cover image Pennies for Heaven: The Story of American Synagogues and Money

Pennies for Heaven: The Story of American Synagogues and Money

Daniel Judson. Brandeis Univ, $35 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5126-0275-3

Judson, associate dean at the Hebrew College Rabbinical School, traces the evolution of American Jewish congregational finances in this sweeping, painstaking book meant for scholars. Drawing on research from the late colonial period to the present day, Judson begins by documenting how Jewish communities adapted their existing European practices in their new North American context. Congregations abandoned pew purchase and rental in favor of voluntary giving or structured dues, practices borrowed from neighboring Christian congregations. Judson considers how different congregations across the nation paid their clergy, raised money for new construction, and became increasingly professionalized as venues for events such as for-profit High Holidays services and campaigns for the free synagogue movement. The book becomes a vast survey of the variety of sectors where financial practice within synagogues was influenced by American fund-raising models (viewed as Protestant, from a Jewish perspective) such as philanthropic giving, capital campaigns, school fees, and bingo. This is a thoughtful contribution to American economic and religious history that draws on original archival research to shed light on a little-studied aspect of American Jewish history. (June)