Q: Why is this change occurring/happening?
A: After much research and counsel, Temple Beth-El’s Board of Trustees is introducing a new commitment policy designed to better fulfill our sacred mission and stimulate membership giving and growth. The new policy moves away from a traditional dues system to a personal pledge system. Now, your pledge amount is up to you, hopefully backed with a better understanding and awareness that it is both a vital part of operating the Temple of today while also serving as an investment in Temple’s future. The new policy is designed to do two things. First, we hope it will build membership by adopting a policy that is more closely aligned with contemporary Jewish culture and values, and make us more accessible to prospective members. Secondly, it is intended to invite congregants to give more and increase their support. In fact, we hope it will inspire 100% of our members to increase their commitment dollars. Your personal contribution creates change and impacts lives while shaping our financial future.
Q: How will the new policy work?
A: Instead of paying an assigned dues amount, each member household has the responsibility to fairly assess its own commitment level and to give accordingly. Members are now asked to contribute based on what the household determines is consistent with their ability to support, sustain, perpetuate, and strengthen Temple Beth-El.
The sustaining contribution level is $2600, which reflects the actual cost per member household to maintain our Temple programs and facilities. As a guideline, Temple leadership has created recommended annual contribution levels:
Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) Levels
- $25,000 and above M’lachim (Angels)
- $18,000 to $24,999 Adumim (Pillars)
- $10,000 to $17,999 Shomrim (Guardians)
- $5,000 to $9,999 Manhigim (Leaders)
- $3,600 to $4,999 Bonim (Builders)
- Sustaining Level $2600 – $3599
- Suggested Minimum $1200
Q: What is a Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) Level?
A: We encourage members who are able to support the Temple beyond the sustaining level to do so at an amount that is meaningful to them. Our Ner Tamid members provide critical support to the Temple, allowing us to open membership to the entire community regardless of financial ability. Ner Tamid members will be thanked publicly during the year unless anonymity is requested.
Q: Do I need to contribute at the recommended annual levels?
A: While we recognize that we are a diverse congregation with members who have a wide range of charitable giving capability, we ask every member to make a meaningful gift from the heart. For some that may be the suggested minimum contribution ($1200), and for others it is at the M’lachim level ($25,000 and above). Those who are unable to contribute at the suggested minimum level can adjust their commitment level accordingly.
Q: Will other standard fees, i.e. COFR, security, special assessment continue to remain separate from our annual commitment?
A: COFR (Capital & Operations Fund for Resources) is our congregation’s building fund. All members households are asked to contribute annually to COFR in addition to annual membership commitment. This allows us to maintain our historic Temple and two cemeteries.
- For the initial ten years of membership, the annual Member Household COFR obligation is $240 (total of $2,400 over ten years). At a Member Household’s discretion, the initial COFR assessment may be made as a one-time contribution of $2,000 in the first year of membership.
- After the initial ten years, all Member Households will contribute a $60 annual COFR obligation.
- COFR is waived for active duty military.
- COFR may be waived in cases of financial hardship.
At a Member Household’s option, COFR payments may be deferred to begin at age 35, if applicable.All member households are also asked to contribute a $55 annual security fee which may be waived in cases of financial hardship.
Q: Has this new type of commitment model worked successfully at other Temples?
A: A small but growing number of Reform congregations have moved to a similar commitment model. It has been the focus of much conversation among synagogue leaders throughout the country as they reexamine the old models of fixed dues systems. The trend was featured in this 2014 article by Rabbi Dan Judson, a leading scholar in synagogue finances. It was also a focus of this recent New York Times article.
Q: Is this a permanent change?
A: Our leadership believes that this new commitment model will strengthen our congregation, but it will take several years for us to realize its full potential. We know we have a congregation that loves our synagogue and wants to perpetuate its future. While no one has a crystal ball about the future, we believe this is a positive, long-standing change for Temple Beth-El and its membership.
Q: Who do I contact if I have additional questions?
A: Please feel free to contact our Executive Director, Rabbi Alan Berlin, if you have any questions. You can reach him via email or at (210) 733-9135 ext. 118.