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September 09, 1988 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-09

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Everything seems to have a price tag today
including being Jewish. The extent of Jewish
affiliation is all a matter of values — and often of
pocketbooks, too.


Staff Writer


11 0

aron Wassermann loves
school. Unlike many
other 7-year-olds, he
doesn't ask his parents
why he has to go to
Hillel Day School or why he can't stay
home and watch television.
But Aaron does frequently ques-
tion his mother about one thing: Will
he be allowed to stay at Hillel?
- His mother, Nancy Marcus,
always gives the same answer. "I don't
Grie thing prevents Marcus from
giving her son a definite yes to his
question. Money. Tuition at Hillel this
past year was $3,950 for students not
receiving financial aid.
What makes the rising costs of
day school tuition especially
frustrating for Marcus, as well as
many other Jewish families in the
area, is that she believes so strongly
in the program.
Day schools are just the start of it.
Virtually every area of Jewish life
carries a hefty price tag. The cost of
kosher meat soars above that of non-
kosher meat; synagogue and temple
dues take hundreds of dollars out of
pocketbooks; and all those little
necessary extras — from bar and bat
mitzvahs to trips to Israel — add up
to big bucks that stretch the budgets
of many Jewish families.
This situation troubles Jewish
leaders like Professor Gerald Bubis,
director of Jewish communal service
at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish
Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.
Bubis, who has conducted
numerous studies on costs in Jewish
life today, says that some Jews are be-
ing priced out of their religion.
A 1985 study by the Council of
Jewish Federations shows that
although the Jewish community has
always tried to make being Jewish
available and affordable to all, grow-
ing evidence suggests that a signifi-
cant number of Jews may have dif-
ficulty in meeting the cost of Jewish
affilation and participation.
The study focused specifically on
synagogue dues, synagogue building
fund pledges, Jewish education for
children, membership in a Jewish
Community Center and contribution
to a Federation campaign.

The first order of business for
most Jewish families is affiliation
with a synagogue or temple — despite
the fact that this is not necessary for
some of the most important expres-
sions of Jewish life today.
Children can receive a Jewish
education through the United
Hebrew Schools without belonging to
a congregation; it's also possible to at-
tend Shabbat services at any local
temple or synagogue and no one will
ask for proof of membership.
Even the all-important High Ho-
ly Day services, .which even the most
disinterested Jews are likely to at-
tend, are accessible to anyone. There's
no need to affiliate with a congrega-
tion — just buy Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur tickets and you'll get in.
That's just the sort of option that
disturbs some congregants who, as
members, support their synagogue or
temple year-round.
"If we just support our congrega-
tion on the High Holy Days, it may
not be there when we need it —
whenever that is," one man says.
Still, those who opt solely for
High Holy Day tickets may be doing
so not because they don't want to join
the congregation, but because they
can't afford it.
Tickets for Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur services at local
synagogues and temples cost about
$150; membership dues average $600.
Two local congregrations have an-
nual dues of more than $900, and
building funds that run as high as
$2,000. Another seven temples and
synagogues have annual dues bet-
ween $650 and $850, plus building
fund dues.
Cost, however, does not appear to
be prohibitive. Two of the congrega-
tions with the highest dues — Temple
Israel and Shaarey Zedek — also have
the largest membership. Temple
Israel, with dues of $850-$900 a year,
has 2,000 members, while Shaarey
Zedek, with 1,800 members, costs
Most congregations make excep-
tions for those who wish to join, but
don't have enough money. At B'nai
Moshe, for example, those with finan-
cial constraints may negotiate their
membership dues by bringing their
income tax papers to the synagogue's
dues committee for review.
According to Rena Tobes, acting

Jewish vs. Comparable Non-Jewish Organizations



Zionist Organization of Arnerica



Junior League

Arab-American Anti-





Discrimination Committee

American Jewish Committee



League of Women Voters

JCC Family Membership


administrator for B'nai Moshe,
membership dues should pay for no
less than 80 percent of the
synagogue's budget, the rest coming
from contributions and fund-raising
Congregational dues are
unknown at churches, which are sup-
ported solely through donations. The
amount brought in by donations
varies, but it almost always is a figure
lower than the combined total of
synagogue and building dues.
A recent survey by Father Andrew
Greeley found that Protestants
average $580 a year in donations to
their church, while Catholics give
$320 a year.
The Mormon Church does not
charge membership fees and no
statistics are available on how much
the average Mormon family donates,
but a church official in Salt Lake Ci-
ty said he's confident "a healthy
percentage of our members are
faithful givers?'
A "faithful giver" is one who
gives 10 percent of his salary. Like
Judaism, the Mormon Church
teaches that its adherants should give
10 percent of their annual salary to
charitable institutions.
Unlike Judaism, none of this
money goes to a religious leader's
salary or administrator's fees; with
the exception of a few officials who
receive a nominal sum, the Mormon
Church is comprised solely of lay
leadership. Consequently, all dona-
tions go for construction of new chur-
ches, educational and missionary pro-
grams, and related church projects.
The HUC-JIR's Bubis makes a
distinction, though, between the
Jewish and Christian attitudes
toward religion and money.

298 YMCA of. Metropolitan Detroit

Brothers and nuns in the Catholic
Church must take vows of poverty and
receive only a stipend on which to
live. The average salary for a priest
is $7,525 a year, plus $18,851 in hous-
ing, food, travel, retirement, in-
surance and other benefits for a total
of $26,376.
Bubis challenges those who ad-
vocate cutting a religious leader's
salary as a way to solve financial pro-
blems in Jewish life. Imagine, he says,
that the salary of a rabbi who earns
$100,000 is cut in half. That $50,000
will do very little toward reducing the
membership fees and building fund
dues of the thousands of congregants
in his synagogue or temple.
The salaries given religious
leaders is not the only way in which
Judaism differs financially from other
religions. Jews support Israel, which
can be very costly.
Catholics contribute to the
Vatican through the annual Peter's
Pence, raising a little more than $32
million in 1986. That same year,
American Jewry gave more than $353
million to Israel through the United
Jewish Appeal.
Local support for Israel ranges
from those who drop nickels in a blue
pushke to those who donate millions
for the state. Experts say that a large
percentage of Jews in Detroit give in
some way — whether through the
Jewish National Fund, Magen David
Adom, the Allied Jewish Campaign or
other organizations — to Israel.
This generates a substantial
figure. The 1987-88 Allied Jewish
Campaign alone raised $25 million,
60 percent of which went to the
United Jewish Appeal.
Along with outright financial
donations, many in the Jewish corn-



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