Country Club Judaism

29 Apr

Yesterday, I was talking about what I call “transactional religion,” the pay-for-play deal that you make with your local priest so that you get your lifecycle event. If that’s important to you, then you’ll pay. Now let’s take it to the nth degree.

I mentioned that my wife’s home congregation wouldn’t let us have our wedding at the synagogue. At first blush, that sounds fine. I’m a member of a veteran’s organization that runs it’s own bar. If you’re not a member there, you can’t drink there. Perfectly understandable. However, you can rent out the meeting space, because they’re bringing in money.

In our case, our son should have been bar mitzvah’d last year, but a little disease came through… maybe you heard about it. Despite being members of our current congregation for six months, they refuse to let him have the ceremony unless our son goes through another year of Sunday school, do a project, and vow to be a member for the next three years. Just like everyone else.

Now in fairness, we understand this, because traditionally American Jews only show up for the High Holidays, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals… the lifecycle events. So you want those people who come through to actually be willing to support the congregation and be good Jews. So there are tickets sold to attend the High Holidays, because people will actually buy them. They want to make sure the bar mitzvah has actually had the training before they get up in front of God and everyone.

But that’s not the case here. They didn’t take our attendance in consideration. They didn’t take the fact that he’s a year late in doing the ceremony due to COVID into play. They didn’t care that he’s been working with a cantor for TWICE the normal time. All they cared about was that “this is how we do things.” They didn’t trust us to attend after my son’s bar mitzvah, they wanted it in writing that we would. They didn’t think, “gee, they have a daughter who will need this same thing in three years.” Nope. Pay the money or leave us alone.

So… screw ’em. This is what is known (not just me) as Country Club Judaism–sign the membership fee and you get to play. We have never been rich; in our lives, we’ve hovered between paycheck to paycheck to comfortably middle class. We’ve gone down a little since I stopped travelling for consulting, but still not worrying how we’re going to pay the bills. We also live below our means. We can pay the money.

But at this point, it’s not the money–it’s that lack of trust. They don’t think enough of us to be flexible. They’ve been burned too many times to even give us consideration. Because all we are to them is faces on a Zoom meeting; we’re not real. And that’s the most damning thing of all. We’re not part of this congregation, and the truth is, unless we’re bringing in enough money, we never will.

That’s what hurts the most; they don’t want to know us. They want our numbers, they want our money, but they could care less what we want back from the congregation. And that’s an organization I don’t want to be part of. So we’ll find another spiritual home. I doubt we’ll find anywhere willing to let us perform the bar mitzvah, it’s less than three months now. But we’ve got plenty of time to prepare for Eliza’s bat mitzvah, but are we willing to go through their half-ass preparation? Go through the hoops for her somewhere else? I might… but I doubt my wife will.

We’ve been burned before, too, and unfortunately, we’re running out of options. Apart from simply doing the ceremony ourselves, I don’t think there’s anywhere we can go where we can get what we want. So we’ll probably attend somewhere… and then just never bother getting our daughter bat mitzvah’d in a shul. Or ever have a funeral or anything… just paying month-to-month to support things, but never voting, because this pay-for-play system is not what we believe. But what do you think? Are we too up our own butts? Are we absolutely right? Let me know in the comments below! Then, if you feel like this congregation is worth supporting, buy one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too expensive, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. We want you here, money or not… and if you read up to this point, I love you, reader. May we have many years together.

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