Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why does it cost so much to be Jewish?

A few years ago, at a program at Barack Academy (nee Akiva) in Philadelphia, the outgoing head of school described how it was now cheaper to make aliyah than try to maintain a Jewish life in America. Between synagogue affiliation, day schools, camp, etc., it was becoming increasingly untenable for most families to maintain a connection to those institutions that connect us to Jewish life.

These were not news to me, really. I had often lamented that we talk about membership in the fall and revenues in the spring. At the time I shared what I heard with other Jewish leaders and they brushed it off as hyperbole or shrugged their shoulders as if to say, well, yeah it's expensive, but what can we do?

Well, this article raises the question again, but with very different economic circumstances surrounding us. So, have we fallen into a trap of self preservation, and if so, how do we climb out of it? How can we think more creatively about synagogue (and other Jewish institutional) finance, without losing quality?