Membership. The word makes me cringe.
Growing up, I went to Hebrew school for one year. Third Grade. My mother went back to school to begin her studies for nursing, and Heather Stein’s mom picked me up from school on Wednesdays. Her carpool went to Temple Sinai in Cedarhurst, so I did, too, and I was enrolled in Hebrew School. I remember spending the year sitting in the back of the class with Heather and this cute boy LJ, and feeling really proud that I had 100% average in our Hebrew tests. The next year, my mom didn’t need the carpool, and I wanted to take more tap dance classes. I never was a bat mitzvah (http://www.rebarproject.org/radical-reinventionb/2015/6/1/un-bat-mitzvah-by-rabbi-lori-shapiro).
Years later, I wonder what belonging might have meant had my parents joined. I know that my life outside of ritual was a lonely one. Looking back, I vividly recall singing with the cantor, the Purim carnival, the lithe and bushy-haired rabbi introducing us to the prayer space, learning stories from the book of Genesis and a seedling of curiosity taking root for something I had no idea existed. I had ancestors? Something came before me? What did this mean?
Since then, I learned that my parents did not renew my Hebrew school because they didn’t want to pay membership. In creating Open Temple, our model is to be Open and Inclusive – no one will ever be turned away because of lack of funds. However, what we are providing for people needs to be supported in order to be sustainable.
What we are calling “Co-Creator”ship is akin to membership in that we are, in the words of Mordecai Kaplan, are creating a sacred space of “Belonging.” However, in general, synagogue membership has gone out of fashion. In fact, this eJewish Philanthropy article is a reminder of what works and what doesn’t: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/scrapping-synagogue-dues-a-case-study/
Following this model of voluntary membership and transparent need, Open Temple will NEVER turn anyone away. We are just asking that our Co-Creators (that is you, the participant), become a part of supporting our future. And in that, we hope that you will offer your annual tax-deductible donation, as what we are building – in its unique, spirited, inclusive, fun and relevant re-enchanting way – is a part not only Venice’s future, but Judaism’s.
Rabbi Lori Shapiro and the Open Temple Board of Directors