High Holidays finances [Letter]

September 27, 2014

Reporter Jonathan Pitts' article "New heights for High Holidays" (Sept. 24), lacked something quite basic, which is that synagogues require funding to operate.

We can't all have the luxury of a large endowment, as in the case of Chabad, to operate year after year relying on small donations that come in from unaffiliated, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews alike.

I also find it odd that the article mentions the high cost of ticket prices and memberships at other synagogues but doesn't list any of the costs associated with them or, for that matter, with Rabbi Greenspoon's services.

The prices reflect an average family of four to pay $450 for three days of services (and a few evenings as well). If 200 people attend and half are adults, that is a mere $22,500.

Although there are costs involved here for clergy (Rabbi Greenspoon and the cantor from Israel), what else does this support — surely not electricity, building fees, maintenance, etc.

Two years ago Adat Chaim used Trinity Lutheran to hold its High Holiday services when Rabbi Greenspoon was the rabbi at Adat Chaim. The synagogue made a donation to the church for its hospitality and support during the 10 days of the holidays, part of the cost of running a synagogue and also because it was the right thing to do.

It is all about priorities for families and the unaffiliated. The priority for me is that I am part of something larger than what my checkbook can afford. Membership gives synagogues the opportunity to continue to provide programming for their members, offer discount prices for Hebrew school and day school tuition to those who are less fortunate and give members a sense of belonging in a community setting where they feel welcomed and not just a number.

And yes, synagogues are closing all across the country while others are merging to consolidate resources in order to serve the membership. But that doesn't mean that our synagogues don't have meaningful clergy to lead their congregations today and beyond.

Adat Chaim is a small congregation that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. We are planning a few events this fall and one in the spring to celebrate. We continue to hold regular services for Shabbat and holidays and we offer a variety of programs, including a very active Sisterhood.

We appreciate the leadership and look to Rabbi Seidler for spirituality and guidance. We gain strength from each other and grow as Jews because of the interactions with other members of the synagogue and the Jewish community.

I was taught all my life that Tzedakah (charity), Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and Gemilut Hasadim (acts of loving kindness) are just as important as family, faith, and friends. I pass on to my children the lessons of our ancestors as we continue l'dor v'dor (from generation to generation) to live for today and build for the future.

I will continue to support Adat Chaim, along with a host of other causes that I believe strongly about (Girl Scouts, medical research in the fight against cancer, feeding the hungry, etc.).

I would have found the article much more balanced if it had focused on a number of synagogues and groups gathering to celebrate the Jewish New Year so that they could all tell their stories. After all, it is not just one rabbi who feels he is meeting the needs of the unaffiliated; it is the entire Baltimore Jewish community coming together to celebrate the Jewish New Year along with Jews around the world.

Cathy Litofsky

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