Membership Still Matters (Weekly Email 9/8/17)

Membership Still Matters

BUSINESS REPORT:  Although shares are down from the November 2015 high, RH surged more than 40 per cent on Thursday after the upscale furniture brand formerly known as Restoration Hardware boosted its full-year earnings and sales outlook and beat expectations for second-quarter earnings.

Chief executive Gary Friedman touted the group’s “brave decision [in 2016] to transform our business from a promotional to a membership model that we believe will enhance our brand, streamline our operations, and dramatically improve our customer experience.”  He said that he was “pleased to report strong second quarter results as we move past the most uncertain stages of our transformation.”


We are not a business, but we are certainly subjected to a host of market fluctuations and opinions.  In a world that increasingly has become less about community and more about self, it is heartening to see that membership still matters. 

I do not agree with those who say that the time for synagogue membership has come and gone.  History proves my assertion that the synagogue is the institution of Jewish survival, even more so than the Jewish home, family, or academy.  Without a sense of community and communal obligation, we will be gone in a few generations.

We are not the people of the “fad.”  We are the Jewish people, and our Torah commands us to support the community with our pocketbooks.  When it came to building the Tabernacle, the Israelites could give “as their hearts so moved them.”  But, when it came to being counted in the Jewish community, there was only one way in the Torah and that was to pay your dues to God and community through the tithe, the headcount, and tzedakah, and the first two were decided for you.

This time of year marks the moment of our Jewish census.   Those who want to be counted but do not invest in the Jewish community never have and never will insure its survival.  We take care of our members, because our members take care of us.  There are times the community needs to care for you when you are struggling. But, when you have means, our tradition teaches us that belonging comes before everything other than the bare essentials of life, and insuring Torah study surpasses even those restrictions.

As we begin a new school year, every member should feel heartened that our religious school is still thriving.  To the old timers I say, “As others did for your children, so do you do for theirs.”  To people without children, I say, “The Jewish future depends on the Jewish present and you are absolutely responsible for insuring both that Jewish present and future through the children of others, even as you are entitled to having your own needs met.  And to all the parents who have made this choice for their children, I thank you for recognizing that there is no better place to give your child Judaism, Torah, Jewish values and community than TBS.  Our Jewish brand is predicated on excellence, connection, caring, and feeling responsible for others, even as you seek to find what you seek.

When we look at how we allocate our resources in life, we know that insurance is important.  Belonging to a synagogue is the greatest insurance one can have in a time of tragedy, crisis, and death.  No one calls their gym, tennis or swim club at the moment of dying or death.  You can’t order a meaningful funeral on Amazon.  And I know in my heart that Jewish life cycle events shouldn’t be fee for service events disconnected from the institutions that keep those life cycles alive for the Jewish community, and educate and employ those who officiate at them.

I may be preaching to the choir, but I believe with all of my heart that our congregation is the most valuable commodity out there in Jewish Northern Virginia, and those who want to benefit from it should support and sustain it to the very best of their ability.   So, I thank all of you who do just that.  I thank you for your membership.  I thank you for insuring Jewish survival for us, for our children and grandchildren, and for the future.

Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, D.D.

Senior Rabbi, Temple B’nai Shalom