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Executively Speaking: Membership Matters

by Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director

Summer is almost here, which means it is membership renewal time at Kehilla. On July 1st, the primary contact in your household will receive an email with information on how to renew your Kehilla membership. We continue to invest energy into making clear and user-friendly forms and hope that the renewal process will be smooth.

Membership renewal is a yearly ritual that some of you have done dozens of times. It may be something that you now do as a matter of course. I want to share some thoughts on membership in the hope of giving you a broader context before you fill out the forms and make your annual dues pledge.

Membership dues play a vital role in the functioning of Kehilla. That each of you pay dues and how much you pay matters. This year we brought in $560,000 in dues, which is over 50% of our total revenue for the year (the rest comes mainly from tuition, donations, program fees and rental income). This money is used to pay for salaries and benefits for Kehilla’s clergy, staff and teachers, for the mortgage and upkeep of our building, and for expenses to run our programs and basic synagogue operations.

As many of you know, Kehilla has been steadily growing over the past five years. We have grown by 100 households and now are 480 strong.  Kehilla School has grown to more than 90 students. We have a growing number of programs and services. Our budget has been growing as well.

We have grown as a congregation and at the same time, so have our needs. The increased number of congregants means that overall our members have more pastoral needs. Our increased involvement in the wider community means we need more resources to support that involvement. We have increased our staff time somewhat, and nevertheless, our staff and clergy have been working as hard as ever.

Responding to this growth will require the engagement of all of us. We will be called on to offer our time, our leadership, and our skills to the growing workings of the community. And it will require that we continue to take responsibility for the financial needs of the synagogue. Paying dues is the first line of response to that financial need.

Economic justice is a core value at Kehilla and we strive to have all of our financial activities align with that value. We recognize that people have differing access to financial resources and we want everyone to have the same access to all aspects of congregational life regardless of their level of means. Therefore we need all of our members to pay what they are financially able to do so. Our dues structure was set up with this in mind. Though our sliding scale system is imperfect, it is intended to make this possible.

Figuring out where to pay on a sliding scale is not simple. I have come up with my own guidelines for how to think about it. The bottom of the scale is for folks who are just getting by, the middle is for those who have enough, and the upper end of the scale is for those who have more than they need. And if people are not in position to pay the bottom of the scale, we invite them to pay what they can afford.

I appreciate you taking this decision seriously and increasing your dues pledge if you are able. It will make a difference in what we are able to do for our community. I trust that you will make thoughtful decisions, and know that we do not question your decisions. If you have any questions or just want to talk this whole issue through, I am always available and happy to do so.

A couple of last logistical thoughts on the Kehilla membership renewal process:

  • The information that we collect on our renewal forms is crucial for us. It allows us to effectively contact you and respond to your needs throughout the entire year. Therefore, when the time comes, I ask you to take the time necessary to fill out all parts of our renewal form.
  • The renewal process comes at the same time as planning for High Holy Days and the beginning of our school year. It is a significant undertaking for our administrative staff. It makes a tremendous difference for us when members renew in a timely manner. To encourage you to do so, this year for the first time, we will be assessing a $50 late fee for those members who renew after Labor Day Weekend. We will remind you as the deadline nears.

I am pleased that each and everyone one of you is a member of the Kehilla family and appreciate all that you give to our community.

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