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updated: 6/17/2014 8:09 AM

Congregation Beth Am Announces New Dues Structure

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Rabbi Lisa Bellows

After countless hours of research and investigation of the best practices of dues and dues structure from synagogues around the country, Congregation Beth Am has developed its new 2014 membership initiative.

Under the Affordable Membership Initiative, members will self-assess their own dues in an amount between 1.5% and 2.5% of their annual income up to a maximum income level.

Many other synagogues in the U.S. use self-assessment based on annual income to determine dues and have been doing so for many years. In the Chicagoland area, however, the practice of dues self-assessment based upon annual income is not widespread.

Beth Am will not be verifying member annual incomes. Beth Am will be relying on the integrity of member families to correctly self-assess their dues. At no time will Beth Am ask for any documentation of annual income to verify whether a member's self-assessment of dues was in accordance with guidelines.

Beth Am has also eliminated the building fund and maintenance fund.

Beth Am is committed to strengthening our community by acts of social justice, building character and confidence in our young people, learning together and having fun creating lasting memories and friendships. We will not let affordability get in the way of finding life's meaning and purpose and working for peace and justice.

In this new era where, according the 2012 Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project (, "The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace," and the rate of affiliation with synagogue and church is at its highest ever at 20% of U.S. Adults(, Beth Am, like all synagogues and churches must rethink how it navigates in this new reality.

There are several additional realities in which we find ourselves working in today. These are: the economy is not back to where it was pre-2007; the particular demographics of the Northwest suburbs ( show a serious decline in the number of families with young children moving in; and we, as a nation, find ourselves with the lowest rate of synagogue/church affiliation this country has ever seen (

References: Reform Judaism Magazine Spring 2004: