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 financial structure is the product of more than a year of study of “the way that money works,” in both Jewish tradition and modern American society, and was adopted by our membership in May 2000, after extensive communal learning and discussion. It is a values-based dues structure that allows us to maintain a dynamic, financially stable congregation, while ensuring that finances are never a barrier to membership.
We approach important decisions and communal policies though values-based decision-making. The following are the key values that underlie our dues system:
Kehilla / Community
According to Jewish tradition, human beings can only be fulfilled through relationships with others. The Torah teaches that the holiest form of community is formed by a brit (a covenant) in which individuals enter into sacred relationship with one another and with the Source of Life. Anchored within a web of mutual obligation, members share a commitment to the wellbeing of the community and its values, and to one another.
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, one must never be denied one’s 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, we take into account the differing financial resources of our members and have structured the dues system accordingly. We also see our own dealings with money as reflecting a larger commitment to creating a more just and fair world.
Nedivut Lev / Generosity
When the ancient Israelites came together to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert, they were asked to bring offerings with a nediv lev - literally, a “willing heart.” 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 nedivut lev, in which giving is a joyful responsibility.
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 (“hetzi-shekel”) tax on every adult member of the community, and through 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. Jewish communities have survived by creating systems of taxation to fund common goods.
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, thereby maintaining their dignity and affirming the value of giving.
Our Dues Structure
Jewish tradition and our economic values are reflected in the structure of our dues system. It is comprised of a half (hetzi)-shekel portion of $125 per adult member. This contribution symbolizes membership and commitment to the community, and is intended to be an amount attainable for all.
In addition, we ask each household to pay dues based on a progressive sliding scale, representing a targeted goal of 1% – 1.6% of household income, with a cap at the top of the scale. This fee embodies our community’s commitment to justice and fairness.
While members are asked to self-assess according to suggested levels, we recognize that every household situation is unique. Members pay dues at a level that works for them and may adjust payment schedules as well. Finances should never be a barrier to membership.
Our membership year is August 1 – July 31st.
The Talmud teaches that a new person in a community is given time to settle in, and is not immediately accountable for all the levies of that community. In accordance with this teaching, for the first year, new members’ dues are 50% of the level indicated on the sliding scale provided in the membership materials. The dues of those who join mid-year are pro-rated accordingly.
For more information contact us at 617-965-0330, or outreach [at] dorsheitzedek.org.