Columbia Jewish Congregation, a Reconstructionist synagogue, has voted to change the structure of its dues system from a mandatory system to a voluntary commitment, which allows members to pledge as much money — or as little — as they choose.
The congregation voted for the change May 1 at its annual meeting.
The committee that recommended the change said in a statement that mandatory dues are “incompatible with a spiritual community and that a voluntary/choice approach would help create a sense of shared responsibility to build and create a community based on commitment.”
The voluntary system also removes the dues-abatement process for families who are financially unable to pay the full amount.
The primary criticism of the voluntary system is uncertainty over whether members would contribute enough money to meet the synagogue’s financial needs to remain open. Members “will get precisely the congregation we are willing to pay for,” according to the committee’s statement.
About 30 congregations across the country use a voluntary dues structure, and the Columbia synagogue is the first to adopt the system in Howard County, according to Columbia Jewish Congregation.