Member Poaching Item 3: Affiliation

Headed back to the article that kicked things off, one of the dividing lines that emerged between the “new,” lower-cost Reform-style synagogue and the more established ones was that the established synagogues contended that the new synagogue was acting to damage the established Jewish community.

I mean, this just makes me want to sputter with rage. (Imagine a guy sputtering. There you go!)

Why? Because if you’re fighting to keep people connected to the Jewish community, is there a worse way than to convey the message that unless you’re willing to pay a couple thousand dollars a year just to be affiliated with something, you’re actively harming the Jewish community in your area (and ergo the Jewish people)? I’m not sure there is.

So I’d point you, dear reader, to this first reminder: it doesn’t cost anything to be Jewish. Nothing.

It may cost more to do Jewish, depending on what it is. And it shouldn’t cost anything to be able to feel like you can walk into a synagogue and attend services. It shouldn’t cost anything to be affiliated. Why do we have so many synagogues that charge for High Holiday tickets if you’re not a member?

Sound crazy? Guess what institutions don’t charge anything to be affiliated or go to Easter and Christmas services?

Christians. I hear they’ve been in rapid decline for the last 2000 years.

To answer the objection that will come up: yes, institutions require support to survive. But ask yourself: do we need these institutions in this form? Is what we have the best possible set of institutions, with the best possible array of priorities, programs, and activities?

At bottom: should we have only one model?

As you can tell, I’m not convinced we should.

Next time: what can we do about it?