In short, what?s the purpose of Membership?
There are a number of things being achieved through the membership:
- Financial support for what we do and ensuring we can offer the activities that elevate life- particularly wellbeing, spirituality, Yiddishkeit and relationships
- It helps create a sense of belonging, for you personally and for us as a collective.
- It allows us to enhance our sense of community, by focusing our attention and willingness to support and be there for others.
Does non-membership mean I can?t come anymore or that I don?t belong?
Chas VeShalom! (G-d forbid)
Everyone is welcome at Spiritgrow. The difference is that membership is about stating in a real way- this is my home. It also ensures that when there are high demand programs with limited spaces we can ensure the people who are committed to Spiritgrow?s existence have priority access to a space. These include:
- Meditation classes (which are now limited in size)
- High Holidays (which will now be held at Spiritgrow not the town hall)
- Workshops, seminars and communal festival celebrations
In addition, there will be programs that we want to gift members with free access and tailored programs or events where we want to honour members with discounts.
What is the child membership all about?
Just as we have offerings for adults, so we run and will be expanding our offerings for children both in the infant stages of life (0-5) and tween/teenagers and these activities have associated costs. Just as adults may want to support Spiritgrow and receive priority access when there are limited spots or discounts, so this applies to children. Children will have access to:
- Family Chagim (festival) celebrations
- Shabbat children?s programs
- Bar/Bat Mitzvah discounts and priority booking
- Teen mentoring and wellbeing sessions
- A High Holiday seat
What about my newlywed children or my children who are now becoming parents themselves, what should I do about them?
To be honest, many young couples who I have married off have been having conversations with me because what they want. I?m finding that their needs are different to what their parents or nieces and nephews need, and they want to understand their place in Spiritgrow.
Further, I know that at that stage of life there are many financial considerations that weigh on their head- early relationships with the mortgage, saving up for school fees and career uncertainty. Plus they have a different approach to celebrating Jewish ritual, I get it.
I am running a separate information session for that generation so we can schmooze about their place within our community. Please feel free to give them my details so I can discuss it with them directly.
Is membership like a shul seat?
NO it categorically is not!.
A shul is where people go to pray. Membership to Spiritgrow is about subscribing to a philosophy and supporting the vision of a community who value holistic growth and celebrate Judaism in an authentic, healthy, spiritual and uplifting way. It is about having access and helping others to have access to all the activities – of which Shul and specifically high holidays is only one aspect. While some may only attend a few activities or Shul, membership is much larger than a seat.
How does the maths of $695 work? Does this cover the Spiritgrow budget?
In short, while it certainly will help, it doesn?t entirely cover our costs.
While membership contributes to a part of the Spiritgrow budget, we will have to continue to fundraise and will ask (non-member) participants to contribute when attending a program or event.
Why is Spiritgrow creating a membership model?
Is this a departure from Spiritgrow ?not placing a price on spiritual wellbeing? and the pay it forward model of the past few years?
Yes, it is.
For the past three years we have had a Pay it Forward method of funding in place. When we introduced the ?Pay-It-Forward? approach, our intention was to align Jewish practice and wellbeing and did not want to be associated with the emergence of commercialised spirituality and personal growth.
We were further motivated by our desire to make meaningful-Judaism and holistic wellbeing available to everyone. The removal of a financial barrier would help many people explore parts of their lives they never deemed worthy of spending money on. Further we made an impact on the conversation around the financial burden that is ?modern? Judaism.
At first, we miraculously achieved greater financial success through generous acts of chessed (kindness) and charity by members of our community and admirers outside. This miraculous growth culminated in a few families contributing towards purchasing a permanent and self-owned space for Spiritgrow at 204 Balaclava Road- the future permanent home of Spiritgrow.
However, from mid 2017 the rapid exponential growth of participation became disproportionate to the financial generosity of our ?community?. While we tried for the next 14 months to make it all work, we reached a situation where we could not match the needs of the many people coming through our doors and the concept of community was quickly being eroded.
The definition of ?member? and ?participant? blurred who we would be able to provide pastoral services to and which demographic would get our attention first. This growth in participation and subsequent needs, compounded by the mismatch of charitable contributions led to a new challenge never experienced prior.
For the first time in our 12 year existence, the viability of Spiritgrow was put on the line. We hit a point that could be titled a ?state of crisis?.
While to not charge anything and to rely on everyone else?s generosity works in a small family setting or for a group of friends, it became very evident that this was not one that could work for a community our size. As a result, we were facing a stark possibility of Spiritgrow becoming a part of Melbournes history and all the good we desired to facilitate would have had to stop completely.
Creating sustainable growth – Spiritgrow Membership
Our community committee made a number of recommendations which changed our style of operation and cut costs. We chose not to go to the community with a sob story or fundraiser but rather we chose to own the responsibility and grow from the challenge, the time to change was upon us. Baruch Hashem, with clear blessings form Above we have come through it all and today we are a much stronger and focussed organisation than we were. And I as a rabbi am much clearer about what it is that I want and need to be doing for our people.
Now I am unveiling the changes that we must make at Spiritgrow. The first of which is to create a formal membership, which will significantly reduce the need to rely on fundraising, and will allow philanthropy to help build better offerings and infrastructure for our (Spiritgrow) community.
Further to this, we will also begin again to charge a fee for service for non-members who wish to attend many of the programs and services at Spiritgrow.
This will also allow myself and Rochel, my father Laibl, and mother Leah to be more readily involved in people?s lives and provide nurturing and mentoring in a greater manner.
How will Spiritgrow ensure that it is providing a sense of meaning and belonging for the member community?
Focus our activities
We will be putting greater focus on particular stages of life and limiting the breadth of our programming to ensure people can find greater meaning and opportunity to belong. These are:
- Empty nesters- i.e. those who?s children are now independent adults and are now returning to exploring life as a ?free? person or young grandparent.
- Young people who are approaching marriage and now seeking something for their future home
- Families in their first stage of family-hood and life
- Families who have children who are transitioning or are in the early stages of teenage-hood
Our social and educational experiences will be about offering the above groupings the opportunity to explore and celebrate Jewish spirituality and tradition, holistic wellbeing, personal development and relationship enrichment.
Practically speaking, what’s going to change about my experience of Spiritgrow going forward?
As we move into this next chapter, our priority will be qualitative experiences for our community
?We will also limit class/seminar sizes and thereby maintain an individualized/ personalised quality and sense of community. These qualities are after all key to what Spiritgrow stands for: customised, elevating experiences.
We will not be running High Holiday services at the expansive St Kilda town hall, and we will be reducing the number of Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and call ups at Spiritshul.
Who was involved in making this decision?
While we have had advisors along the way and formalised an advisory board in 2017, it was in October 2018 we formed a more hands on management and finance subcommittee made up of community members who had the experience and knowledge to audit our organisation and make recommendations around finance, structure and even clarity of mission as well as to provide stewardship for the future.
The purpose of this committee was and remains to ensure a sustainable approach to our spiritual mission, to ensure we can preserve community cohesion, financial security and continued Jewish personal and human growth.
Since being appointed, they have conducted a full and independent audit of the organisation, its finances and financial model, programming and demographics, staffing needs and goals.
How many memberships are available?
Initially, we will only be releasing 330 memberships.
For a limited time, we?re offering Early Bird membership for those who sign up before July 17th 2019.
How often will I need to renew my membership?
Memberships are annual and are valid until June 30 each year.
What?s going to happen with High Holiday Seats?
Good News! All members will be allocated a priority seat for the High Holidays, but of course, will still need to book in for Rosh Hashana and/or Yom Kippur services (with no additional charges).
Do I still need to book for programs/ events, or will my membership entitle me to automatic access?
As program/event numbers will still be limited to preserve the quality of what?s on offer, as a courtesy to fellow members and program participants, members will still be required to book in for any Spiritgrow programs/ initiatives that they wish to attend, however they can do so at either no cost, or at an exclusive discounted member rate depending on the nature of the program.
What if I can?t afford the cost of membership for my family?
Nobody will be denied membership due to a shortage of funds, there are other ways to contribute. Please reach out to a member of the Spiritgrow team to arrange a respectful, confidential conversation.
What kinds of things will membership entitle me to?
?While everyone interacts with Spiritgrow in different ways and come with different needs, Spiritgrow is a holistic centre and community, not just a shul or education facility. Membership is about belonging and enabling a community who value holistic growth and a celebration of Judaism in an authentic, healthy, spiritual and uplifting way. As a member, you will be honoured with:
- Free program entry to general lectures and classes
- A complimentary High Holiday seat (for every membership Event and seminar discounts)
- Exclusive access to member only programs
- Bar/Bat Mitzvah and wedding discounts, priority and access to members only time slots
- Faster access to recordings of lectures and classes
- Priority pastoral care and nurturing
- Hall hire discounts