As a result of the bill’s passage, employment change (formerly called unemployment) is likely to move in a positive direction, reversing the job losses that have dominated political discussion for the last two years.
After months of discussion about totally overhauling the country’s economy, Congress implemented a pilot coverage program to focus on one community. If successful, it will be expanded for the entire United States.
The Jewish community was selected because of its relatively small size and cohesive nature. Working through the Conference of Presidents of Major Conferences of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPOMCOPOMJO), Congress will be able to direct funds to and collect taxes from a single source.
Also, all Jews who are unaffiliated with a synagogue will be given subsidies to join a shul. Membership will be mandatory. Anyone who refuses to become a synagogue member will be fined or face imprisonment.
Starting January 1, 2011, the U.S. Treasury will transfer $999 billion to COPOMCOPOMJO, which will then distribute the funds to the 3,727 synagogues that were identified in the latest census. Orthodox houses of worship comprise 40 percent of the total, Conservative 23 percent, and Reform 26 percent.
Although the cost of the stimulus program appears large, Congress insists that it is deficit-neutral because the costs will be offset by new taxes and fees and from savings in improved productivity and efficiencies in all synagogues. For example, the government will mandate only supermarket brand scotch, instead of expensive single malt scotch at Kiddush. Cantors will be required to speed up the prayer service and rabbis will be restricted to 15-minute sermons in the hope that shorter services will result in lower electric bills. Hot kiddushes will be eliminated to reduce the use of gas and electricity to keep food warm.
The bill is more than 4,000 pages long. Its main provisions include:
New job creation to improve employment change. Previous volunteer jobs including Shushers, Candy Men, Children Chasers, Pledge Card Collectors, and Mechitzah Adjusters will now command salaries. (A more complete list of the jobs is on page 2.)
Mandatory synagogue membership for all Jews. Each unaffiliated family will receive $500 toward synagogue membership. If actual membership cost is greater, they will have to make up the difference. If it is less, they can keep the difference.
Annual synagogue dues in excess of $1,000 will be taxed, as will all building fund payments.
There will be a public option — guaranteed membership for $500 —but the government will decide which denomination’s synagogue they attend. If they refuse to affiliate with any denomination, they will have to pay a fine of $1,000 or go to jail for five years.
Current members may keep their membership or change to a different denomination during the enrollment period from Rosh Hashanah to Chanukah. All synagogues will be required to accept new members regardless of pre-existing affiliations.
With more than one million unaffiliated families joining synagogues at the same time, there will be a shortage of seats for the High Holidays. Because of differences in popularity of denominations, rationing may be required. For example, if there are not enough seats in Conservative shuls, families will have to accept seats in Reform or Orthodox shuls.
Members will have access to free counseling from government panels that will suggest that they switch to an alternate denomination, based on the available seat counts. Panel decisions will be final.
Public response to this bill has been largely unfavorable. Polling suggests that less than a third of Jews are pleased with this stimulus program. Protests are taking place across the country. Tea Room parties are planned at Passover resorts from the Catskills to the Caribbean, which will keep their tea rooms open 24 hours a day. Most objections are to the increase in taxes, the mandatory membership requirement, and to government panels deciding which synagogue each family will attend.
Pro-Choice groups such as Choose Your Own Adventure readers insist on having the right to choose their own denominations, whenever they want and as many times as they want.
Pro-Life groups such as Frum From Birth (FFB) maintain that no one has the right to terminate their affiliation with a denomination that they have been a member of for their whole life.
New Jewish community jobs created with stimulus money from Congress to move employment change in a positive direction:
CANDY MAN: Every child's favorite go-to person in shul. If he's away from his seat, children are authorized to peek into his tallit bag.
SHUSHER: Walks around the shul, constantly raising a finger to his mouth and urging talkers to keep their words to themselves.
CHILDREN CHASER: Run around shul, inside and out, to catch children who get out of control and return them to their parents.
(Note: This job requires experience in marathon running.)
MECHITZAH INSTALLER/REMOVER/ADJUSTER: Has to be available on short notice to install, take down, or adjust the height of the mechitzah, depending on which way the religious winds are blowing and whenever a new rabbi is appointed.
PLEDGE CARD COLLECTOR: Must be able to walk through every row in the synagogue and stare at each congregant until they pony up a pledge card with a folded-down tab.
GRAGGER TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Has to hold a red octagonal stop sign high above his head on Purim when noise to drown out Haman's name gets too loud.
SUKKAH BUILDER AND LULAV REPAIRMAN: Must be available a week before Sukkot to put up the sukkah, and during the week of Sukkot to add new palm rings to lulavim that have been shaken too much.
RABBI'S CONTRACT NEGOTIATOR: Requires a high degree of legal and financial knowledge, and also much patience.