Paying For Praying
Synagogue fees: Is it in accordance with Jewish law to take fees from local Jews just to attend the synagogue?
It is certainly the accepted norm to pay a membership fee to the synagogue in which one prays.
First of all, paying fosters a stronger sense of communal spirit; when a person pays for something, he comes to value it more than had he received it for free. Paying a synagogue fee tends to make a person feel more a part of the community.
But on a practical note, synagogues have tremendous expenses: Books, rent or mortgage, electricity, heat, water, furniture, cleaning supplies, structural maintenance, salaries, social services, etc. Who is supposed to pay for it all, if not the people who avail themselves of the synagogue's services? Even if charitable donors pay for many of these costs, why shouldn't each participant also contribute to the remaining costs according to his/her ability?
(Note: The above is a general description of the appropriateness of paying synagogue fees; it isn't a definitive ruling regarding any specific case. Rulings in such matters should be sought from a rabbi or adjudicating body (beit din) personally familiar with the claims of both parties.)
- Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 163:1