Member Participation – Coerce, Encourage or Accept

Maariv is finished on Moatzei Shabbos and the familiar call goes out – “we need people to help clean up Shalosh Seudos”. It’s the same refrain and it’s often the same group of people who clean up. The same participation scenario is replayed for the Shalosh Seudos setup and for many other Shabbos and weekday volunteer functions needed for the successful running of the Shul.

There are at least three approaches to take in regard to member participation:
(1) You can coerce participation with statements like “if people don’t help we’re not going to have Shalosh Seudos any more”.
(2) You can encourage participation with statements like “if you eat Shalosh Seudos, it’s only right that you sometimes pitch in”.
(3) You can accept the fact that some people consider paying dues enough of a participatory effort, and are not inclined to help out.

I’m more in the acceptance camp (3) although I think there is no harm in encouragement. I’m happy to be in a Shul with a healthy occupancy rate and without the attendance of the other members it would be a much less fulfilling experience for me. In need be, we will pay for services that member participation would’ve provided for free.

Some people think that participation, beyond dues, is the price all members must pay and they get very frustrated when members don’t pinch it. Although I’ve never seen it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Shul where participation is explicitly or implicitly expected from all members.

The size of the shul may determine which policy is adapted, although I’ll never forget the small out of town Shul I visited, where the Rabbi davened, leined, was gabbai, set up and cleaned up Shalosh Seudos. And he did it all with a smile and with no regrets.

For those who are participating, take pleasure in the fact that you have the opportunity and ability to do communal chesed. And for those sitting on the benches, it may be you’re right, but please consider pitching in on occasion, it will make everybody a little happier.