Monday, July 19, 2010

Advice for synagogues in a similar situation

Start at "'Evicted' again" here.

Synagogues facing financial challenges should be aware that, while there's money to be made from renting parts of their premises, there may also be a price to be paid.

Our previous rabbi adamantly insisted that our Saturday-night renters remain outside of the synagogue building until after Havdalah, the closer ceremony of Maariv/Arvit (Evening Service) on Sabbaths and major holidays. During his tenure, we never once conducted the closing Maariv at the end of a Shabbat or Yom Tov in the then-chapel/classroom (now a rented-out office) in the basement. Unfortunately, our current rabbi didn't understand that, once the renters were in the building, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to stop them from starting their party preparations before Maariv was over. In the beginning, he didn't think it mattered whether non-worshippers entered the building early. But nowadays, even he's fed up with the result, namely, that the congregation is held to be interfering with party preparations, so we get banished to the basement. He's now getting into shouting matches with the party staff over their insistence on beginning to convert the sanctuary to a party room before Maariv has even begun.

Me, I just look at the lay of the land--if the party staff comes in before the end of Seudah Shlishit, I'm out o' there. I refuse to get caught in the middle, and just go home and davven/pray Maariv there.

Our congregation has learned from sad experience that, if you give your renters an inch, they'll take over the whole building. Make it absolutely clear that it's your building, and that the renters take orders from you, not the other way around. And make sure that you have an executive board and synagogue staff who enforce the rule that the congregation's needs take priority. Be insistence and consistent from the very beginning, because once you lose control of your building, you'll never get it back.

See also A guest in my own shul.


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