A new Jewish community has launched in D.C. to complement the rich Jewish ecosystem of our city—a community that is spiritually vibrant, radically inclusive, and reflects our vision for a world of justice, equity and liberation.
Our community, which we are temporarily calling the New Synagogue Project, is being created by and for families with kids, couples and single people, queer and trans people, interfaith families, Jews of color and white Jews, religious, secular, and atheist Jews, and anyone interested in exploring and experiencing Jewish life.
We are building a pluralistic and egalitarian community where people know and care for one another, whether in times of celebration, struggle, or mourning.
We seek deep relationship with other faith communities in D.C. and will work alongside existing movements to build a more just and equitable city. We will stand for environmental, racial, and economic justice, and oppose the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.
We are building a spiritual and political home where ritual, prayer, and learning are relevant, meaningful, transformative, and accessible. With spiritual direction from Rabbi Joseph Berman as our founding Rabbi and Executive Director, we will be a community that draws on a multiplicity of Jewish traditions and teachings, grounding the work we do to advance justice.
Now is a special moment in our trajectory. Signing up as a member now - in 2018 - means that you will be among the founding members of this community. Members will have a vote in major decisions. You’ll have a say in our programs, our social justice plans, and eventually, our name.
In our first year, we will learn, pray, and eat together (as a community and in our homes) over the High Holidays; hold three Shabbat services each month (a combination of Friday nights and Saturday mornings) and other holiday gatherings; launch several learning, arts, and justice programs; and create chesed/community care structures (e.g. meal trains and other support for people going through times of need). We will hire Rabbi Joseph as our part time rabbi starting fall 2018, with the goal to raise that to full time in summer 2019.
While everyone is of course welcome at services and social gatherings, members will have first claim on our learning programs, from song-leading to Torah to radical Jewish politics to kids’ and family classes. Membership also includes guaranteed spots at High Holidays services.
Why are we asking you to become a member? We believe that becoming a member is a spiritual and political act. In Jewish terms, membership is a brit (a covenant) in which people enter into sacred relationship. Anchored by a web of mutual support and obligation, members share a commitment to each other, to the community as a whole, and to our shared values. Becoming a member is a concrete step towards creating the kind of community to which we want to belong. And as our community’s membership grows, our collective ability to create meaningful change in our city and the world grows too.
People in our community have a wide range of talents, time, and money to share. We are asking everyone who joins as a member to make a contribution to the community’s needs. Our doors are open to everyone, whether you give $18 or $18,000 per year.
It is important to us to make the New Synagogue Project accessible to everyone, be transparent about our finances, and value all of the contributions of money, time and talents from our members. It is our first priority that money not be a barrier or barometer of membership. We ask each founding member household to make an annual contribution that is meaningful, significant, and affordable to you.
In the next two years, we are building toward an annual budget of $300,000, including a full-time rabbi; part-time children/adult education director(s), music director, and administrator; space rental; communal meals; and other program expenses such as books, printing, art supplies, and guest teachers and musicians.
With 180 member-households (individuals and families), it will cost an average of $1,700 or $140 a month per member-household to run our community. As a reflection of our values, each member-household should decide how much you will contribute. Choosing the amount of your gift is a personal decision and we hope you will consider it carefully, keeping in mind the actual cost per household to run the community.
Research from other congregations who use this dues model shows that we need 40% of our congregation to contribute at or above this average of $1,700. If you have access to substantial financial resources, we ask you to contribute significantly above this amount. This will make it possible for members with access to fewer financial resources to contribute at a level that is affordable to them. Whatever you contribute, we value your membership.
One tool that might help is a sliding scale based on a percentage of your income. The table below is only a guide; only you know the level of giving that is possible and right for you. Income is only one (imperfect) measure of our financial capacity. You should make a decision that is right for you based on all your financial obligations, needs, and access.
In addition to a financial commitment according to your means, we encourage all members to take on a volunteer role or join one of our teams. We are also organizing a system for members to be lead hosts for a kiddush (communal meal after services) during the year, either by providing food and drink or organizing members of the community to bring. Please indicate your interest in teams, roles, and hosting a kiddush on the online membership form at newsynagogueproject.org/membership.
Some of us have capacity to give more to help get this community off the ground. And some of us are fellow travelers and supporters, who don’t plan to participate regularly or live elsewhere, but care deeply about fostering spiritually vibrant, liberation-focused, radically inclusive Jewish community. To create a strong foundation for this new community, we invite members, friends, and family who are able to contribute seed gifts at $10,800, $5,400, $3,600, or $1,800. So that we can lay a strong foundation we hope donors will consider making a multi-year pledge. We welcome gifts of any amount to help us launch this community - and if you know anyone who’d want to chip in, let us know!
Our goal is to raise $100,000 in annual contributions by Chanukah, which will enable us to hire Rabbi Joseph part-time, plus cover rent and other basic program expenses for a full year. When we reach our next goal of $180,000 in annual contributions, we'll be able to bring Rabbi Joseph to full time, which will unlock our potential to build out many components of our vision. For more information about making a seed gift to NSP, please contact Lauren Spokane at laurenspokane[at]gmail.com.