“I can’t really afford to belong to a synagogue. Should I even bother approaching them about financial assistance?”

created at: 2012-02-05This is a very important question to ask a synagogue you are interested in joining. Please don’t be afraid to have this conversation because every synagogue is willing to accommodate your financial concerns. Every synagogue is different—in the culture, in their members, and in the messages they put out to prospective members. Some will ask you to contribute what you can, others may ask for more information regarding your financial background, and others may simply suggest a minimum contribution. Either way, they are all willing to work with you to come up with a comfortable and reasonable solution around membership fees. If you’re not sure who to ask, you can always start with the rabbi. If there’s someone more appropriate to speak with, the rabbi will be able to discretely connect you with the correct person.

Putting financials aside for a moment, it’s worth approaching a few synagogues and finding the place where you feel most at home, where you like the people, where you feel comfortable with the services and the rabbi. I recommend attending services a few times before approaching the conversation around membership fees.

Thank you for your question, and I hope you will find a place that you can call home and where finances are not a big issue or a source of embarrassment.

created at: 2012-01-11

Rabbi Barbara Penzner is the rabbi of Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, a Reconstructionist synagogue in West Roxbury.