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Introducing the Hineini Pledge

The Annual Community Contribution Program

We are thrilled to announce that after more than a year of discussions and review, we are changing our membership dues model at Congregation Beth Chaim.  The Board of Trustees has voted to change our dues model to a contributory model, accepting the recommendation of the Reimagining Dues Task Force.  Our new model, called the Annual Community Contribution program (ACC), will be implemented beginning with our next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2022.

Instead of paying fixed annual dues, the Annual Community Contribution program asks all members to contribute an amount of their own choosing to support Congregation Beth Chaim (a “Hineini Pledge”).  Hineini (pronounced hee-NAY-nee) is a Hebrew word literally meaning “here I am.'' It also has a deeper meaning — “I am answering your call.” Our Hineini Pledges signify that each of us is standing up and responding to the call to support our Beth Chaim community as best we can, to enable our community to continue to thrive.

To guide you in setting your Hineini Pledge, we will provide you with detailed financial information and an annual “Sustaining Amount” — the amount that, if contributed by each household, would allow us to balance our budget after taking into account other sources of revenue, including additional fundraising. The Sustaining Amount for the coming year will be shared following the approval of our new annual budget.

The Sustaining Amount is not mandatory, but it may be a useful starting point for thinking about the amount of your pledge.  We know that for some households the Sustaining Amount may be out of reach. For others, the Sustaining Amount or more may be comfortable.  We trust that those who are able will pledge more. Please give as generously as you are able — no questions asked — based on your own situation.

Because members will choose the amounts of their Hineini Pledges, there will be no need for financial assistance for the payment of dues. Accordingly, we are discontinuing the Sustaining Membership program. If you were a Sustaining Member in the past, we ask that you include that additional amount in your Hineini Pledge.

By making our Hineini Pledges, we each affirm that Congregation Beth Chaim is a valuable and vital part of our Jewish lives; that we are a community responsible to and for each other; that our community sustains itself through the generosity of its members; and that we thrive when everyone is treated with respect and dignity.  The board and senior leadership at Beth Chaim believe that by making this change, our doors will be open for all and that Beth Chaim will better reflect the Talmudic dictum Kol Yisrael areivim zeh ba-zeh — “All Israel is responsible for one another.”  As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, and think about the years ahead, we believe this change will also bring more members into our community.

 

L'Shalom,

Rhonda Wydra, Temple President

Michael Schwartz, Reimagining Dues Task Force Chair

FAQs

Introducing Congregation Beth Chaim’s

Annual Community Contribution Program

 

 

Q. What is the Annual Community Contribution Program?

A. We are replacing our membership dues structure with the Annual Community Contribution Program. Instead of paying fixed annual dues, the board has approved a program that asks all members to make a “Hineini Pledge,” in an amount of their own choosing, to support Congregation Beth Chaim. Hineini Pledges are tzedakah — gifts from the heart — to enable Beth Chaim to continue to exist and thrive!

Hineini (pronounced hee-NAY-nee) is a Hebrew word literally meaning “Here I am.” It also has a deeper meaning — “I am answering your call” — and was Abraham’s one-word response to God’s summons in the Book of Genesis (Gen. 22:1). Our Hineini Pledges signify that each of us is standing up and responding to the call to support our Beth Chaim community as best we can.

Q. Why are we making this change?

A. Over the past several years, through our rabbinic transition and strategic planning processes, and in planning for our 50th Anniversary, our leadership has spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on what makes Congregation Beth Chaim special and what obstacles we face.

  • Our current dues model appears to be unsustainable. Based on careful analysis of membership trends at Beth Chaim and broader demographic trends in our area, we realize that without a change, dues and fundraising will no longer pay the bills in the near future. We also realize that attitudes about synagogue membership are changing, and more households choose to leave following b’mitzvah, confirmation and other life cycle events. While the old model served its purpose in building our Beth Chaim community, it no longer suits the needs of our community.
  • We want to better align the way we are funded with our Jewish values. Unlike fixed membership fees that members are required to pay, the Hineini Pledges that we choose to make affirm that Congregation Beth Chaim is a valuable and vital part of our Jewish lives; that we are a community responsible to and for each other; that our community sustains itself through the generosity of its members; and that we thrive when everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
  • Consistent with these Jewish values, we are committed to ensuring that our doors are open to all. We believe that our current fixed annual dues structure discourages people from joining Beth Chaim and is also a reason why some congregants discontinue their membership. Our community loses so much more than dollars when a member chooses to leave — we are diminished as a whole. The Annual Community Contribution Program will help eliminate financial considerations from the decision to join or remain as a member of Beth Chaim and will help strengthen our congregation both spiritually and financially. While there is a fiscal reality to running Beth Chaim, finances should never prevent anyone from joining or remaining a part of our warm, welcoming and inclusive community.

Q. Are there other synagogues that have changed to a contributory model?

A. Yes. In making this change, we join a growing number of congregations, in the Reform Movement and beyond, that are thinking differently about membership and how our synagogues should be funded. In 2015, the UJA Federation of New York published a report surveying 21 synagogues that switched to a contributory model and 5 that had been founded with that model. A 2017 update of that report included 47 synagogues that had switched to a contributory model and 5 that had been founded with that model. Both of these reports found that most congregations that switched benefited from increases in both membership and revenue after adopting their new model. Since that time, even more synagogues have successfully adopted contributory models, such as Temple Beth Am of Merrick and Bellmore (Long Island, NY) and Temple Beth El (Madison, Wisconsin).

Q. What research has been done to indicate this is a good plan for Congregation Beth Chaim? Since early last year, our Reimagining Dues Task Force has been studying our current dues structure and potential alternative structures. The Annual Community Contribution Program is modeled on a dues structure that a growing number of synagogues have successfully adopted in recent years. This past October, members of the Task Force and our Finance and Marketing Committees met with leaders of congregations that have adopted this model to learn from their experiences and to understand what worked and what did not work for them. In addition, after undertaking a detailed financial analysis that compared our current dues model with the Annual Community Contribution Program, our Finance Committee concluded that the Annual Community Contribution Program would be financially viable for Beth Chaim and recommended that the Task Force continue its work of developing the Annual Community Contribution Program.

Q. Will the Annual Community Contribution Program strengthen our congregation?

A. We hope so! Our Annual Community Contribution Program reimagines the concept of membership and our relationships to Beth Chaim and with each other. When each of us makes our Hineini Pledge, we hope that we’ll all be reminded that Congregation Beth Chaim is a valuable and vital part of our Jewish lives; that we are a community responsible to and for each other; that our community sustains itself through the generosity of its members; and that we thrive when everyone is treated with respect and dignity. With less emphasis on collecting dues, our leadership’s focus will be on building relationships. We realize that Congregation Beth Chaim needs to continue to evolve and provide opportunities to live up to our mission and vision.

Q. How will the Annual Community Contribution Program work?

A. Synagogue leadership will provide a transparent view of our financial realities and needs and how those needs align with Beth Chaim’s mission. We will make clear where Beth Chaim’s funding will come from and how it will be spent.

To guide you in setting your Hineini Pledge, we will also provide to you an annual “Sustaining Amount” — the amount that, if contributed by each household, would allow us to balance our budget after taking into account other sources of revenue, such as Pre-School and Religious School tuition. The Sustaining Amount is not mandatory — it is given because it provides a meaningful measure of what it costs each year to keep Beth Chaim up and running and may be a useful starting point for thinking about the amount of your Hineini Pledge. The Sustaining Amount for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022 will be provided following approval of our new annual budget.

Q. Will everyone be expected to contribute the Sustaining Amount?

A. No. If you are able, we ask that your household contributes the Sustaining Amount or more. We know that for some households the Sustaining Amount may be out of reach. For others, it may fit perfectly. Still, for others, it may be just a starting point for how much more they are able to contribute to Congregation Beth Chaim. We ask that you give as generously as you are able … no questions asked.

It is important to understand that some in our congregation will not be able to contribute the Sustaining Amount. For the program to work, others will have to contribute more. We trust that each household will make a decision, based on their own situation, to contribute what they can to ensure that Beth Chaim continues to thrive as the center of Reform Judaism in our community. Regardless of size, each contribution is appreciated and helps us all.

Q. Won’t some people pay less because they aren’t required to pay a certain amount?

A. Yes. Some people may choose to pay less because now they can. In order for this model to be successful, we must all understand that we are in this together. Congregation Beth Chaim exists because our members are invested in having a Reform Jewish synagogue in our community. Each individual contributes in ways that are meaningful to them, both financially and through their time and talents. We are enriched by all of these contributions, and we are grateful that they are freely offered. We must trust each other to contribute as we are able at this time, without judgement.

Q. Will we continue to charge tuition for Religious School?

A. Yes. We will continue to charge for Religious School at this time. A contributory model means that those who are attracted to Beth Chaim for the vibrant Jewish education offered will have fewer barriers to entry and may even choose to stay beyond the time their children are enrolled.

Q. Does the Annual Community Contribution Program mean we’ll no longer provide financial assistance to those who need it?

A. Because fixed membership dues will be replaced by Hineini Pledges chosen by our members, there will no longer be a need to provide financial assistance for those who in the past had difficulty paying our fixed membership dues. We will continue to charge tuition for Religious School at this time and will replace our financial assistance program with scholarships for those having difficulty with tuition payments.

Q. Will we continue to have a building fund requirement?

A. No. We believe that building fund payments are a real barrier to inclusion, particularly for younger families, so we are removing the building fund requirement to eliminate this barrier. New members, and members with remaining building fund payments that are due on or after July 1, 2022, will not have to make those payments. Should the need arise, however, it is possible that a building fund requirement may be reinstituted.

Q. Will other people know the amount of my Hineini Pledge?

A. Information about Hineini Pledges will be strictly confidential. It will only be available to Beth Chaim’s accounting staff and certain senior members of leadership on an as-needed basis.

Q. Will there be other fundraising in addition to the Annual Community Contribution Program?

A. Yes. We will continue to provide other giving opportunities, such as our High Holy Day Appeal, fundraising for scholarships, our Securing Beth Chaim’s Future campaign, which seeks three-year giving commitments, and our Life & Legacy program. We will also continue to raise funds in connection with special events such as Rabbi's Installation last year and this year’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

Q. Will the Annual Community Contribution Program permanently replace fixed membership dues?

A. That is up to you! Our Reimagining Dues Task Force, Finance Committee and Board have taken a close look at the Annual Community Contribution Program and believe that it will be sustainable, but it is up to all of us to make it work by supporting our synagogue each year as best as we are able. We trust that each household will contribute to Beth Chaim what they are able so that our community can thrive and we can continue to be here for each other. The Board will monitor the program’s financial status regularly and will adjust the model if it becomes necessary. If Hineini Pledges are not sufficient to support Beth Chaim, it may be necessary to do additional fundraising or revert to fixed dues.

Fri, December 2 2022 8 Kislev 5783