Thinking about the future of Congregation Ahavas Israel, and ensuring a healthy Conservative Jewish Synagogue in Grand Rapids has been foremost on my agenda since becoming part of the Executive Committee last year. Many folks seem to think we are in bad shape and should immediately consolidate our resources and either downsize or join with other local Jewish organizations to “save ourselves.” While I completely respect these views, they may be based on fear, not fact, so I’ve done some rudimentary research in order to get the facts out there for all to examine. We can then discuss the meaning and interpretation of these facts, and certainly add more information to the mix, and make better decisions moving forward. Here is the information I’ve collected thus far:
1.The Synagogue is not only financially on solid ground, with more than 1.5 million dollars in monetary assets, not including our buildings and grounds, but also…
2.The spending down of principle on our unrestricted funds has diminished in recent years, due to favorable market conditions
3.Membership at the Synagogue has been stable over the past 5 – 10 years, and… 
4.Total member dues have been stable during the same period, as well
5.There are currently 113 member-units with approximately 173 adult individuals  
6.There are less young families with school-age children now than 10 years ago
7.The membership of Congregation Ahavas Israel is aging; in fact, based on life expectancies of 85 (women) and 80 (men), our member levels will decrease at a rate of 4 individuals per year during the next 10 years, and at a rate of 6 per year between 10 – 20 years going forward
8.According to the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids, approximately 75% or more Jews in Grand Rapids are not affiliated with any religious institution
In my opinion, these data give our Synagogue community great potential for growth. If we can determine what the needs of these unaffiliated Jews are, and it is within our purview to effectively address them, then real growth, not just maintaining current levels is one possible outcome. I welcome different interpretations of these facts, as well as any and all thoughts on how we might approach questions of growing our membership. Moreover, I challenge current members, this board and future boards to continue thinking “outside the box” about bringing new and young Jewish families through our doors.
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