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Ask A Jew: Tithing

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Ask A Jew: Tithing

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By Neal Schindler

How much tithing do Jews give?

In my experience, synagogues can follow one of several models to garner the financial support they need. Some require members to pay an established fee, such as $500 annually. Others work with lower-income individuals and families, as well as college students, on a sliding-scale basis. Still others ask all members to pay what they can and trust that they will do just that.

Because asking for a set amount per year — the annual dues model — is the most traditional in the U.S., operating on a pay-what-you-can basis can feel a bit experimental, as a 2015 New York Times article indicated. In the article, a rabbi is quoted as saying: “The dues system has fallen out of alignment with the zeitgeist.” Whether that’s true remains to be seen, I think. It’s also worth noting that some synagogues charge for High Holiday (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) attendance. Spokane’s two congregations, Temple Beth Shalom and Congregation Emanu-El, do not.

While Jews do not tithe, per se, they may very well set aside some portion of their year’s earnings to be donated to their synagogue. Tithing did have a place in Jewish history, based primarily on Numbers 18:21-32 and Deuteronomy 14:22-7 and 26:12. Back then it seems to have revolved around donating produce, not money.

Neal Schindler

About Neal Schindler

A native of Detroit, Neal Schindler has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. He has held staff positions at Seattle Weekly and The Seattle Times and was a freelance writer for Jew-ish.com from 2007 to 2011. Schindler was raised in a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation and is now a member of Spokane's Reform congregation, Emanu-El. He is the director of Spokane Area Jewish Family Services. His interests include movies, Scrabble, and indie rock. He lives with his wife, son, and two cats in West Central Spokane.

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