Sunday, September 21, 2014 Elul 26, 5774
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Ticket Situation

Monday, September 2, 2013
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Dear Miriam,

My husband and I are members of one synagogue but, somehow, we're also on the membership list of a larger, more established synagogue that usually charges quite high dues. We used to be student members of this larger synagogue and continue to give small yearly contributions. We also still get their High Holiday tickets mailed to us. I suspect this is because they're trying to "court" us to become regular members now that we're no longer students.  Is it unethical for me to give the tickets away since we attend our regular shul for services?  The tickets have my name and address printed on them.  Is it unethical for someone else to pretend to be us to go and pray for redemption? 

Signed,
Ticket Situation


Dear Ticket,

Last year's ticket question was about what to do when you're not a member of any synagogue, and this year's is about what to do when you're a member of two. I continue to be fascinated that the question of how to procure High Holiday tickets seems to trump the overall question of, say, how to find a meaningful prayer experience or how to find true forgiveness. Nevertheless, totally interesting and complicated questions, so thanks for asking!

My gut reaction is that it is unethical for you to give these tickets to someone who does not share your name and address. To approach the Days of Awe under false pretenses sets the wrong mood for sure, but it is also is a very small step away from stealing from a synagogue on the holiest days of the year. If the tickets didn't have your name on them, I'd have a different response. If there were no financial element to the distribution of tickets, even if they had your name on it, I'd have no problem with it. But these tickets are clearly linked to you transactionally and, as such, they're meant for your use only. 

I suspect that, rather than being courted to be full members, you were just never taken off the student member list and your yearly contribution makes it seem like you're still paying student dues. Given that possibility, it's your responsibility to contact the synagogue to let them know that you no longer consider yourselves members and no longer require High Holiday tickets. While you're at it, let them know that you've already received this year's tickets and you know someone who could make good use of them. Ask if it's all right to transfer the tickets to someone else. If the synagogue office says yes, you're in the clear. If they say no, then you made the right choice in not wanting to be members there anyway. (To use the tickets under false pretenses is one thing, but to turn someone away from High Holiday services is quite another.)

If you do decide to give the tickets away without going through the above steps, I would encourage you to advise the recipient to make a donation in addition to the yearly contribution you've already made. If this isn't an institution that the ticket recipient would want to support financially, then I question why he or she wants to spend some of the most important days of the year there. 

Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy 5774.

Be well,

Miriam

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