South Florida synagogues entice new members with savings
AS THE HIGH HOLY DAYS BEGIN, TEMPLES ARE HELPING THEIR FINANCIALLY STRUGGLING FLOCKS BY OFFERING DISCOUNT SERVICES AND MEMBERSHIPS.
With slow business at his motorcycle store, Michael Levin was unsure if he could afford the $200 ticket to services for the High Holidays, which begin Friday after sundown with Rosh Hashana. Yet, last week, he got tickets to services at Bet Shira Congregation and a year-long membership -- worth up to $2,000 -- for free. ``Nowhere I'd rather be than with my family at the synagogue for the holidays,'' said Levin, 41, of Pinecrest. ``It's tradition . . . you reflect on the year and look forward to what we can do in the one coming up.''
As the economy has taken a toll on families, a handful of South Florida synagogues -- which, unlike churches, rely on annual memberships and fees -- are taking the unprecedented move of advertising free services and even scrapping membership dues altogether. ``We've never done this before,'' said Cantor Mark Kula of Bet Shira, the 664-member Conservative synagogue in Pinecrest where a ``membership marathon'' last week netted 119 of those members. Anybody who showed up during a four-hour window Wednesday got a free one-year membership.
``People were uncomfortable saying `I can't afford it' and may have stayed on the periphery, so we got one step ahead of them and offered the deal ourselves,'' Kula said.
Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year, and services that begin Friday night and continue through Sunday include the blowing of the shofar -- a traditional instrument made from a ram's horn -- extended prayer and a focus on repentence.
The High Holidays, which end Sept. 28 with Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, are also when annual synagogue membership -- $250 to $2,000, depending on a person's age and marital status -- begins its cycle. This year, synagogues are banking on keeping the flock by offering enticing deals.
Well that is an interesting idea...not the discounts but the fees!!! Churches typically provide services at no cost relying on the good will offerings, tithes or pledges of attendees, which often are inadecuate for the expenses.
Maybe there is a bit of wisdom in this interesting practice... If you are interested you pay the membership fees like you do in any other organization whose services and gatherings are of interest or benefit to you. It sure would make budgeting easier every year...
Now if only the vestry would catch the vision....lol! Just think of it discounted tickets to the Christmas Eve Mass and the Easter Vigil, at a mere $50-$150...a boost for the budget!