Get Yourself a Gan

If there is one piece of advice that I could offer to a Shul, it would be “Get Yourself a Gan”. This is a key component from the Chabad playbook, and when we moved into our new building and started a Gan, about 15 years ago, we saw the beauty of this under appreciated institution.

A primary motivation for opening a Gan is revenue generation. It can be significant and it can help you keep your dues low. Another motivation that was pointed out by a member of our Gan formation committee, is the beauty of providing the first Jewish education experience for our members’ children and for other children in the community. Hearing 3-4 year-olds learning Torah is a balm for the ears and the soul.

Like most valuable things, it’s not a simple matter to establish a Gan. First you have to have an adequate space for the number of classes you wish to house. When we built our building we installed movable partitions for classes in the lower level, but if we had anticipated the Gan’s success, we would have planned for additional space.

A second issue is the membership itself. Only a handful of people are involved with a Shul’s finances, so they tend to see the downside more than the financial upside. I still remember the meeting when we proposed the Gan and a member loudly proclaimed, “What do we know about running a Gan!”. As it turned out, we knew a decent amount, and we were successful pretty much out of the gate. Even after the Gan’s success there were some complaints about the inconveniences of the dual School/Shul usage. But as time went on it became clearer what an asset it was, and the complaints diminished.

Thirdly you have to run the Gan both as an educational institution, dealing with teachers and parents, and as a small business. After a rough start at the beginning, we were fortunate to find an extremely capable director. For the financials, we have a membership executive committee that oversees both tuitions and teacher salaries. Bumps along the way should be expected, but good people can overcome most obstacles.

Not everybody will have the resources or the drive to start and run a Gan, but you should definitely investigate the possibilities.