Sunday, February 2, 2014

Counting Members

So how many members does AKSE really have?   I asked that of the membership VP within the last year and as expected was given the count of dues paying families.  But then I followed up the question with how many people, what is the census?  She hadn't a clue.  But isn't that what you really want to know to service people?  "Them, their wives, their sons, their daughters and all there dear ones" we recite silently as we prepare to return the Torah to its Ark.  In that mode of thinking there is Them and everyone else might as well be an appendage of Them.  One person writes the dues check or submits the credit card information to the synagogue office and a family count then goes into the computer.  Or we can give a half-shekel which might not correlate with the family count as some families have more than one person eligible for military service while some households might have none.  Counting people usually has some type of ulterior motive that drives how the census is taken.  For AKSE it is to keep financially solvent, for the United States it is to apportion Congressional representatives among the states.  If there is a benefit to the people being counted, it is usually a byproduct of the count more than its purpose.  Ten decent people would have save Sodom, if that count could have been inflated slightly, but the evil people are saved as a parenthetical consequence of saving the good people.

So should AKSE think of my family as one source of money or should they think of my family as two individuals that derive different benefits from affiliation?  Or the reverse, perhaps, having just passed Federation's Super Sunday fundraising effort.  While I have been on the Do Not Call List for some time, when I was on the list, it was customary to shake down my wife and me with separate calls, not to serve the community better but to squeeze a little more money by one individual not knowing what the other individual might have pledged.  For money, family assets are generally pooled.  For nurturing interests and talents, individuality prevails.  Both synagogues and Federations need to think of its participants as resources for keeping the treasury sufficient to sustain organizational mission, but if they then ignore the talents and passions of the people who earned that money, their mission will always be less than it could have been.

One returning project for me, perhaps, would be to take the membership list and do census properly, creating the congregation's real cast of hundred, cataloging what they do or what their interest are, enabling the membership VP or committee to then invite people to engage in the various committees or activities in a more rational way than they do now, which is somewhat akin to setting up a giant trough for people to immerse their faces when they feel like it.  Not exactly Ron Wolfson's concept of Relational Judaism.  If my Facebook or Google page can select out advertising that I might like specific to me, the congregation should be able to go down that path as well, though in a less sophisticated way.  But you have to change the way people think in order to do this effectively.

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