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UJA-Federation of New York’s Second Report on Synagogues Adopting Voluntary Dues Finds Trend Now Growing Among Diverse Group of Congregations

Two years after issuing a report on 26 synagogues that adopted a non-traditional voluntary dues model in response to changing social and financial realities, UJA-Federation of New York today presented findings of a follow-up report, Connection, Cultivation, and Commitment: New Insights on Voluntary Dues, that found the trend is growing among a diverse group of congregations around the nation. With UJA’s backing, report authors Lianna Levine Reisner and Rabbi Dan Judson revisited 19 of the 26 synagogues identified in the first report and contacted 30 additional synagogues that were since found to have eliminated dues.

The report provides data, case studies, and information to help synagogues considering adopting the voluntary commitment model and answers questions related to the model’s sustainability. The voluntary dues model is defined as synagogues that allow members and prospective members to pledge a financial commitment of their own choosing (with guidance from the synagogue) rather than paying a fixed amount. Prior to 2009, only five of the nation’s synagogues were using this model; that number is projected to be well above 60 by the end of 2017.

“In just two years, voluntary dues no longer feel like a novel and almost revolutionary model, and instead is becoming a significant part of the synagogue landscape. Many congregations are finding that in contrast to so called ‘pay to pray’ financial structures, the voluntary commitment model is a more viable alternative — reinvigorating current membership and encouraging prospective families to join,” said Cantor Adina Frydman, executive director of SYNERGY, a division of UJA-Federation of New York focused on helping synagogues thrive, which funded the research.

Findings for all Synagogues:

  • After going to a voluntary commitment model, congregations…

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