Why You Need Shul Bylaws

Check out Why You Need Shul Bylaws on Shul Politics. There’s even some great sample bylaws to get you going if you need them.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the post:

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.

6 comments on “Why You Need Shul Bylaws

  1. My “ex” husband has not given me a Get. It has been 3 years since our civil divorce. He refused 3 hazmanot of the major local beit din.

    He is the president of a local Young Israel — albeit, not active with the National Council of YI. I was told by a board member “I have no authority to remove him as president… we can only remove a member.” (?!) Since when can a non-member be a president?

    He max’d out a line of credit against court orders. And the court ordered him to pay me back the $127,000. He caused me to incur over $70,000 in legal bills because of his game playing. There is even more that he did that I do not want to post.

    Shul by-laws should have some kind of language that disqualifies such a member from being on the board. “in violation of a secular court or beit din’s orders.” (but not only that but also: activity that the board, local beit din deem contrary to the spirit of Torah values — unethical, cruel — not because he drives on shabbat.)

  2. Steve, I think they were drafted a little before I joined 22+ years ago. I think Shul Bylaws define the roles, but not necessarily the mission. The mission for many Shuls is understood by default – a place for prayer, learning and chesed.

  3. Mark Frankel may or may not recall, but IIRC, two members of our shul and myself served on a committee that drafted our shul’s by laws. By laws define a shul’s mission and the roles that are expected of its rav, officers, directors and members. Like it or not, governance of a shul is like any other corporate or political body-without structure, anarchy or the biggest bank account rules with no accountability.

  4. Mr. Cohen, are you making a subtle connection between shul bylaws and toilet paper?

    Unfortunately, in some shuls they exist and read great, but they are — as in many other kinds of organizations — most honored in the breach…

  5. Many synagogue bathrooms seem to never have: toilet paper, tissues, soap, paper towels or working light bulbs. If a toilet breaks, it may wait several months for a simple repair. The bathrooms are the orphans of our synagogues; nobody cares about maintaining them.

  6. Orthodox synagogue Cong. ABC tried to get rid of Rabbi XYZ after 22 years, without any severance pay or any health insurance, with fewer than the required number of members needed to vote on such an important step. Rabbi XYZ brought a lawsuit in Beth Din (both sides did agree beforehand that it was not a case for the secular courts) to fight being dumped on the street.

    I believe that a religious corporation organized as such under the laws of the State of New York is required to have bylaws as well as certain officers elected to carry out the functions of the religious corporation.

    One of the biggest problems that has come up in recent years is “the last man standing.” Many shuls have dwindling elderly membership but valuable assets. Some seek to profit by joining such shuls to become the “last man standing” and enrich themselves by selling off whatever property and realty is left. The bylaws, if drawn up carefully, would prevent this kind of profiteering. Also, shuls that are affiliated with national organizations such as Young Israel may be required to adopt certain bylaws or practices in order to remain affiliated with the national organization.

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