At our last Ambassadors meeting, held on the evening after Yom Kippur, we discussed some of the common questions raised by our congregants both in group meetings and on an individual basis. One such theme was the concern regarding whether it was necessary for our congregations to begin this conversation in the first place. When we began down this road, we researched both national and local trends. We also spoke to lay leaders of congregations around the country for their reasons to join with another synagogue. And, we contacted the URJ for their take on national trends.
After a brief period of time, we learned about national trends of decreasing membership and increasing financial hardships. As our society at large becomes more secular, there is a diminishing desire for Jewish people to be affiliated with any synagogue. A recent study indicated more Americans are identifying as being Jewish, but belonging to a local shul is not a top priority. And finally, charitable donations to non-religious institutions compete vigorously for the limited funds available in a family’s budget.
There is a clear advantage to staying ahead of these national trends. Though Tucson has experienced a slow return from the recession and overall limited rates of affiliation with religious institutions, neither of us are at the point of shutting our doors. Both congregations have been experiencing financial difficulties, but not so much as to warrant a complete shutdown. If we do nothing, both of our groups will see changes in programming, services, and operations.
As always, we appreciate your concern, commitment, and the passion that you bring to this conversation. Please send your thoughts and comments to our shared email account at JewishTucson@gmail.com
We look forward to our continued conversations and everything you bring to our congregation.