Now that the Yomim Noraim have snuck up on us (as much as one can sneak up on someone while stopping after every step to blow a ram’s horn), we should really start thinking about what we can do to help our shuls out financially.
According to your shul’s gabboim and treasurers, the shul lost a lot of money over Corona, which is kind of believable, since the shul never actually makes money on a good day, so you’re inclined to believe them - even though by your calculations, they didn’t turn on the lights for a couple of months, they didn’t run the plumbing, they didn’t hire cleaning services, no one was going through coffee like it was free, nor tissues, and there was no wear and tear on the building, yet everyone as far as you know was still paying membership.
Though I guess this could be why the shuls have no money – because everyone’s assuming they have plenty.
And it doesn’t help that people have recently seen that davening outdoors is a viable option not limited to amusement parks and Siyumei HaShas that does not come with a building fund, or fights over whether the windows should be open or shut, or buying seats for the Yomim Nora’im. If seats at an outdoor minyan are too expensive, you can bring your own seats. It’s not like in shul, where if you show up with chairs from home, the gabbai throw a whole fit about it.
“What?! These are my seats! They can bring shtenders, but I can’t bring a chair?!”
But the shul does need money, and it looks like we’re going to have to get a little creative.
For example, one huge moneymaker that shuls do around this time of year is sell seats for the Yomim Noraim. But even there they seem to be dropping the ball. For some reason, every seat is the same price. Do you think MetLife Stadium sells every seat for the same price? We know they do not.
But I mean even airlines have figured this out. Do you think every seat on the plane is the same price – front, back, behind the curtain, mizrach vant…?
And I’m not saying that the front seats of the shul should go for more than back seats, because some people specifically want the back seats. Though seats behind a pole should still be less. But there are definitely certain seats that are more desirable and should go for more:
- Aisle seats
- Window seats
- Wall seats, particularly on Tisha B’Av
- Seats with more leg room
- Seats with more bowing-down room
- The rav’s kid’s seat when the kid doesn’t come
- Mizrach vant
- Maarav vant, for the people who don’t want to have to wait to back up
- Emergency exit rows
- Standing room in front of the bimah
- Kisei shel eliyahu.
- Seats under the ceiling fan
- Whichever seat is furthest from the kids’ program
- Easy seforim-shrank access. (From most expensive to least expensive, it would go: Seforim al HaParsha, Halacha, Gemara, Mussar, Siddurim.)
- Women’s section mizrach vant
- Women’s section, stroller access
- Women’s section specifically behind a pillar
- Women’s section direct view of husband
They should also sell seats for the Kiddush. (From most to least expensive, it would go: Cake Table, Cholent Table, Drinks Table, Kids-Climbing-Over-the-Candy Table, Veggie Table.)
Of course, if they were selling certain seats for more money, they would also have to charge less for the less desirable spots, but I believe the trade-off would come out worth it:
- Basement shuls, under the pipe.
- Table leg between your legs so every time you get in or out you have to bring one knee up to your chin.
- Seats near the entrance.
- Chairs without tables.
- Seats right in front of that one part of the mechitzah that keeps getting caught on your tallis.
- In front of someone else’s tabletop shtender.
- Women’s section near that spot in the mechitzah that the kids keep cutting through.
- Women’s section near that spot in the mechitzah that keeps getting caught on people’s talleisim.
- Women’s section, the row behind that one row that has tables.
Another great money-making idea, especially around the yomim tovim, is that maybe we should – I don’t know -- auction off more kibbudim. Not aliyos. Uch, every shul does aliyos. Also, there’s a limited number of aliyos. You can’t just start auctioning off unlimited hosafos. So I say, let’s sell some jobs that most shuls traditionally don’t sell!
I mean, the rav and the gabbai do a lot of work for the shul; why not give them a paid vacation? These are both very tiring jobs, but also jobs that everyone who doesn’t do them wishes they can do, if only for a few days. Who wouldn’t pay to be rav for a week? Also, depending on the week, people will get together to buy you aliyos! This one pays for itself.
As does gabbai! You can give yourself aliyos!
And there are a ton of other great positions we can auction off that until now, people have been doing for free:
- Candyman -- We could auction that off! No one’s allowed to give out candy but you. Maybe on Simchas Torah you’ll let them, just because Simchas Torah can get expensive and you already just spent all that money to be Candyman.
- Guy who davens at the bimah so he can klop before Shemoneh Esrei! There are always way too many people who do that. In fact, I think the current system is that everyone in the shul is supposed to klop, and that way we have confirmation that everyone will make that addition to Shemoneh Esrei, whatever the addition is. (It’s not always completely clear.) But now it would be like, “No, you can’t do it. You didn’t pay.” No one else can klop the bimah. Even if you, the paid klopper, forget to klop the bimah, no one else is allowed to do it. At best, they can klop you. And then you can say, “Oh. Right.” And then you’ll do it.
- Guy who helps the little kids do gelilah. Someone pays good money for gelilah, and this guy basically gets it every time regardless. Oh, the kid can’t reach it? I say that if the gabbai picks a short kid for gelilah, he should give the hagbah person a Tisha B’Av chair so the kid can reach. The only real flaw I can see in this is the momentary panic of the magbia when he tries sitting down and feels like he’s getting a little bit too low and still doesn’t feel a chair.
- Guy who gets to give the chazzan the signal to let him know that he can start Chazaras HaShatz. Obviously, some of these might require the purchaser to learn some halachos. Maybe the position can come with free lessons from the rav! Or from whoever bought his position for the week!
- Guy in charge of the thermostat.
- Guy everyone has to wait for before the rav makes kiddush. Though a lot of times you can get this by just sponsoring the kiddush.
- Guy who makes the davening schedule.
- Guy who gets to go out and decide if we’re doing Kiddush Levana.
- Guy who yells, “Yaaleh V’Yavo,” out loud during Shemoneh Esrei. Just those words, not the whole paragraph. All those klops were no guarantee of what I would or would not remember five minutes later.
- The shusher!
But I shouldn’t be the only one deciding what kinds of positions people would pay money for, so I’d advise you to see what works in your own shul and run with it. In fact, I posted this question to a bunch of people, and here’s what they said, along with their initials or nom de plume:
- Baal koreh corrector. (DAK)
- Guy who corrects the corrector. (Schmaltz)
- Guy who walks around sticking tzitzis strings in kids’ ears (elderly members only). (EF)
- Guy who gives out the parchment paper for kneeling on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (TB)
- Guy who reminds everyone after Maariv not to forget to repeat Kriyas Shema (MB). I’m remembering NOW; the problem is later. Maybe he should make phone calls.
- Guy who says, “Hahem Elokeichem emes,” very loudly immediately before the rav does. (CSH)
- Couple who passes the cholent to the women’s section (KW). It’s like a reverse bris situation. This has got to be a segulah for something. Sholom bayis?
- Guy who yells, “Ka’a’eh’eh’eyleh!” during leining on Pesach. (DD)
- Guy who blows the shofar during quiet Shemoneh Esrei in Nusach Sefard shuls and scares the tallis off everyone who davens Ashkenaz. (CholentFace)
And of course, I they should also auction off the position of:
- Auctioneer. This is a powerful position. And whoever buys it should get a percent of the proceeds as motivation.
Point is, if we sell all these kibbudim, not only will the shul funds go up, but machlokesim will go down, and also it will drive gevirim into shuls where there currently are no gevirim. Everyone wins!
Well, not literally. Only one person can win a given auction.