The first time I walked into Temple Beth Ahm of Aberdeen was Purim 2012, when my husband and I decided to take our then 3-month-old to a Megillah reading. We weren’t expecting much — we knew no one and hadn’t set foot in a synagogue for years other than for the High Holy Days with my parents.
What surprised me that evening was the way complete strangers went out of their way to introduce themselves and welcome us. At the end of the night, we were encouraged to partake in the synagogue’s annual post-Megillah ice cream social, and on our way out the door, the then-president chased us down and handed us a gift-wrapped basket of goodies to take home.
Over the next two years my husband and I popped into Temple Beth Ahm occasionally and became members shortly before the birth of our twin daughters. Though I spent the first two weeks of their lives manically trying to care for a pair of infants and a toddler, the one thing I never had to worry about during that period was food. That’s because our rabbi had emailed the congregation to let them know I’d given birth, and just like that, there was a steady stream of home-cooked meals delivered to my door.
As stranger after stranger entered my house with trays of food, offering not just sustenance, but help running errands or getting my older son to and from preschool, I realized I’d stumbled upon a very special place. Fast forward to today, and my husband and I are active members at Temple Beth Ahm. We attend kids’ services, family functions, and social events that get us out of the house on Saturday nights.
I have friends who, as they’ve said themselves, would love to become a part of a similar community. There’s just one problem — money.
Let’s face it: It takes money to keep a synagogue afloat, and members need to step up and support their synagogues if they want to reap the benefits that come with belonging. At the same time, we can’t ignore the fact that money is a barrier for many families, not just those with young children.
With that in mind, effective July 1, Temple Beth Ahm is switching over to a promise system. Going forward, there will be no more preset dues or fees (other than for preschool or religious school). Rather, new members will be asked to make a pledge for the upcoming year and then pay it on a schedule that suits their budget, whether it be monthly, quarterly, or annually. This way, money should not, and will not, be a barrier for anyone looking to join our synagogue.
Such a system is not without risk, which explains why most synagogues in the area are sticking with the traditional dues model. Still, we’re confident we can pull it off because we know how special our synagogue is. We know that once people come to our programs, attend services, and see what we’re all about, they’re going to fall in love, just like I did.
When I walked into Temple Beth Ahm on that random night back in 2012, I did so on a whim (“Hey, let’s do something Jewish”), never suspecting it would be anything more than a one-time visit. Six years later, I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Temple Beth Ahm will host its annual Shabbat Under the Open Skies event — an outdoor service with desserts and opportunities to mingle with families — on Friday, July 6, at 6 p.m. There will be a meet-and-greet on Wednesday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. for prospective members to tour the building and learn about services and the new membership model. Refreshments will be served.