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June 21, 2012 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-06-21

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Pho tos by Bre tt Moun

Looking over pledge letters sent to congregants: Paul Gross
of Farmington Hills, first vice president; Cheryl_Ch-aben,
executive director; Rabbi Ariana Silverman";
Rabbi Norman

Roman; and Gene Farber of West Bloomfield, treasurer.



Kol Ami's new pledge system eliminates
dues payments.

Shelli Liebman Dorfman I Contributing Writer


"It can make all the difference in the
world when instead of paying what we are
supposed to pay, we pay what we are able
to pay,' said Paul Gross, Kol Ami's first vice
The idea was first discussed at an
executive board meeting of the West
Bloomfield synagogue in November. Gross
was charged with leading the research and
coordinating outreach to the 337-house-
hold Reform congregation, who, as a group,
responded favorably
In a non-binding survey, almost all
respondents said if the system was adopted
they would pledge the same amount as

what they had been paying in dues, or
greater': Gross said.
Administration and clergy also dis-
cussed the issue with leadership at the
Union for Reform Judaism in New York
(URJ), of which the congregation is a
member, and with others who had already
successfully instated the pledge system.
Gross said the board is confident that
funds pledged will be honored.
"When we did our capital campaign to
fund our religious school wing in 2008,
pledged payments were due during the
economic downturn, but remarkably 95
percent of all pledges were paid in full," he
"Right from the start, the idea piqued
my interest because I'm the person some-

one calls if they need reduced dues': said
Cheryl Chaben, Kol Ami's executive direc-
tor."I also know there are people who will
leave the congregation before they will ask
for this kind of help. With the new system,
there would be no need for reduced dues.
Everyone can feel good about what they
can pay rather than feel bad about what
they can't. There is pride in committing to
something you can do."

Meartfeit Commitment

The new pledge system has been termed
erumot halev or "gifts of the heart.""It is
about making a pledge from the heart,
rather than paying a Gross said.
The name, suggested by Kol Ami's
Assistant Rabbi Ariana Jaffe Silverman,
originates from the book of Exodus.
"Moshe asked the Israelites to bring
t'rumot (offerings) to the tabernacle,"
Silverman said. "There was not the same
assigned amount for everyone, but they
were asked to bring what they could afford
and to pay as their hearts moved them.
They brought so much that it was too
The response to Kol Ami's pledge system
has been overwhelming, both with positive
phone calls and pledges returned — 20
were mailed in the first day and 45 arrived
by the end of the first week.

".A family on reduced dues pledged five
times what they paid for membership last
year': Silverman said. "And they also mailed
in a note saying, `Thank you for doing this
for me: That one pledge alone makes me
know this is the right thing for us to do."
Kol Ami's reputation for being a warm,
friendly, family-oriented congregation
active in programs for social justice, along
with what Chaben termed, "a strong sense
of commitment': makes them a good can-
didate for the new system.
"[We] have been concerned for some
time that the concept of dues is an imper-
fect fit with our true Jewish identity" wrote
clergy and board of trustees members in a
letter to the congregation.
Kol Ami's Rabbi Norman T. Roman said,
"We feel it fits right in with the philosophy
of our congregation, which has always
been very democratic in its approach and
non-pretentious in the way we respond to
people's giving; taking care of one another.
Some were hesitant but still supportive,
and we felt it was the right time."
This is not the first innovative initia-
tive Kol Ami is currently involved in; they
share space in their building with the
Conservative B'nai Israel Synagogue.
"This connection is consistent with
the reasons Kol Ami is involved with the
pledge system," said Kol Ami's treasurer,

From the Heart on page 10

8 June 21 . 2012

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