Dan Kaskel

Renewing Synagogue Membership During Covid

Boca Raton Synagogue Rand Sanctuary

It’s an Imperative

Mid-August is a spirited time on the Jewish calendar.  We are somewhere in or welcoming Elul, ushering in a New Year brimming with endless possibilities and enthusiasm.  And during a typical year this is the time we begin our High Holiday planning – deciding where and with whom to enjoy Yom Tov meals, buy new clothes, wrangle over High Holiday seating, and renew synagogue memberships.

While Covid will change many aspects of our High Holiday planning, we cannot allow Covid to deter renewing our synagogue memberships.  Covid has introduced unprecedented financial burdens on Jewish communities, underscoring the vital importance of every single membership.

Access to our synagogues may be narrowed, but our brick and mortar institutions comprise only a part of our various Jewish communities.  Our kehillot, our communities, far eclipse what is contained within the walls of our synagogues, though we yearn for a return to normal davening, learning and socializing within those walls, so please do not gage membership solely by the extent of access to a building – important though it may be.

Ever meet friends from your synagogue in Israel or elsewhere? Go on a mission, AIPAC or other trip with members of your community?  Maybe you bumped into an acquaintance from your kehillah on flight and instantly become closer.  Through these and other experiences we learn that the greatest asset of our communities are undeniably our memberships.

There is a perilous consideration among some members in many Jewish communities that since this year will be atypical, access to shuls limited, High Holiday davening different, and details of the holiday season still uncertain, renewing synagogue membership is an option rather than an obligation.  It is not.

Your membership is likely more important now than ever in your synagogue’s history.  Our precious Jewish communities are in no way immune to the financial challenges wrought by this pandemic.  Every community has members whose businesses and parnasa have been adversely affected by Covid, highlighting the significance of membership renewal for those who are financially able.

Communal needs have grown exponentially with the pandemic.  I am proud that the rabbis and staff in my community in Boca Raton, Florida have aptly met every challenge, successfully navigating through unchartered, sometimes turbulent waters.  We boast an abundance of accessible learning opportunities, often attended virtually by hundreds.  Our rabbis have worked tirelessly to make minyonim available to everyone in the community.  Rabbis and lay leaders globally have found new ways to connect with their congregations and invent new forms of programming.  Facebook and other social medial is teeming with Torah classes and other learning and virtual socializing opportunities.

Consider how the role of our rabbis has evolved since March of this year: lifecycle events, baby namings, brit milahs, bar/bat mitzvot, weddings and funerals continue, only now additional consideration and planning is required to maneuver, juggle and comply with health codes and family needs.  Add to this is the growing counseling needs and increased requests for financial assistance, both byproducts of the pandemic. The job requirements of our rabbis and staff have expanded, while staffing and budgeting have contracted.  Membership dollars are critical to every shul’s budget, and simply renewing membership is your opportunity to make a difference in your community.

We are indeed fortunate to live in remarkable communities.  Our communities nourish us year after year, in good times and bad.  We dance together at smachot, celebrate together, and say farewell to loved ones together.  The common denominator in all our lives are our Jewish communities.  They cushion, empower and care for us.  And now our communities, your community, needs you.  Much like a mother tends to her family, we have been tended to by our respective community.  And much like you would never abandon your mother in her time of need, this is the hour to demonstrate your appreciation and commitment to your community by strengthening it with your membership renewal.

There will come a time when Covid is a thing of the past; a story we tell our grandchildren.  We all want our synagogues and communities to be strong and vigorous on that day.  And they will.  But emerging from this pandemic with the financial health and wellbeing our communities need require that our essentials are maintained during these times, and shul membership is at the core of our communities’ success. I urge you to own a helek, a portion of that success.

About the Author
Dan Kaskel has resided in Boca Raton, Florida since 1999. He is an active member of the South Florida Jewish community where he is Vice President of the Boca Raton Synagogue. He is a partner in a mid-size law firm and serves on several Jewish and law related boards. In 2020 Dan was a candidate for the 38th World Zionist Congress on the Herut slate.
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