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October 4, 2015 | 21st Tishrei 5776
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High Holy Day Ticketing and Seating
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  1. I have recently been contacted by members advising me that family members (not college students or members who are twenty-six or younger by virtue of their parents? membership) want to come to our temple for Kol Nidrei and Yom Kippur and to another temple for Rosh HaShanah Eve and Day. The other temple has advised them that they will not give reciprocal privileges to guest tickets. The Union has advised us that as we all know there are reciprocal privileges available with certain procedures followed for members but they have no policy in regard to guest tickets. Has this issue come up at your temple in the past and have you handled it any other way then insisting that guest tickets be purchased regardless of whether attending one day or both holidays?

  2. For about the last five years or so, we have liberalized our policy on guest tickets in that we will sell tickets for one holy day or the other at a lower price, or a combined ticket for the entire High Holy Day season at a higher price. This accommodates adult children or parents of our members who may travel some distance and wish to worship with us for one holy day but are not staying the entire time.
    400 member units

  3. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-4

                We are grappling with the issue of selling tickets to past members. People who have been members for 20+ years; their children live out of town; and they only want to attend High Holiday Services. They don't want the expense (despite numerous financial incentives) of being members. What do your congregations do?

    We have traditionally offered Second Day Rosh Hashanah services and Yizkor services on Yom Kippur open to the community. No fee charged and no tickets required. There have been those who have called for us to charge some fee for these services. Both for the financial compensation as well as being able to control the ticketing of the attendees for security reasons. What do other congregations do for these services?


    900+ units
  4. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-4

                As far as I know, our temple requires attendees to be members, purchase tickets, or be extended a courtesy ticket if they are members of another temple from out of town. Dues are less for seniors, singles, and for people with a demonstrated financial need. High Holy Days is associated with significant expense including security, extra help for set up/take down, possible musicians, etc.

    I have more of an issue with the idea of tickets themselves. I have suggested to our religious practice committee that we issue name tags with the appropriate year, rather than tickets. This way it feels less like a performance or ballgame. The name tags promote calling people by their actual names and getting to know them instead of the regular Shannah Tovah (said the way airline stewardesses say bye-bye as you leave the plane).


    355 families
  5. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-4

                Our policy, simply stated, is that tickets are a privilege of membership. We will only sell tickets to extended family members that live out of town. In our case we say twenty-five miles. Family are those under one roof and children under twenty-five. Yes, we will also sell or give to newcomers to the community.

    Our Yizkor and Concluding Service is open. We don't charge nor would we feel comfortable doing it. Yizkor especially we feel should be open to all without questions.

    We have instituted an additional fee of $50 which we call Security. Most, if not all, have paid this additional fee on their bill and this helps cover additional security when needed.

    I don't have to tell you how many members of any congregation are only seen on the HHDs. That's reality and they need to pay for the privilege.


    675 families
  6. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-4

                We do not now, nor have we ever, charged for HHD tickets. We do encourage donations, but we receive very few. I tried to change this policy a few years ago, but I was met with a storm of disagreement. I suppose we will have to be near complete financial ruin before the congregation will agree to even discuss the issue.


    20 families or so
  7. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-4

                The idea of name tags instead of tickets for HHD is brilliant! In fact, you might suggest that congregants keep wearing them—I see lots of familiar faces every Shabbat to whom I can't put names.

    Even as I say this, I know that, as a board member, I have a name tag, which I almost never remember to pick up and wear for services.

    But whatever we can do to fuse community-building with worship can only be a plus!


    1250 units
  8. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-5

                …for us a non-member is a non-member whether or not they are former members or not. They get charged the going rate. Lest one feels compassionate for these people, true financial hardship aside, one's obligation to support the Jewish community does not end when your children pass their b'nei mitzvah or when you grow a bit older. For this reason we charge full price to anyone who is not a member who does not have a financial hardship.


  9. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-5

                Membership in our congregation includes holiday tickets for one's immediate family (those living under one roof) and one's out of town parents or children who come into town for the holy days.

    We have always sold tickets to the unaffiliated Jews in our community and make it clear that the amount of the ticket price will go towards membership dues for those choosing to join our congregation within six weeks of the conclusion of Yom Kippur. Although there is a fair number of people who have chosen to buy tickets and to join us for the High Holy Days for multiple years, a very small number have chosen to apply their ticket dollars towards a membership. A single ticket is for a family - those living under one roof. Tickets can be purchased for just one holiday or the other, or, at a different charge, for both.

    People who are new to our general community (usually considered to be those who have moved into the area within the two months prior to Rosh Hashanah) are admitted for free, but they are asked to contact us first, so that we have an idea how many people to expect, and so that we have a record of their names and contact information.


    (about 50 families)
  10. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-5

    [One congregation to which I belong] uses permanent name tags for its members (and paper ones for guests) every Shabbat. We have found it to be an incredibly successful way to encourage folks to talk to one another without fear that we have met before and forgotten each other; and, we know who is a member and who is not. There are always greeters to hand out the nametags, and to collect them at the end of the evening, and to introduce newcomers to members as they arrive and to get contact information from them.

    In the same spirit, of being a welcoming congregation, consider this:  Instead of having people take seats as soon as they arrive, make a reception area outside of the sanctuary where one might pick up a nametag, a prayer book, an announcement sheet, etc. Folks can talk to each other before the service starts (because you are not sitting down in pews with your backs to one another), and meet new people as they arrive. When the rabbi and/or cantor is ready, everyone walks into the sanctuary together (making aliyah) and is seated (or stands for candle lighting, or whatever your opening ritual). Newcomers have someone to sit with and members have already greeted old friends, so a friendly warmth exists in the room, and the clergy have already "worked the room" as well.

    Having moved around a bit in recent years, I am well aware of how difficult it is to walk into a synagogue knowing no one. Unfortunately, I am also aware of how painful it is to walk out knowing no one. It appears that there are congregations who have no interest in encouraging the stranger to become a member. Too often I have encountered an attitude which I can only describe as being: If you want to join, so pay your money and join. In visits to sixteen congregations (sometimes multiple visits), only two chavurot and one congregation asked for an address and phone number! Though this is not, strictly speaking, a worship topic, there is no question that most newcomers to a community attend worship services in preparation for choosing a congregation to join.

  11. Feb 2007 Digest 022

                We too do not have our members pay extra for tickets for themselves or children that meet certain qualifiers (like living at home, going to school, under 23 sort of thing). There are people who are expected to pay for tickets outside of those parameters.


    600 family units
  12. June 2007 Digest 105

                We have assigned seating in the front of the sanctuary, and I think it has likely been that way since Sinai. It is a significant fundraiser for the Temple. Unfortunately some/many of the people who pay for the seats don't show up and are only purchasing the seats in order to support the Temple financially. Or, a small number of them turn up quite late (thirty or more minutes late). This results in a lot of people (hundreds) in the less comfortable seats at the back while the comfortable seats in the front are empty. A former rabbi tried to get around this by having the ushers encourage people to come and sit in the empty seats in the front just before the service starts. But people felt uncomfortable coming forward to sit in "the soft seats" so they stayed in the back! I can't imagine this will ever easily change.


    410 member families
  13. June 2007 Digest 105

                We do not have assigned seats, never have except for special needs, current President and past presidents and their families. This means that if you want to sit in the main sanctuary you need to arrive one hour before the advertised service time. The doors open one half hour before the service begins. We [began] a double service about five years ago which alleviated some of the congestion, but as the congregation ages and we encounter  more members with special needs, as well as the list of presidents expands, we are beginning to feel a crunch even with an 8:30 am service and an 11 am service in the sanctuary. (Please note both services are exactly the same.)

                We have fundraising issues…and every year we toy with the idea of selling tickets, but it never gets past a few remarks from those of us who come from that tradition.


    1050 families+/-
  14. June 2007 Digests 105 & 106

                I would feel uncomfortable also if I did not have a ticket for the front seats. Why not ask the people who pay for the seats to give their tickets to friends if they do not intend to use them, or to let you know so you can use it for a handicapped section. You have an idea now who shows up thirty minutes late, so put them all in one section, to the side, and use another side for the handicapped section, after asking the heavy donors if they intend to use the tickets. You could also ask the purchasers if they do not intend to use the tickets if they would mind if the choir sat there.

                …another suggestion. Sometimes people want recognition by name. So, if the heavy donors do not use the tickets on a regular yearly basis, ask them if they would sponsor the seats for those who have HH honors, and their names as sponsors would be listed in the Bulletin or on a flyer handed out with the calendars which are always given out at the HH. In that way you could seat the people who need to come to the bimah for whatever reason up front, and, therefore, lend to a more efficient and timely service. Your HH honors people would then not feel uncomfortable sitting in that section.

                If this is not viable, ask them to sponsor the seats for the choir. If they do not want to do that, you could ask them to sponsor the handicapped section if they do not intend to use the tickets. In that way, you kill two birds with one stone--you have a handicapped section and you sell the same seats to heavy donors.

                If they will sponsor all three, and you still have room left over for the latecomers, well and good. You are still making money and you do not have empty seats up front. More than that, the people in the back understand why the people are sitting in the box seats, even though everyone knows they did not purchase the seats. That kind of information gets around.

  15. June 2007 Digest 108

                We have never had assigned seating, as far back as anyone can remember. Since we have such a large congregation and a fairly small sanctuary, we hold several of our High Holy Day services in a local civic auditorium. Those seats, logistically, could be assigned, but they are not. I think most of our congregation would feel that it goes against the grain of a democratic "everyone's equal" sense that we have about membership. If you want a front row seat--you get there early. Members are sent tickets, but they are a part of the membership fees and not sold separately. We offer separate HHD tickets for Erev Rosh Hashanah and Kol Nidrei to non-members who, for one time only, would like to "try out" our HHD services. We also offer them to family members or guests visiting from out-of-town.


    1200+ families

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