The expense of the synagogue in Jewish faith

Jews congregate in a synagogue.

Continuing Money's religion and money series, host Tess Vigeland traveled to the westside of Los Angeles, home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the U.S. She met with a young couple, Emily and Michael Israel, and their rabbi, Adam Kligfeld.

Rabbi Kligfeld said that while he does not usually talk about money matters at the pulpit, money is an inextricable part of synagogue life.

"Modern religion is based on a business model, in a sense that we have a real non-profit institution," he said. "And so while we make it very clear -- explicitly, implicitly -- that no one is ever turned away from the synagogue for financial reasons, we also are not shy about relaying to our membership that in order for this wonderful synagogue enterprise and Judaism in general to keep going, there needs ot be a financial basis for it."

Rabbinic and biblical law dictates that 10 percent of a person's income should go to the temple. Kligfeld said that his congregants pay dues, which vary depending on marital and financial status. Emily and Michael said their finances are tight, especially after starting their kosher eggroll business, but they make sure that they are able to pay their dues to the temple.

"From my understanding of Judaism, there is no pressure as far as God will smote you if you don't give money to the synagogue," Michael said. "Which is kinda interesting, because it places the responsibility upon you as the individual to decide when you think it's appropriate to pay dues and how much your due should be."

Take a listen to the interview above to learn more about how Judaism figures into the everyday lives of Michael and Emily.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
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I thought it was a fine piece. It featured a very thoughtful group of people searching for balance in a complex world. The focus on ethics was compelling. As for Emily's apparent contradiction, as commented upon above, I think she was actually making the point that when there is a great deal of money traditionally allocated for an event such as a wedding, such is the time to think about directing a portion of it to a charitable or other socially responsible purpose.

This piece was repulsive to me, but I have a hard time explaining why. First and foremost, just talking about Judaism and money brings up the historical stereotype people have about Jews, namely, that all Jews are rich and penny-pinching. Shakespeare's greedy, ruthless Shylock also comes to mind. Not all Jews are alike. We vary from the non-religious to the orthodox. I, for one, do not think about my religion at all when I think about how I spend my money. So just keep in mind that views expressed by the couple in this piece and their rabbi are just that - their views. They do not speak for all Jews.

I like that two seconds at Emily said she doesn't have money to be philanthropic with, she said that she spent lots of money on her wedding. Priorities!

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