Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Shulnomics pt. 1 --Selling the Aliyos

I overheard an argument recently between two members of a fledgling shul. The question: to sell the aliyos or just have the gabbai distribute them?

The argument is basically capitalism vs. socialism. On one hand, we can go for the capitalist model. Such a policy would bring a lot of money into the shul. And if someone wants an aliyah, they've gotta spend for it! Let's them show their chavivus for Torah by how they spend! Why should just anyone get an aliyah for free?

But then again, what about those who can't afford an aliyah? Should they have to suffer without one? If they can't compete with the "Yankees" and other big pockets of their shuls, why should they be shut out? Doesn't every Jew deserve the right to an aliyah? That's aside from the fact that selling the aliyos can take a long, long time. As for the shul making money, there are other ways to raise funds. There are dinners, appeals, membership charges, etc.

I have to agree with the socialist side here. I believe that it's totally unfair that some people should get shut out of aliyos because they don't have enough money. Is it their fault that G-d decided they shouldn't be as rich as others?

I don't see the capitalist model being appropriate for a shul. A shul isn't a business, and certainly shouldn't be run like one. It's a non-profit organization, and as such its main role isn't to sustain itself but to be of service to the community.

But for Yom Tov and Yamim Noraim, I think the selling is okay. After all, the average Joe can still get an aliyah on Shabbos. Also, shuls make big bucks for maftir Yonah and other kibudim. If not for these honors, who knows if the rich men would be as quick to part with their dough? It definitely serves as an incentive for them to give cash.

So if a shul's main role is to serve the community, should they only give the amud and aliyos to people who are members? Or in the true communal spirit, perhaps anyone who enters the doors deserves a shot at a kibud? That's a discussion for another time- wait till part 2.


Blogger MoChassid said...

An angle that you elude to but don't develop is the nasty effect that selling kibbudim has on decorum. YOu may make money but you sacrifice the sanctity of the davening. The same goes for post-aliyah mishebeirachs (other than the single one to the oleh). The same also goes for hosafos. In an effort to 'appease' as many balabatim as possible, the shul loses its way.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

Re: MOChassid's comment

1) I agree regrding the decorum issue. The selling doesn't bother me that much, considering there is no davening or laining going on at that point. But you're right- it definitely leads to people discussing things that may not be appropriate for a shul. But the long mi shebairachs are worse, in my opinion. With the torah sitting out, the poor decorum is all the more inappropriate.

2) By the way, I've dealt with the Mi SheBairach issue in a past blog. Check out June 17's post.

2:07 PM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

thanks. I will.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the person Issac referred to who argued against selling the aliyos, I would like to expand on my point. I grew up in a shul where aliyos are sold on RH, YK and holidays. I agree completely with MOChassid on the decorum point - where I live now, davening ends substantially earlier than where I grew up since they don't sell there. It always bothered me that the same wealthy people got aliyos on RH and YK every single year. Why can't it be rotated or given to those who serve the community? This is what they do where I live now. Granted, the membership is higher and there is more of a building fund. The shul does fine raising money without having to sell aliyos. Therefore, every year different people get aliyos on RH and YK as well as other kibuddim (like p'sicha) inlcuding myself. The big kibudim tend to go to people who serve the shul or community in various ways by serving as gabbai or whatever. The entire concept of buying a kibud seems troublesome to me, and though I understand it is mentioned in poskim, it's appearance there seems to me to be an accomodation and post-facto justification rather that what is optimal. There are many ways to raise money - time for people to get up and do something like sell matza and wine to make up the shortfall rather than have aliyos sold.

3:45 PM  
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