Rabbinic Discretionary Fund


Below you’ll find all the rules about how we run the Rabbinic Discretionary Fund.  We do it very similarly to all synagogues.  But the most important thing is for congregants to know that you can ask the Rabbi for help with emergencies, such as paying a bill, and all will be held in strict confidence.  Updated Summer 2023, SB.

A Rabbinic Discretionary Fund (“RDF”) is established to operate as a charitable support fund of the Synagogue, subject to the following terms and conditions:

1.​ ​Purpose
The RDF’s purpose is to allow the Synagogue and its clergy to support members having exigent personal needs, to support the Synagogue itself, and to support allied charitable organizations – in that general order of priority. The RDF will be operated to ensure the tax deductibility of RDF donations, the non-taxability of RDF disbursements, and the Synagogue’s nonprofit tax status consistent with federal law.

2.​ ​Values
RDF disbursements will proceed consistent ​with Jewish values of gemilut chasadim​ (acts of loving kindness)​,​ ​pikuach nefesh​ (preserving life), ​kavod ha-briyot ​(honoring health) and ​halbanat panim ​(averting shame).

3.​ ​Ownership and Structure
The RDF is owned by the Synagogue, which will maintain the RDF as a dedicated and segregated fund.​ The Rabbi will have exclusive custody of the RDF and signature authority for RDF disbursements; except that the Board will provide for a second signatory, from the Board (e.g. Treasurer), to ensure continuity of operations. ​If the Synagogue retains multiple clergy, only the senior clergy will have RDF disbursement authority unless the Synagogue establishes a separate RDF sub-account for each such clergy.

4.​ ​Receipts and Revenues
​RDF receipts and revenues will proceed in strict compliance with this section:

a. The RDF will receive revenues from (1) Board appropriations of Synagogue general funds and (2) donations earmarked to the RDF. The RDF may not be used as a donor-conditioned “pass through.” RDF donations should be made directly to the RDF, not to the Rabbi. RDF donations may not be designated or restricted for any recipient or specific cause. If a prospective RDF donor wants to support a particular Synagogue program, then the donor should contribute to the Synagogue’s general fund or another designated fund.

b. RDF contributions should be solicited only in proportion to actual and anticipated community needs. The Board intends that RDF funds will be disbursed to meet RDF-qualifying needs within 36 months of receipt. RDF funds not expended within 36 months are subject to reversion to the Synagogue general fund and re-appropriation to the RDF, at Board election, based on the Board’s assessment of the actual and anticipated needs of the community.

5. ​Disbursement Restrictions and Prohibitions
RDF disbursements will proceed in strict compliance with this section:

a. RDF disbursements will be made only in the name of the Synagogue.

b. RDF disbursements may not be used to obligate the Synagogue to future commitments to any person, organization or cause.

c. If an RDF disbursement is to support a member’s housing, utilities, medical care or other exigent need, the payment should be made to the direct provider to the extent practicable rather than to the member or any individual.

d. No RDF disbursement will be made to pay or reimburse the payment of bail or bond, or a fine or fee assessed by a court of competent jurisdiction.

e. Except for the personal benefit of a congregant consistent with these guidelines, no RDF disbursement will be made to another organization unless established as a nonprofit under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) and the Board gives advance consent.

f. No RDF disbursement will be made to personally benefit Synagogue clergy or their families. This restriction will not disqualify an RDF payment to cover ordinary meals or other clergy-hosted activities for one or more Synagogue members in connection with the provision of pastoral care, even though clergy may receive the ancillary benefit of participation.

g. Except as the Board may approve in advance, no RDF disbursement will be made to reimburse clergy for costs associated with serving as clergy – including to purchase books, Judaica and other tangible assets used by the Rabbi in performing clergy duties – even if such assets are designated, treated and retained as property of the Synagogue.

h. Consistent with Internal Revenue Service rules governing deductibility of charitable donations, clergy should not advance personal funds for RDF-eligible support activities and then seek RDF reimbursement. All support activities should be paid from RDF funds. The Executive Committee must approve any exception to this restriction.

6. ​Confidentiality and Disbursement Records
Because RDF disbursements may relate to the private personal lives of those in need, the Rabbi will maintain the confidentiality of those recipients except as minimally necessary to maintain the integrity of RDF funds and comply with these policies and applicable law. To that end:

a. The Rabbi will maintain a private record of each RDF disbursement including its date, amount, purpose and recipient.

b. The Rabbi will disclose to the Board or other authorized representative of the Synagogue, at least every six months, only aggregate amounts, general categories of disbursement purposes and number of persons assisted, so as to protect the confidentiality of persons seeking and receiving RDF support.

7. ​Fiscal Review
The Board will cause the RDF to be reviewed by an individual qualified in accounting and/or tax law, whom the Rabbi and Board jointly will appoint. The intent of this review is to ensure that the RDF is operated in a manner consistent with prevailing tax laws and this policy. The results of such review shall be placed before the Board and entered onto its minutes. The Board may dispense with this outside fiscal review in any year in which the RDF disburses less than $1,500.00, provided that the Board must undertake the review in and for any year in which the Rabbi’s contract is extended, terminated or expired.

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