Why WHC? A Membership Update

Four people standing at a cocktail party

There’s a certain magic that unfolds when a community thrives. It’s a feeling of belonging, of shared traditions, and a place where laughter mingles with the warmth of shared experiences. This vibrancy is what makes Washington Hebrew Congregation such a special place. Looking ahead to our new membership year, which begins on July 1, I sat down with Executive Director Lindsay Feldman, and Board member and Co-Chair of the Membership Committee Tony Fleming to talk about why membership matters.

Tony shared, “We looked at things through the lens of the member experience. We wanted to understand what truly makes membership valuable.”

Your Temple membership is a community for every stage of life. WHC offers you so many opportunities to build a network of peers, create lasting memories, and feel a supportive embrace, whether you’re a young professional, a senior, or somewhere in between.

Exceptional classes and lectures cater to all interests, from exploring Jewish history to delving into contemporary issues. Social events create opportunities for laughter and shared experiences, and our caring, compassionate clergy are with you to provide spiritual guidance and support. And with antisemitism on the rise, WHC is a welcoming, safe space to be Jewish.

“As Rabbi Miller often says in his 12 Jewish Questions classes, ‘Before we were a religion, we were a people,’ shared Tony. “Regardless of whether it’s October 7th of 2023 or 2022 or 2021, there is always some outside angst against the people and our job is to stick together.” Lindsay added, “The best way to fight antisemitism is to come together as a community. And what’s the best place to come together as a community? It’s to be a part of a synagogue.”

Your annual membership commitment is WHC’s dependable source of revenue that makes all of this possible. Unfortunately, inflation has driven up all of WHC’s costs, and for the first time in five years, we need to raise annual commitments for the upcoming congregational year. The change — averaging less than $15 per month (about $0.45/day) — when amplified by our nearly 2,000 member families, means WHC’s clergy and staff can continue providing exceptional spiritual, educational, and community experiences in a safe, comfortable environment.

You may note that WHC refers to your yearly payment as an “annual commitment,” not “dues.” That’s because when you choose to support Washington Hebrew with your membership, you join us in a sacred shared commitment that says the continuity and future of Judaism and Jewish faith in Washington, D.C. matter.

To ensure WHC has a consistent revenue stream, we are also changing when annual commitments need to be paid. Currently, members can wait until the last day of the fiscal year to pay their bill. Understandably, this has caused cash-flow issues for the Temple. So, when our new fiscal year begins on July 1, you will be asked to either pay your 2024-2025 bill in full or set up an interest-free schedule of monthly payments right away to keep your membership active and enjoy the benefits of membership, including High Holy Day tickets.

This is a significant shift, and we assure you these changes were carefully thought out and are a commitment to WHC’s long-term sustainability. More details will be coming soon to your inbox and mailbox.

Washington Hebrew Congregation is more than just a place of worship. It’s a place where friendships blossom, traditions are upheld, and a sense of belonging flourishes. Our commitment remains to foster a welcoming community that celebrates Jewish life in all its richness.

Lindsay summed it up well: “When people say, ‘I need community. I do want to connect with my heritage. I want to stand up and fight against antisemitism. I decided that having a b’nei mitzvah for my child is important.’ If we’re not continuing to pay the bills for our buildings, and we’re not continuing to invest in our clergy, if we’re not continuing to invest in what makes this a community, we won’t be here tomorrow.”

Washington Hebrew wouldn’t exist without your support, and all of us at Temple — the clergy, staff, and lay leaders — thank you for your continued involvement. So, when you think about or when someone asks you, “Why WHC?” please remember that we are a vibrant community because of you, for you, and with you generations to come.