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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Big Dreams for a Little Shul

I wrote in the past that I was looking for fundraisers that are high ROI for the effort. Bake sales, dinner swaps, candles… I’m kind of over that. I don’t want to bring in nickels anymore, I want to bring in millions. Yes, millions.

Our synagogue needs a lot of work. Years of deferred maintenance have left us with some big needs. A new boiler, a new roof, a new HVAC in the chapel, new windows on the north side of the building (an Angel is giving us windows on the west side of the building), and I’m sure there are other things. A small addition for extra classrooms.

The thing is we are in competitive fundraising. After paying dues to the synagogue, religious and hebrew school fees, fees for sports, donations to breast cancer research, donations to Israel and other things we all feel pretty tapped out. And those are on top of food, clothing, housing, health, transportation and other things we all have in your budget.

So I want to start dreaming big. I want to help raise $20M dollars (a nice round number that I just sort of made up) for my congregation, but I’d settle for $7M. Yes, I want to raise $7,000,000.00.

I have no idea how to do that. No idea.

I mean, I know some people who know people who have access to $500K or a million dollars. But how do you ask someone to donate to a synagogue instead of (or in addition) to Federation? To donate to a synagogue they aren’t members of? How do I convince someone that our building is worth saving?

We have such a great, growing congregation, but we’re all financially pretty middle of the road. Next year I’ll probably shift the money I donated to Federation to my shul, I hate choosing, but I need to help locally. But that’s just shy of a $1000 and a far cry from fixing a 50 year old boiler.

I think there must be some VCs in Silicon Valley who are Jewish and unaffiliated. Perhaps they grew up in the midwest before following dot coms out west. Maybe they are thinking “what can I do with this Google stock I have?” or “I’d really like to make a donation, but I want it to DO something.”

Donating to my congregation would DO something. We want to go green, but can’t replace the boiler that eats energy for breakfast. We want to grow our religious school, but are running out of space. We want to focus on education, Hebrew, Israel advocacy, and running the office, but this niggling thought of the budget is always looming.

We are one Jewish community in Chicago. Are there others with greater need? Yes, of course there are. Does that lessen what we need? Nope. It’s challenging. I don’t know how we can do it, but I don’t think we can do it locally.

So… if you are a venture capitalist with an extra million dollars, let’s talk. Or if you are an individual on Forbes 400 with an extra million dollars, let’s talk. I know a place you can put it to good use and actually see something happen. Okay? Thanks.

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