Back of the Napkin Cost To Run a Shul

Can We Afford a Shul
What is the budget of a Shul? Let’s say we have 50 member units (families or singles) who want to start a Shul. The members will finance all of the costs. If the 50 members are financing the whole Shul it’s reasonable to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 each. Generally, the smaller the Shul, the higher the cost per member. We’re looking at a budget of between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.

The two major costs will usually be rental space and the Rabbi’s salary. Additional costs include utilities, food costs, program costs and professional fees.

Space Rental

Let’s start with space. With 50 member units, we will need space for between 50 and 100 people on a given Shabbos. The rule of thumb for a Shul is between 15 and 20 square feet per person for the main sanctuary. With 100 people on a given Shabbos, we’re looking at between 1500 and 2000 square feet for the main area.

We need to add about 30-40 percent for bathrooms, food area, storage, coat area, bookshelves, etc.., so we’re looking at 2000 to 2600 square feet. If we want to add a social hall area, we would need to add another 50%, but let’s leave that out for now.

The cost depends on your location and the space itself. Let’s say we can rent space at $15-20 per square foot per year, so were looking at between $30,000 and $50,000 per year for space.

Rabbi and Other Costs
For a a part time Rabbi for a shul this size, you should expect to pay between $20,000 and $80,000. That’s a big range, but a lot depends on your location, the services required and the experience level of the rabbi. Utilities and miscellaneous will cost about $1200 a month.

On a $75,000 budget you will need 50 member families at $1,500 per family. Rent at $30,000, Rabbi’s salary at $30,000 and miscellaneous at $15,000. You can play with the numbers to see what works for you.