Best Practices

Renting Out Your Synagogue’s Space Can Prove to be Critical Revenue Stream

For thousands of years, synagogue structures have been a critical cornerstone for the Jewish people, serving as a place kehillot (Jewish communities) can pray, study and take part in activities. But did you know they can also provide congregations with much-needed additional income?

In an effort to utilize space, boost revenue and help reduce membership dues, several congregations in our USCJ Pacific Southwest Region, with leadership and board of director input and approval, have capitalized on the times when the synagogue isn’t in use by renting out their facility to churches, schools and even film crews (read one story here in this issue).

Temple Beth El of South Orange County

Photo by Arthur Pazornik

For Temple Beth El of South Orange County in Aliso Viejo, CA, sharing its 65,000-square-foot building with two churches every Sunday, as well as two private schools and several enrichment providers, has resulted in 10 percent additional overall annual income. During the down economy in the late 2000s, which resulted in donor donations slowly drying up, the congregation turned to this extra income as their lifeline for staying in their spiritual home.

“With the exception of our staff members, the majority of our building would literally sit empty throughout the week because our congregants are at school and work,” Executive Director Bonni Pomush says. “The benefits of supplementing annual membership contributions with this income greatly outweigh the challenges that may come along with facility use, shared space and maintenance.”

Bonni notes that one of the first and most critical steps before renting out your synagogue is to write up a detailed contract that clearly explains the synagogue’s expectations. “Be as specific as possible about the expectations for space, such as how rooms are left, how often they are cleaned and what the outside organization is responsible for maintaining,” she says.

For more information about Temple Beth El of Orange County, visit here.

Ohr Shalom

It didn’t take long for members of Ohr Shalom in San Diego, CA, to realize how beneficial renting out their facility can be for the congregation. Soon after moving into their facility in 2002, the synagogue agreed to rent out its facility to a local charter school Monday through Friday. The school pays Ohr Shalom on a monthly basis, which helps keep a continual cash flow throughout the year.

“Financially, it’s been a huge benefit for us because what would otherwise be a predominately empty building has turned into a significant part of our annual budget with very little work on our part involved,” Rabbi Scott Meltzer says.

For more information about Ohr Shalom, visit here.

Temple Aliyah

As demonstrated by Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, CA, renting out your synagogue’s facility doesn’t have to be strictly business. Since the West Valley Chinese Academy began using the temple’s facility eight years ago for its Sunday school, the two organizations have developed a flourishing relationship that’s benefited both parties.

“We actually have members who send their kids to the Chinese school on the weekend to learn Mandarin and they support and participate in our annual Purim carnivals,” Executive Director David Brook says. “Because our relationship is so good, we go above and beyond by hosting the school’s Chinese New Year celebration every year and make space available at no additional cost.”

The relationship has proven to be a win-win as the school has a place to meet each week and Temple Aliyah gets extra income throughout the year that goes to its operating budget. “Our religious school runs during the week since we don’t offer a Sunday school, so we had available classrooms that met their needs and since then, its really been a wonderful relationship,” David says.

For more information about Temple Aliyah, visit here.

Want to Rent Out Your Synagogue?

Here are some tips to know:

Bonni: “Make sure an attorney drafts your use agreements and updates them regularly. Keep in mind that accidents happen, so it has been best in my experience to clearly require in a use agreement that the outside organization pay the cost for our choice of vendor to make any damage repairs and replacements.”

 David: “Treat the relationship like it’s a marriage. In our case, we’ve always had open communication and the school has been very respectful that they are in a house of worship and we are respectful for their ceremonies and customs as well.”

Rabbi Meltzer: “Who the tenant is really matters, so it’s very important the congregation can envision a deep relationship. You see each other frequently and share the same space, so it’s important to make sure it’s the right fit.”

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