo” would translate to “schmaltz” in yiddish?

  20. What do they DO with the money?

    After reading through the comments here, I think there is an important question that no one is asking.

    What does the religious organization DO with the money they collect?

    I’m an eclectic spiritualist of sorts, but my mother takes my daughter to sunday school at the same church I grew up in. The United Methodist Church. If there is a wealthy churches of the US list, my church would be in the top ten.

    And they do ask for money a lot. And they do occasionally announce that such and such a family has donated the flowers for such and such a service. They publish large donors names in the bulletin.

    And this is all crap. I agree that real tithing is between you and GOD and should be completely anonymous.

    However, I don’t particularly mind that the church does this, and I don’t mind that they incentivize larger donations by giving a little pat on the head to the people who make them.

    Why not? Because I have seen first hand what they do with their money. They run food kitchens. They buy clothes and diapers for people who can’t afford them. They send missionaries to other countries and troubled parts of our own country, not to convert people, but to help make positive changes in the community in general. They sponsor habitat for humanity. They visit homebound elderly folks who need companionship and care. They have a very large angel tree full of angels with lists of toys low income kids want for christmas, and those angels go FAST around the holidays. It’s not a status thing, the people of the congregation really just care. I don’t know the exact figure our pastor makes, but she isn’t hurting for money, and I’m okay with that too, because a church member could call her up at 3am because they are having a family emergency and she would do something to help. If I were homeless tomorrow, I could walk in the door of any United Methodist Church in this country and they would feed me and my children, give us clothes, and help us find shelter. And they would check in with us later to make sure we were still okay, because that’s how the United Methodists roll. Their mission is to care for their community, and they do.

    So, I may not even consider myself a christian any more, but I do not mind giving the church money. I know it goes to good things and A LOT of community outreach.

    So my question for any synogogue charging membership dues or HH tickets or whatever, would be: “How are you using that money to reach out to your community and make it better? How are you helping people?”

    I have been a a few synogogues that were very community oriented, and a few that were very insular and did not reach out to the community. The irony? The ones who focused on community outreach were by far the poorer congregations.

    1. Re: What do they DO with the money?

      PS to the readers who don’t know me: I’m halfjew halfmethodist, which technically makes me nothing. What I’m saying is that I have experience with both religious and social communities. I prefer the jewish social community by far, but prefer the christian religious community. Odd, that.

    2. Re: What do they DO with the money?

      Most charitable groups are not charitable, here are a few examples of waste. The only way to know where the money is going is to take part in the committees that distribute it and to proactively research optimal ways to use it.

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