Frequently Asked Questions

1.         Why isn't Congregation Etz Chayim affiliated with Reform, Conservative or other Jewish congregational movement?

Almost all our members had previously been long-term members of congregations affiliated with such movements.  Many of us became disenchanted with the high priority these institutions placed on furthering their movement's agenda and growth - sometimes at the expense of treating all their members with kindness and dignity.

Our Jewish values that include mutual respect and caring for all our members, study, worship, and deeds of lovingkindness in the greater community can be lived without the need of affiliation with a movement.  We focus on what is important to us without the distractions that affiliation can present.


2.         You don't have a Rabbi - doesn't this disable your congregation from performing certain functions?

Rabbis can perform excellent services for a synagogue and add great value to it.  They can also create political and human resource issues that dissipate time and energy, and usually dramatically increase costs of membership.

Since our synagogue was founded in 2004, we have consistently had dedicated individuals to lead all our activities competently and in ways designed to fulfill our members' needs.  Along with study, worship and deeds of lovingkindness these activities include life cycle events such as a baby-naming or a funeral service.

The fact that we have many people who lead different activities for the synagogue has created opportunities for members to enhance their abilities and knowledge in areas of highest interest to them.  We recognize that our leaders' assets have been acquired not only from leadership experience; but also from study and interactions with rabbis of other synagogues, and we are grateful for these valuable associations.


3.         Does the fact that you don't have your own building for activities create problems?

We are fortunate that for worship services we are able to use excellent facilities at Carolina Meadows and other locations in the Chapel Hill area.  Most other activities take place in members' homes, with food provided and shared by all participants - we find this more welcoming than an institutional setting.

Because our facility needs are well met at reasonable cost, we are glad to avoid the high costs and problematic, time-consuming issues that continually and inevitably arise from ownership and maintenance of a building.


4.         How would you describe the demographics of your members?

Our members are mostly couples, some singles; middle class; from diverse Jewish and geographic backgrounds; mostly upper middle age and seniors, with few young children.

Several members are retired.  Most members engage vigorously in a variety of intellectual, social, physical and spiritual activities.

Since we have few young children, we do not have a religious school.  We have a long-standing weekly adult study group, and discussions at worship services and other occasions.


5.         What is your financial picture?

Because our synagogue's operations are in general member driven and led, without the need for paid staff, and our facility expenses are small, we have a small budget.  We also have the benefit of use of a Torah from another synagogue, and on High Holidays we additionally use a Torah rescued from the Holocaust.

Our annual dues $125 for a family and $62.50 for a single membership and we have always run a surplus.  We are grateful that we are able to fulfill our Jewish needs without the need to constantly fund-raise and address financial issues.


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