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Thank you Temple Emanu-El

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By: Pam Kaitin-Miller

I believe that everything in life is about relationships, and the more you put into those relationships, the more you are likely to receive from them.  This is true for friendships, family, schooling, organizations and institutions like Temple Emanu-El.

My relationship with Temple Emanu-El began over 30 years ago when my husband and I – as newlyweds – joined the Temple and were invited to a new members’ brunch.  The room was filled with veteran members as well as ‘newbees’ like ourselves.  There, we met another young couple who had just moved to the area and who soon became our closest friends and remain so to this day.  They invited us to join their newly formed young couples havurah and we instantly became hooked.  We now had literally a group of friends with whom to socialize at least monthly and to invite to Shabbos dinners, to celebrate with, and mourn with.  What a blessing for a young woman moving here from New York knowing no one and desperate for connection.  Thank you Temple Emanu-El!

When we had our first child we brought her to the Temple for her naming.  There on the bimah was another young couple naming their daughter.  The mother of the other girl and my husband had both attended Hebrew School elsewhere and their teacher from that Hebrew School read Torah as both girls were named.  Those two girls – now almost 30 years old – are the best of friends.  When our daughter walked down the aisle of Emanu-El on her wedding day, that other girl was there in the wedding party attending our daughter.  Thank you Temple Emanu-El!

As our children and family grew, we found other families and entries into Temple life.  We began to attend Shabbat services regularly.  We were able to create a program on Saturday mornings for our children – Tot Shabbat – and became ‘regulars’ so our children literally grew up at the Temple.  When it was time for our eldest to become a bat mitzvah we invited the entire congregation to the Kiddush (at one time this was not the norm) and to control the costs of having 400 guests, we cooked the food ourselves with the help of our Temple family, friends and havurah.  This was repeated for all our children.  Nothing beats seeing your child shine and then being surrounded by loving smiling faces wishing you Mazel Tov.  We reciprocated for others as well and were thus intimately involved in countless b’nai mitzvah at the temple.  This weekend, we celebrated in total joy the success of another ‘Temple kid’ – one with special needs.  Being able to witness this child’s success and joy was a highlight for all who were in attendance.  Thank you Temple Emanu-El!

As in every life there has been sadness, as well.  When my husband lost his mother he became a regular at the chapel minyan every morning.  He has been doing this for ten years to ensure anyone in mourning has a place to say kaddish.  When his father died, he called to inform the Temple and both rabbis were waiting in the hospital with my father-in-law’s body until my husband could get there.  There are no words for that kind of support and hesed.  Thank you Temple Emanu-El!

I have been privileged to serve on the Board of the Temple, I have been an officer and have sat on a number of committees.  When I would be asked to sit on the bimah I would look out at the congregation and feel such a sense of love and warmth for the people that make up this institution that we call a Temple that I was often overwhelmed (but never at a loss for words!).  Thank you Temple Emanu-El!

I have been part of a number of communities within the larger community: first the havurah, then the young families cohort, then the ‘temple regulars’, and for the past 17 years the Purim shpiel cast.  For months each year we laugh, sing, trip on our own two feet and make merry for ourselves and the entire Temple.  What a way to shoo the winter blues away!  Thank you Temple Emanu-El!

The Temple has been a mainstay in my life and my marriage for 33 years.  I have seen first-hand the support and caring that this community has given to me and to others.  I hope in some small way I have also contributed to making the Temple a warm, wonderful place to be and belong.  Thank you Temple Emanu-El!

My Spiritual Home

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By: Estelle R. Klemer

Temple Emanu-El is my spiritual home.  I was raised in an Orthodox synagogue, and didn’t enjoy sitting in the balcony and waving to my father down below.

When I married and was imported to Rhode Island, I visited Temple Emanu-El, and the beautiful sanctuary and warm welcome enticed us to become members.

Some notes about our life here:

  • Both of our daughters were married in the Temple, and are graduates of the religious school.
  • My association has been and continues to be a lifetime commitment.  I am proud to say that I am a lifetime officer, as well!
  • Through the years, my service on many committees enabled me to make new friends, all of whom have enhanced my life in so many ways.

So…get involved.  You won’t regret it!

I Found Community

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Image By: Tovah Reis

I came to Temple Emanu-El three years ago for a job as the librarian, and to my surprise found a community that I both enjoyed working for and participating in its rituals and programs.

I attribute this to the way the clergy, staff, and congregation reached out to me, making me feel most welcomed and appreciated.  In addition, during the last few months- at a difficult period of my life- the concern, assistance, and friendship shown to me was beyond my expectations, considering that I was new to the congregation.

A few weeks ago I become a member of Temple Emanu-El, and in the future I hope to participate more in the life of this community.

*Tovah Reis is the librarian at Temple Emanu-El.

What are other people thinking about how to support their communities?

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By Rebecca Kislak Brown
My first entry was about my Temple Emanu-El story.  My second was about how other synagogues and other religious communities think about dues, or financial support of the community. Today I want to write a little about what some other people think about financial contributions and community.
Amanda Palmer is a performance artist and musician who says that we shouldn’t charge for music.  In this time of a changing business model for the music industry, where we can find music fully free (even if not fully legal), she now asks for voluntary contributions in exchange for music downloads, and earns just about as much money from her music as before.  While an interesting business proposition, her TED talk discusses community in a very meaningful way.
 There are a lot of people thinking about community and how to support worthwhile projects.  Kickstarter.com, Kiva.org, and DonorsChoose.org are three internet-enabled ways to finance projects, donate to economic development and small businesses internationally and in the United States, and contribute needed resources for classrooms across America.
 These are all things I’m thinking about with the membership committee.  How do we support Temple Emanu-El?  How do we think about community?  How do these intersect meaningfully?
 Are there other articles, videos, or thoughts that you have about building and supporting community?  Please write me at membership@teprov.org

*Rebecca Kislak is VP for membership at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, RI.

Why is Temple Emanu-El working on changing the way we support our community?

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By: Rebecca Kislak Brown
Community, and my Jewish community, have always been very important to me.   But how do we support it?  Temple Emanu-El, like every other organization, needs money in order to pay our wonderful staff, maintain our building, run our programs, and keep the lights on.  In other words, it takes money to make this great community work.  The Board of Directors has been discussing the best way to make sure we have enough money to make our community run the way we want.  Up until now we have required members to pay dues, and asked for an additional donation to the annual fund.  The Board of Directors has, however, directed the membership committee to work towards implementing a new way to support our community.

After a few years of conversations, meetings with other synagogues, and one year of intense discussion about our different options, the membership committee is moving forward with implementing a “sustaining model” of membership at Temple Emanu-El.  Dues and annual fund donations will be combined.  Members will be asked to support the congregation at a level meaningful and substantial to them.  Everyone who contributes to the community will be a member on equal footing.  The important thing is that everyone will be contributing a meaningful amount.

You will be hearing much more about this in the coming months.  We wanted to take a few minutes now to share what we have been reading along the way.  We are not the first congregation to look at changing the way we do things, and we will not be the last.  There are a lot of articles out there describing the process and results of changing dues from the way we have been doing it, to something else.  If you want to do some reading, please begin with the links provided here, as they guided our committee.

Temple Israel of Sharon may have been the first largish Conservative synagogue do to something like this.  This article, Scrapping Synagogue Dues: A Case Study, talks about them.    Here is more from the Rabbi at Temple Israel about what they did.

Here is an article about one Reform congregation’s experience implementing a similar dues structure to the one we are planning at Temple Emanu-El, and similar to Temple Israel of Sharon.

While different regions are, of course, different, many are seeing the same issues regarding synagogue dues as everyone else is.  Here is what is happening at some synagogues in San Francisco.  Here’s what they’re trying in Philadelphia.

Here is what the Reform movement  has collected on this subject.   This article talks about conversations in the Reconstructionist movement around dues.

There is also reading material on how the Mormons tithe (10% of gross income, no matter what), protestants are seeing a dip in contributions, and Catholics pass the plate, sometimes twice in the same Mass.

We know there is a lot of other reading material out there.  We look forward to talking with you in the coming months. Meanwhile, please feel free to share your favorite articles with me atmembership@teprov.org