Bowie temple switches to voluntary dues


Temple Solel, a Reform congregation in Bowie, this month replaced its traditional fixed dues with a voluntary commitment.

The amounts of members’ pledges are “entirely up to them,” according to a statement, and members are asked to give “what feels good.” The change became effective on June 1.

“This is really an adventure — a good one,” said Robert Michelson, a member of the dues restructuring committee.

He said the fixed-dues system was off-putting for those who had to provide financial statements if they were seeking to have their dues decreased.

“Requiring people to tell their financial woes just isn’t Jewish,” Michelson said. “It just didn’t sit well.”

Temple Solel needs $310,000 from its 165 families every year. Michelson said his committee contacted other synagogues that switched to a voluntary dues structure.  One rabbi told him, “The first year is scary. You don’t know how much money you’re going to get.”

So the temple requested that its members pledge to pay the same amount in the coming year that they were required to pay in the past year, or a sustaining amount of $1,900, which is $650 less than full dues, Michelson said.

Other congregations that have switched to voluntary dues have increased their membership between 4 percent and 20 percent, he said.

Columbia Jewish Congregation, a Reconstructionist synagogue, voted in May to change its dues system from mandatory to a voluntary commitment.

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