The Board of Trustees has Approved the Pledge Commitment to Replace our Dues Model
We are excited to inform you that our Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to shift from our longstanding fixed dues financial model to a pledge commitment approach to sustaining our community. This change will begin on July 1, 2016.
There are many reasons why this shift is significant. The one that resonates most deeply for us is:
The opportunity to more fully and powerfully align membership at Scarsdale Synagogue with our values as a covenant community of shared lives and real relationships.
This milestone is the culmination of more than two years of intensive research, study, reflection, and listening by the Board of Trustees, together with our clergy and the full synagogue community. Our research included conversations with over 25 congregations around the country who have strengthened their communities through a switch to a pledge commitment model and looking at best practices for making this work financially. We have also held open dialogues through community forums in December 2014, community conversations in mid-2015 and additional forums this January and February preceding the vote of the Board. Links to the results of this research can be found on this page (on the right side for a desktop; on the bottom for a mobile device).
How will we redefine sustaining relationships between Scarsdale Synagogue and our members?
Instead of a fee for service (dues) model, we are creating a financial partnership. Every current and new member will be invited and expected to make a pledge: a financial commitment by each member informed not only by the needs of sustaining our synagogue, but our personal connection and engagement within our community. Our support of Scarsdale Synagogue will reflect our desire to strengthen our synagogue in accordance with our individual financial abilities, with a realistic understanding that the resources of our synagogue (our clergy, staff, and building) do of course cost a great deal of money.
We know you will have many questions on how the pledge commitment model will work.
We are committed to ensuring that all of our members have a good understanding of our synagogue's financial needs and clear guidance regarding how to determine your own pledge. The letter you received from our Finance Committee last week was an important expression of the transparency you can expect. Please contact the Office if you need another copy, and if you have any questions or suggestions on ways that we can be even more transparent, we welcome your input.
Communication will be critical to making this transition a success and we want (and need) your help! We envision an ambitious outreach program, both to new members and former members. We have every reason to believe that our new approach to synagogue giving will be an attractive one to potential members. If you would like to volunteer to join us in our member-outreach efforts, or have names of people you would encourage us to reach out to, please contact our Membership Committee with an e-mail to Scott Rothstein.
Of course, we also hope that this shift will make your own giving to the synagogue a more meaningful experience. You'll be hearing more in the coming weeks about the "mechanics" of this new model of financial support, including information to guide you through the process of determining your pledge. We have confidence that our fellow congregants will continue to be generous as in the past, and we hope that those for whom standard dues payment was not possible in the past will feel a heightened sense of belonging in a community that allows us each to determine our financial ability to contribute. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns about your 2016-2017 pledge, please feel free to contact our Executive Director, Roberta Aronovitch at 914-725-5175.
Throughout our process, we have acknowledged that there is an element of the "unknown" embedded in this shift. Although the experience of other synagogues makes us very optimistic that this change will strengthen our community, of course we will only know once it is implemented. Our Board and staff will be closely monitoring and assessing this shift in the coming months, and we will keep you posted.
Again: don't hesitate to be in touch. We hope you'll partner with us in actualizing this exciting vision. And as always, we welcome any questions or concerns you might have.
With kindest regards,
Rabbi Jeffrey Brown
Cantor Chanin Becker
Although new for our congregation, this approach to funding our congregation is as old as Judaism itself. As we just read in last week's Torah portion...
"This is what the Holy One has commanded: Take from among you gifts to the Holy One; everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them - gifts to the Holy One. [...] And let all among you who are skilled come and make all the Holy One has commanded: the Tabernacle, its tent and its covering..." (Exodus 35:4-ff.)
Our ancestors were called to give to the community as their hearts moved them...by sharing generously of their resources, and by sharing generously of their time and skill. Today we are called on to do the same: to make a pledge to financially sustain our congregation, and to give renewed consideration about how we might best share our time and skills with the Jewish community that is so important to us.
Some Background on the Board's Process and Links to Reports
In addition to the two years of formal study that our team did with experts from UJA-NY and faculty members around the country, we have engaged the congregation in the following ways up until now:
If you have any questions or concerns, we encourage you to reach out to any of us:
Rabbi Jeffrey Brown
Donna Vitale Ruskin
From the January/February 2016 Forums & Small Group Conversations
From our Dec. 2014 Community Forums