Should I stay or should I go?

theclashA couple of weeks ago I posted a listed of reasons to join a shul. My #1 reason? It’s not going to get any better without you. But what if you’re starting to wonder whether it can get any better, even with you?
We’ve been members of the same synagogue for almost as long as we’ve lived here. I’ve held various teaching positions there, and run several family programs as a volunteer. Our younger daughter was named there, I celebrated the release of my first picture book there, and I go there to say kaddish for my father. For a home-shuler, I’m fairly attached to my shul.  I can live with the lackluster services, not enough children’s programming, ugly wood panelling and even uglier turquoise carpet. It’s like a quirky uncle who wears leisure suits and tells bad jokes – he’s tolerable, and even kind of charming. But what if he unexpectedly punched someone in the nose. Wouldn’t we stop visiting? 
Last week, two staff members were treated in a way that I found extremely troubling. I emailed the presidents of the board, and when their response didn’t feel satisfactory, I went to the board meeting last night to speak out against their handling of these personnel matters. It made me feel a little better to speak up, but in the end, it didn’t change a thing and no one responsible expressed any regret.
So now I face a dilemma. Do I continue our family’s membership, even though at this moment it feels very distasteful to write a check to the institution? Or do I resign on principal, even though it’s the only game in town in my denomination-of-choice (and we live right around the corner?)
Has there ever been a time when you considered leaving a shul on principle? And in the end – did you, or didn’t you?Please share your stories and maybe I can learn from your wisdom.

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posted March 19, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I wish I had your intestinal fortitude. When the email came from the presidents, I sent a note of support to [one of the staff people] but not knowing any details, it didn’t occur to me to contact the synagogue, let alone go to a board meeting. I feel like I need to get more involved, not less.

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posted March 19, 2009 at 9:18 pm

I’m emailing you off line.

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Bible Belt Balabusta

posted March 30, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Oh, dear. Our synagogue was torn asunder almost two years ago, resulting in the letting go of a perfectly good Rabbi and the alienation of hundreds of congregants. It was a horrible, divisive time, and we all suffered. My family, part of the pro-Rabbi camp, was so outraged at having been ignored by the Board we considered leaving. But we couldn’t deny, no matter how uneven the religious school, how crappy the teachers (some, not all), how mean the board, this was the only suitable shul in town for us. We had to stick with it. It was our daughter’s bat mitzvah year, and to leave was unthinkable.
We are still not overjoyed with the place, but it does feel like a home, however dysfunctional. And the toddler adores going to shul. So we go.
I wish it were different, but we are making do. We have to have a community, period.
(Also, we do volunteer teaching, program planning, etc.)

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posted July 3, 2011 at 10:11 am

pray.pray and pray.

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