IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO
So go the lyrics of the great Gershwins in their wonderful show, Porgy and Bess. The message of the number is that what we’ve been taught to believe or may appear obvious to us may not be entirely true (or in their words, necessarily so). It may have a pinch of fiction built in or perhaps the obvious may not be as obvious at all when it comes to disclosing the true nature of a situation.
Using this metaphor I’d like to discuss our dichotic desire to keep our doors open to all while dealing with the reality that it costs money to run a shul. While we do not charge for most events, members and nonmembers alike, doesn’t mean that there are not costs associated with running the event. While our services are open to all and all are encouraged to join us in celebrating Shabbat or a Yom Tov, the cost of making our shul available to all is borne almost entirely by our members. Yes, it ain’t necessarily so that because we do not charge at all or that our charge in nominal it does not come at a cost; a cost which is covered in part by our members’ dues.
Now, you’ve heard me say many times that we are extremely fortunate to be able to use the proceeds of the sale of our building and a favorable lease arrangement to sustain us, but members’ dues and donations still play a large role in our sustenance. Without them, our lifespan would be severely limited and at the very least we could not continue to do the things we are doing without having to worry about every penny. We are healthy financially, but to continue that good health we will need to grow our membership and continue to experience the dedication our congregation shows to its shul.
In line with that you’ve also heard me say over and over that to gain members we need to bring people in the door. We need to show them what we’re all about and what we have to offer, both spiritually and friendship and companionship. Rabbi Elkodsi has done a remarkable job in this respect. But here friends, is the dichotomy. While we must keep our doors open to and welcome all, a notion to which I am unquestionably dedicated, we should not at the same time be asking our members to foot the entire bill. This is not only a poor fiscal practice, but is unfair to our dedicated as well. While there are many benefits to membership in MJC, paying the full freight of the shul’s existence should not be among them.
I don’t have a complete answer to dealing with this conflicting situation. Sure, I could ask the Board of Trustees to approve a resolution of no freebees, including High Holiday services, but despite my pronounced nose, I’ll refrain from cutting it off to spite my face. As with Rabbi Elkodsi, I am still firmly committed to bringing people in the door with great programs and welcoming arms. But I still believe that we need to encourage non-members attending our events to truly become part of our MJC family by becoming a member of our congregation. Our dues are very affordable and, let me make this clear; no one will ever be turned away because paying the full dues presents a financial burden to them. Arrangements have always been made and will continue to be made to make certain that everyone can be a part of our wonderful shul.
So, please join me in continuing to welcome all but please also help to complete the circle by encouraging those who are not yet members of our congregation to become full-fledged members of our family. And let’s not forget that:
Little Moses was found in a stream
Little Moses was found in a stream
He floated on water till old Pharaoh’s daughter
She fished him she says from the stream.
George and Ira Gershwin
Porgy and Bess
Because it was necessarily so.
Dave Feldman, President