Rabbi Ishmael said: One who wishes to acquire wisdom should study the way that money works, for there is no greater area of Torah study than this. – Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 175b
Our goal in designing our dues structure is to build a dynamic, financially stable congregation that reflects the values of Jewish tradition and Reconstructionist Judaism.
Our Core Values
B’tzelem Elohim / Human Dignity
One of the most fundamental values taught in the Torah and expanded upon in rabbinic tradition is that every person is created “b’tzelem Elohim” - in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). No matter what a person’s circumstances, s/he must never be denied their dignity.
Accessibility and Diversity
We strive to be an inclusive, welcoming, and diverse community. To that end, we affirm the importance of being financially accessible to all who wish to join. We also acknowledge the diversity of class background and income level within the larger Jewish community, and welcome that diversity in our congregation.
We affirm the equal value of every member to the community and the importance of participation by all, regardless of financial means.
Tzedek / Justice and Fairness
Recognizing that wealth is distributed unequally in our society, it is important that we take into account the differing financial resources of our members and structure the dues system accordingly. We also see our own dealings with money as reflecting a larger commitment to create a more just and fair world.
Nediv Lev / Generosity
When the ancient Israelites came together to build the first synagogue - the mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert—they were asked to bring offerings of nediv lev - literally, a “willing heart/mind.” The Torah emphasizes that the mishkan was built through the generous outpouring of the Israelites’ hearts and hands (Exodus 35:20-29). As a community, we wish to foster a culture of nediv lev in which giving is a joyful responsibility.
Kehilla / Community
Jewish tradition stresses individual obligation to the community and communal responsibility for its individual members. Traditionally, every Jew is responsible for helping maintain the Jewish community in which s/he lives, learns, and worships.
From The Tradition
Judaism seeks to infuse a sense of awe and sacred obligation into all aspects of our lives—-including our material lives. Jewish tradition finds nothing inherently positive or negative about money; what is important is how we deal with it and use it.
In our study of Jewish texts, we read in the book of Exodus about the Israelites’ first communal project: the building of the desert Sanctuary, the mishkan. Contributions for the mishkan were raised both through a “half-shekel” tax on every adult member of the community, and through generosity offerings given by each Israelite according to his/her means and talents. Over the past 2,000 years, Jewish communities have continued to wrestle with the issue of how to pay for communal necessities. By studying texts from many periods of our history, we learn that Jewish communities have survived by creating mutual agreements to tax themselves, based on the understanding that the individual and the community are responsible for each other.
While the wealthier members of the community were expected to take on a larger portion of the financial burden, even the poorest members of the community were given the opportunity to contribute something, to maintain their dignity and to affirm the value of giving.
How our Dues Structure Works
Just as earlier Jewish communities were supported by a mix of “per head” taxes, fees for services, and income-based levies, we also rely on a mixture of fees for certain services (e.g. the religious school), a per person flat tax, and a sliding scale portion of the dues based on ability to pay.
Each adult member is assessed a symbolic “half shekel” of $125: this is the base payment for membership, and includes one High Holy Day ticket. Members are then asked to self-assess on a sliding scale according to gross household income, with each member paying approximately 1-1.6% of their income in dues (see the dues form for details). This self-assessment is completely confidential. Each member is trusted to make the appropriate contribution. In addition, we cannot fulfill our commitments without additional contributions above and beyond dues. Each member is expected to make an additional contribution of an amount that is right for them. These nediv lev contributions are a vital part of our financial structure.
The Talmud teaches that a new person in a community is given time to settle in, and is not immediately responsible for all the taxes of that community. In accordance with this teaching, as a new member, your dues will be 50% of the full rate for your first year. In addition if you join mid-year your dues will be pro-rated accordingly.
For more information contact us at 617-965-0330, or outreach [at] dorsheitzedek.org.