Ohio Synagogue, Dispensing With 'Pay to Pray,' Waives High Holy Day Fees for Nonmembers

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A screenshot of Temple Israel's website on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Sept. 24, 2014.Credit: Screenshot

An Ohio Reform synagogue is waiving its fees for nonmembers who want to attend High Holy Day services this year, saying it wants to dispense with what it calls "pay to pray."

"People want to be accepted on their own merit regardless of how much money they have to pay,” Associate Rabbi Sharon Mars of Temple Israel in Columbus told the Columbus Dispatch.

More than one in every five Jews in the Columbus metro area lives in or near poverty, the paper reported, citing a survey.

“We simply can’t go on treating everyone as if they exist in the same socioeconomic status or make assumptions,” Mars said.

The synagogue has 650 members who pay dues. Nonmembers are usually asked to pay at least $100 for a pass to attend at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This year, no payment from nonmembers is required, but the passes themselves are, for security reasons, the paper reported.

Harriette Hansell, president of the synagogue's board, told the paper that the shul hoped that some people who took up the offer would ultimately join Temple Israel or another synagogue.