Paying Your Dues

Can we talk money? I mean, religion and money. 

Every religious organization I know has to raise money. Synagogues raise money all the time, because dues, high as they may seem, never cover the expenses of the synagogue. Yet people feel that having to pay money to pray to God is unseemly. 

So synagogues dance around the issue. They speak of “pledges” and “resources” and “tzedakah” and “contributions.” They ask those who come week after week but do not join, because they do not wish to pay, to “participate.” They use a minyan of euphemisms to avoid saying the plain truth — shuls need money. They need it for salaries, for books, for lights, for guest speakers, for activities, for property — in order to exist.

People who use the synagogue but do not pay what they can are at times offended when you ask them. Instead, all those who do pay should be offended at others who think that taking without giving is Jewishly acceptable. It is not. It is selfish and un-Jewish.

Israel raised money to build the ancient Temple, and we raise money to build the modern one. It is not a dirty or profane activity but a sacred and noble endeavor. So be a mensch — give.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.