Belief Beat

Belief Beat

Recession, Outreach Goals Prompt Jews to Tackle High Cost of High Holy Days

The high cost of being Jewish — kosher food, synagogue dues, tuition, etc. — has made secular and religious headlines in recent months. It’s not a new problem, but the recession and the Madoff scandal have taken a heavy toll on Jewish institutions, and there’s more talk than ever of the need to reach out to the growing number of Jews who are unaffiliated and/or in interfaith marriages.


The discussion has culminated lately in a wave of stories about the high cost of attending Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, and whether it’s counterproductive to charge “high holiday Jews” big bucks on the rare occasion that they attend synagogue. To mix my metaphors, do you catch more flies with honey, or can synagogues not afford to give up what amounts to their Black Friday, the holiday rush they depend on to get out of the red? (Keep in mind that Jewish law prohibits synagogues to pass a collection plate.)

My Religion News Service story and these pieces from The Forward and JTA go into more detail on the free/discounted ticket trend. Some quotes that didn’t make it into my RNS story: 


Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union:

Most congregations look at what people can afford, and for those that don’t even make the attempt to become members, there are free or discounted options… But, the best way to outreach the unaffiliated is in a more intimate atmosphere, when they can have engagement and a dialogue. It’s much easier at a social event, or at classes that address issues with a give and take (than at a crowded service).

Rabbi Laura A. Baum, of Congregation Beth Adam and

We have real expenses and it’s a challenge that we face. You need to run an institution, but you also want to be inclusive and welcoming. I’ve been saying for the last couple of years that synagogue membership for families is becoming harder to understand, and we have a lot of interfaith families and getting a bill annually for $1,000 to $2,000 is such a foreign concept to the non-Jewish partner, so that presents a challenge, too. If you were raised in a Jewish home, you understand that that’s how it works, but people who join the community as adults get confused.


Jonathan Sarna, Jewish history professor at Brandeis University:

Everybody wants high quality, everybody wants a beautifully aesthetic synagogue, a great cantor, and efficient office with someone answering their calls, and nobody wants to pay for it, like our attitude towards government. We want government to be responsive and active when there is an emergency, but we don’t want to pay high taxes…. But, the government is not going to bail out the synagogues.

If you’re still looking for free or discounted high holiday tickets, check out that JTA story, along with the sites for Chabad, the National Jewish Outreach Program, and Our Jewish Community.


What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

*Click here to subscribe to Belief Beat and click here to follow Belief Beat on Twitter.

Comments read comments(2)
post a comment
joe gonzalez

posted September 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm

i was raised a Catholic, but left that religion when i was 20, disgusted with my personal experiences with abuse ( personal ), hypocrisy ( communal ) a backward and intransigent hierarchy, ( now known to everybody ) and a non-appealable and infallible pope ( in this century only, and if u look thru history, you see plainly how very fallible they truly are.) Yet, to be a good Catholic, you have to swear by the verity of these things and by the way they tackle the very many problems that plague them. So i looked closely into the Jewish religion ( remember Jesus was Jewish ) and studied with Hasidic rabbis for 16 years. The Hasids are very wise, unobtrusive, kind and gentle people ( forget their appearance ; think of some of our accepted dresscodes among our ‘ liberated ‘ youth.) They don’t sustain expensive synagogues, and don’t charge for their teaching. They are pious, and even consider the ‘ goyim’ as worthy of walking the earth as themselves ( they have a take on the descendants of Noah on this ). So i think that High Holiday Services, attended by the ones that can afford it once a year is kind of like the Catholics who only go to Mass on Easter Sunday. By the way, 25 years ago, i had a theophany, and went back to Christianity, to my brand specifically, to see how i could contribute to make things better. i’m still in the thick of the battle, and proud of it. Thank you, and Shalom for all my many Jewish friends and teachers on these approaching High Holidays.

report abuse

Robert C

posted September 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm

We know your a Catholic basher ad nauseum.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!
Thank you for visiting Belief Beat. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy:   Beliefnet News   Good News Happy Reading!   ...

posted 4:57:28pm Feb. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Fun Friday: Atheist Temple Planned for UK's Nonbelievers
Author Alain de Botton has announced plans to build an Atheist temple in the United Kingdom, presumably so nonbelievers have a place to gather and share their philosophies. Um... isn't that what Starbucks is for? Also, I can't wait to see ...

posted 2:53:42pm Jan. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Alaska Airlines: High Payers No Longer Offered Sky Prayers
Alaska Airlines, now the country's seventh-largest airline, has announced it will stop offering prayer cards with its in-flight meals. (It's just raining religion news in the great unchurched Pacific Northwest lately.) I've flown Alaska ...

posted 11:07:56am Jan. 26, 2012 | read full post »

Washington's Gay Marriage Debate: Clergy vs. Clergy
I reported for Reuters at the Washington state Capitol yesterday, covering the public hearings on a gay marriage bill -- and in between, the breaking news that the state Senate now has enough votes to pass the bill. (The House already had ...

posted 11:24:39am Jan. 24, 2012 | read full post »

What Israel's Domestic Policy & Santorum Supporters Have in Common
Hope everyone had an introspective Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, whether observed as a faith-related holiday, a nice break from the work week or something else entirely. Check out this story from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly about how ...

posted 1:32:44pm Jan. 18, 2012 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.