How Are We Doing?
Marc Kaiser, President
I hear that question often from many of you. It’s a question more motivated by interest than by any serious concern. After I probe to determine what speciﬁcally that interest is, it’s usually one of three topics: 1) How are our ﬁnances? 2) How are the number of members trending? and 3) How’s the building campaign/renovation progressing ? (Much less of the last question lately.)
The interest about ﬁnances reﬂects a lot of where we’ve been over the last several years. Many religious institutions have seen their membership decline and their ﬁnancial base erode. At Temple Beth El, our situation in some ways is diﬀerent than many of our peer Jewish synagogues. Because of the your generosity donating to the building campaign over the past few years, as well as the Rabbi David S. Lieb Endowment Fund before that, we’re envied by others for the strength of our long-term capital base. Many temples much larger than our own have been unable to ﬁnd ways to improve their physical structures, or invest in a cash-driven endowment fund. These assets position us well to ensure stability at Temple Beth El for generations to come.
However, in another way, our struggle annually to fund our daily operations continues to mirror the plight of so many of our peer organizations. Although we’ve grown our total membership modestly this ﬁscal year, shortfalls in fundraising for our operations will make it diﬃcult again to achieve our goal – a balanced budget. We’re working to keep our expenses in line with our revenues as much as we can without drastically reducing or eliminating the programs and activities that make us who we are.
Beyond the dollars and cents though, the Board of Directors and I are intent on measuring success based on all that we’re here to achieve. For example, helping expand and deepen relationships, creating meaning for our congregants, and having an impact on our community, locally and beyond. In order to begin assessing these achievements, we are participating in the Union of Reform Judaism’s ﬁrst ever Benchmarking and Assessment Study of Los Angeles area Reform Jewish synagogues.
The most important part of the study will be a congregant survey mailed electronically to all members. You’ll hear a lot more details about this in the next month or so. Your participation will be essential to us. Other study tools will help us understand how our ﬁnances and operating practices compare to other synagogues. The data will be collected and reported conﬁdentially by an independent consulting ﬁrm that specializes in these studies.
Your input and feedback are always needed. Best wishes for a wonderful Pesah!