The Death Of The Synagogue Newsletter; Long Live The Synagogue Newsletter
03/05/2014 - 16:53
Rabbi Jason Miller
A screenshot of the weekly newsletter from Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Courtesy of Rabbi Jason Miller
A screenshot of the weekly newsletter from Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Courtesy of Rabbi Jason Miller

As anyone who has ever donated to a nonprofit organization or synagogue knows, every donated dollar counts and some count more than others. While every organization needs support for overhead costs, donors want to know the organizations they support are as efficient as possible and put as much money as possible toward the direct pursuit of their mission. So we wonder how much of that $18 donation to your favorite local organization or congregation goes into a card thanking you, or whoever you have honored with your gift.

As much as 10 percent of that small gift can go to overhead. We make donations online but employees prepare these thank-you messages. The organization pays postage. These funds could have been used better. But “That's how we've always done things.”

And what about newsletters? Some nonprofits and synagogues have begun to send these through e-mail, but they often still send out correspondence by snail mail as well. Postage and paper are still budget line items. That means higher costs and a lag in communications.

Many synagogues worry that people have grown accustomed to receiving event information through the mail. Nonprofits still send monthly newsletters and annual reports to their entire donor base, even though an electronic copy is much easier and cost effective. The same goes for invitations, but online applications like Evite, Paperless Post and Facebook make organizing attendee responses much easier. Studies even show that events are better attended when invitees can see who is attending.

By 2014, there is no excuse for a nonprofit organization or a synagogue not to have e-mail addresses for all of its members and donors. Special arrangements can be made for any who truly need or passionately want hard copies of communications, but they should be and probably are the exception.

This might prove to be a difficult transition for some organizations, but their supporters will get used to it and will come to appreciate the cost savings.

Of course, such a move also reduces waste. Sooner and later, we won’t be reading this kind of correspondence on paper – but we will still be reading it. Perusing monthly bulletins and annual reports on, responding to event invitations on Facebook and downloading event flyers from Pinterest will become as second nature as checking our e-mail, sharing news on Facebook and making online donations.

Rabbi Jason Miller is a tech expert who, in addition to writing the Jewish Techs blog for the Jewish Week, blogs at He is president of Access Computer Technology, an IT, web design and social media marketing company in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason

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Interesting article. While I agree that it is costly to produce a synagogue newsletter and on-line invitations do elicit a better response - temple staffs have to take into consideration an entire generation of baby boomers and seniors who are not going to get the information they desire on-line. These people make up a large percentage of congregations around the country. They would much prefer the old-fashioned paper newsletter and products. In addition, adults and families do not have access to computers let alone have a reliable e-mail address - as jobs change all the time - and people don't always notify the synagogue of these changes. Finally, as the program and communications director of a large Reform congregation - you never know what communications method will grab the attention of your audience therefore I use all of them! Paper & web based!