Putting the Sacred Into the Business Side of Synagogue Life by Laura Bernstein, Executive Director

Im ein Kemach ein Torah; im ein Torah ein Kemach.
Where there is no bread, there can be no Torah; where there is no Torah, there will be no bread.  – Pirkei Avot 3:17

In a recent conversation with Rabbi Knight, he shared, “if Temple Beth El is a business, then we are in the business of creating Jews and helping people live more Jewishly.”

We do this by living out our values of chesed (caring for one another), gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), learning together, praying together and by our commitment to be good stewards of our financial resources so that we provide for today’s needs and for future generations to come.

As with any business, there is a cost associated with living out our mission. We pay for professional staff, utilities, building maintenance, food, insurance, legal fees, supplies, program materials, security, and other expenses.

Our income is comprised of ongoing membership pledges, tuition, program fees, facility rentals, and fund revenue. Like all businesses our income must increase each year to keep up with the cost of inflation and other expenses.

As I prepare for our Annual Congregational Meeting on May 23 at 7:00 pm, I am reminded of how many lives we have touched and the many ways our congregation cares for each other and for our greater community. Right now our clergy have 152 open pastoral priorities, and in the past two months we’ve had over 400 congregants come together to serve our community with mitzvot and participate in community organizing activities. Many of our committees have priority projects in the works that serve to make us a strong and vibrant congregation.

As your executive director, I have a goal to help every congregant understand what it takes to run our business. I believe that transparency engenders trust. This is why we created the Budget Workshops that take place prior to our Annual Meeting. If you haven’t attended one yet and are available Thursday, May 17 at 10:00 am, I highly encourage you to attend. It’s important for all of us to know about the costs to run our synagogue and how we can work together to advance our goals to further our culture of philanthropy.

What makes us different from other businesses is both our mission and the values our budget reflects. A synagogue is much more than a membership organization. It is a congregational home. We do not pay dues per se; rather, we make a monthly or annual commitment to support the mission, vision, and goals of the congregation. By ensuring the future of our congregation through adequate financial support and prudent management of our resources, we are doing our utmost to protect our Jewish future and that of our children, as well as of generations to come. Those who came before us preserved our Jewish heritage for us.  Our obligation is to do the same for our children.

I hope you’ll consider attending next week’s Budget Workshop and our Annual Congregational Meeting on May 23. Come learn first hand how our budget is part of our sacred work.