Why You Need Shul Bylaws

Do You Have Bylaws
You can hear the sound of a collective eye roll when you mention Shul bylaws. They’re usually found only in democratic shuls or independent minyanim. Like legal contracts, they can be boring to the non-lawyers among us, but they’re very important for a Shul’s functioning, especially when critical issues come to the forefront. If you don’t have bylaws, it might be a good idea to create them now.

Primary Purpose
This Bylaws for Dummies article explains, “Bylaws basically establish a contract between members and define their rights, duties, and mutual obligations… The bylaws detail the extent to which the management of the organization’s business is handled by the membership, a subordinate board, or an executive committee.”

The Blue Avocado site has a good bylaws checklist and says (with some shul specific modifications) that
a) You should not put too much in the bylaws so you don’t come to regularly violate them.
b) If trouble erupts — such as internal conflict or attacks from others — the bylaws will become very important. So make sure they are reviewed approximately every three years.
c) Attach (and distribute) any changes made to the bylaws and make sure the president has a current copy. Too often everyone forgets about changes.

This Synagogue bylaws article by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) says, “Most calls for assistance happen when there is a synagogue crisis, which can be either good or bad. Examples of “good” crises are when the synagogue is in a growth spurt and needs to strategize to keep its new members involved or is considering the purchase of a new building with a new mortgage. Bad crises can occur when a congregation is declining and is concerned that it will not have a minyan soon, or there is no more money and they must refinance or sell the building.”

We’ll Help You Get Started
The Orthodox Union (OU) has some Shul Bylaws templates, and you can take a look at them here.

A NY Shul’s Bylaws

There is a Shul in NY, which has bylaws that have worked pretty well the last 25 years so we’ve gotten permission to include them as a public service for those who want to work on their bylaws.

So get to work on your bylaws if you don’t have them, it’s worth the effort.

Congregation Your Name of Your Town, Inc.


Article I — Name

1. This congregation shall be known as Congregation Your Name of Your Town, Inc. – a non-profit religious corporation in the State of Your State, County of Your County, whose offices are located in Your City.

2. This congregation shall not be dissolved as long as ten members who have been in good standing for at least five years are willing to continue it.

3. In the event of dissolution, the disposition of its assets shall either be in accordance with the donor’s request at the time of donation of a specific asset or under the trusteeship of Your Synagogue Umbrella Organization for the benefit of new Orthodox congregations.

4. This congregation shall be a member of the Your Synagogue Umbrella Organization

Article II – Membership, Dues, and Assessments

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