Sunday, September 25, 2005

High Holiday Tickets

It's that time of year when everyone who doesn't belong to a shul gets nuts trying to get holiday tickets, and bitterness arises about exactly what 'no one will be turned away for lack of funds' means.

Years ago, the Balabusta was a very young meydl who had a rotten job working at a really nice synagogue. (The congregation was great. The congregation was also temporarily between synagogues, and had taken refuge in a German Lutheran Church. The church's pastor was great, but her congregation was elderly and German, and had issues about our presence. Serious, major, issues. Also, the rabbi was, er difficult. But I digress.)

Anyway, part of the Balabusta's job during the late summer was to take phone calls about High Holiday tickets. No one was to be turned away for lack of funds. But there were a couple of rules. They got tested.

The worst part was that the people who clearly couldn't afford to pay kept trying to pay. One woman asked if she could pay us the full cost in installments of twenty dollars a month. People offered to help out at the services to cover the cost of their tickets (that was actually welcome). People explained that they could pay ten dollars, twenty, a double chai. I hoped they weren't going to give up something else they needed for the holiday to give us that.

Then, we had the people who probably could pay, and didn't want to. They asked if they could have free tickets because they might join the synagogue, and if they joined, their friends would join. One woman tried to get an exchange ticket through her parents' synagogue back east. She was twenty-seven. We had the people who told me that if I didn't bring the cost down they would go to another synagogue, and then where would we be?

My all-time favorite call was from a man who was extremely irate because I wouldn't give him several free tickets for friends of his. He was particularly unhappy about this because a couple belonging to the synagogue had been given three tickets to the children's service. I explained, patiently, that this was because they had three children. He did not seem to find this good enough. I considered offering him three tickets to the children's service as well, but decided against it.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, a Palestinian woman called to see if she could borrow a shofar for a production of Godspell. I am not kidding. We had a lovely conversation.


Anonymous said...
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Eliyahu said...

those same people you speak of seem to have moved to my city! my rabbi said, how will we continue as Jews if no one wants to give Tzedakah? tzedakah is justice --the justice, justice that we shall pursue. one of my better stories was explaining to a couple that our shul can't survive if everyone gets a discount on tickets - someone has to pay retail!

Little Wolf said...

I think I would have gone off on the schmuck requesting free tickets because somebody else got tickets to the childrens service.

It is amazing to how the people who are least able to pay seem to be the ones most willing to. From personal experience it probably has to do with the fact that they are too proud to not go with paying.

Kai Jones said...

As a Jew by Choice, I was appalled when I learned about paying extra for High Holiday tickets--the congregation where I converted includes tickets for members in the dues, the congregation my then-husband insisted we join charged high dues plus extra for tickets.

The congregation where I now belong rents an enormous hall and gives High Holiday services free to all comers (including us members, that is, not as a separate service). We members all volunteer: child care, teen room, ushers, set up, clean up, etc. This is a budget item that we pay for through dues, instead of having to pay *extra* for tickets.

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

The guy who wanted free tickets was actually very funny. He carried on at length about how the couple with the kids contributed less to the shul than he did, since he was a bigshot single lawyer, and they were both social workers or something. (Details blurred by time and discretion.)

The problem is that people like this is that they blur the lines when people who really can't afford tickets speak up about feeling isolated and condescended to. The high cost of Jewish living is no joke.

Mirty said...

We did a special promotion this year and mailed free High Holiday tickets to a list of "non-affiliated" Jews. Should generate some interest and, at least, bring someone to shul who maybe wouldn't go otherwise...

Sweettooth120 said...

I am digusted by the idea that you need "tickets" to attend religuous services. I guess I understand that it's sorta like a fundraiser because unlike churches, they don't continuous ask for money every week, but still, it just such a sore point with me. How many Jews are not attending High Holy services because of that...I am sure it's a high number.

Question: I had heard that Jews are not allowed to even enter into a church. How is it possible to rent out the space and hold services? Thanks.

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

Synagogue members pay dues, and many/most shuls give all members holiday tickets without extra charge. But many Jews attend services only at the chagim. How do you rent a space big enough for all your once a year congregants and all the extras that requires if they don't pay?

I realize the whole idea of paying to attend a service freaks out a lot of people, and to them I say--sorry, but this is real life. This is a different way of paying the bills than passing a collection basket, but no one can maintain a building, hold services, pay a spiritual leader a salary, and do all the other stuff we expect from churches and synagogues without money. Even the 'free services' are paid for with money, it's just someone else's money. Those who have should give. Those who don't should be given to. Pretty simple.