We’ve written at length on this blog about church management solutions for Christian churches of all shapes and sizes.
Christians make up more than two-thirds of the American population, according to Pew Research, and some church management software—for example ParishSoft, Realm, or ChurchTrac—is designed specifically for the needs of Christian churches.
But what about Jewish synagogues?
There are millions of practicing Jews in the U.S. and thousands of synagogues, all of them standing to benefit from the same features—e.g., attendance tracking, calendar, donations, and membership management—that are included in the majority of church management tools.
An Idealware research report commissioned by UJA-Federation of New York, “A Guide to Synagogue Management Systems,” found that:
“Compared to the church management sector … the synagogue management sector is significantly less advanced in technological capabilities, cost effectiveness, and user experience.”
Why this discrepancy? Idealware found that the shortfall comes down to consumer demand, pointing out that: “…before widespread innovation
in the synagogue management sector can happen,
‘synagogue culture has to change first.’ Vendors act
in direct response to consumer demand … if clients don’t ask for change,
the vendors may not adopt it.”
For proof, look no further than the church management software sector, which has hundreds of vendors competing with each other for customers, spurring innovation and competitive pricing.
Why do you need synagogue software?
Synagogues have unique needs that can be addressed by synagogue-specific software. For example, a High Holiday seating module, Aliyah blessings, and a Yahrzeit module are all features that you’ll only find in synagogue software.
If your synagogue is using outdated technology or a spreadsheet to get by, you’re missing out on these customized features, not to mention all the other standardized functions—such as attendance tracking, calendar, donation, membership management, etc.—that all houses of worship can benefit from.
According to the Idealware report:
“Even when systems are quite out of date, and have been in place for years or even decades, synagogues report satisfaction with their current technology and workflows. But the experts we interviewed urged the synagogue sector to think critically about what their current systems offer, and whether technology is helping them to effectively engage with their members and the community at large.”
In other words, even if you think your current solution is sufficient, you may not even realize how much easier things could be with synagogue software. Also, the more synagogues use synagogue software, the more effective, affordable, and robust synagogue software will become in response to customer demand.
6 synagogue software systems to check out
These tools were picked based on Idealware’s research, with an eye for synagogue-specific features, several years of experience in the industry, and functionality comparable to traditional church management systems.
They are listed in alphabetical order.
System setup in Chaverware
Chaverware is one of the most established players in the synagogue software industry, with a history dating back to 1993. The New York-based company claimed more than 600 clients as of 2011.
The latest cloud-based release, Chaverware 6 in 2014, added dashboards and a documentation Wiki.
Chaverware is Windows-based, and households can view and update information in the member directory, make payments and view accounts, and register for events and classes over the internet through an extension called ChaverWeb.
According to Idealware, “It does have a powerful-but-complex query building process, and creating some queries could be confusing to those unfamiliar with database structure.”
So if you want to use Chaverware, you’ll need either an experienced database user on staff, or someone willing to learn.
Key synagogue-specific features: Aliyah, Yahrzeit, Shalach Manot, graphical seating, and cemetery modules
Other key features: Accounting, calendar, donations, event management, membership management
Pricing: $3,300 for three licenses and one year of support. ChaverWeb is an additional $1.25/household/year. There are discounts for a five-year commitment.
Have you tried Chaverware? Please leave a review here!
The Jewish calendar view in Congregation Connect
Congregation Connect, formerly known as Cloud for Synagogues, is a Salesforce-based system and part of the Asheville, North Carolina-based Cloud For Good network. Congregation Connect has seen steady adoption with both U.S. and U.K.-based synagogues over the past several years since it launched in 2010.
Because of its platform, Congregation Connect can be expanded significantly through the Salesforce AppExchange.
As a newer product, Congregation Connect has a streamlined interface that will feel familiar to tech-savvy users.
Idealware’s research team found that:
“Congregation Connect’s ‘strength lies in its powerful customizability and up-to-date technology. For instance, users can quickly build reports or real-time dashboards that contain any data they think might be helpful. It has built-in links to social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, making it easy to engage your congregation and keep them in the loop … [it] appears pretty user-friendly and easy to learn.'”
Key synagogue-specific features: Aliyah, cemetery management, High Holiday seat map, Yahrzeit
Other key features: Accounting, calendar, donations, event management, marketing automation, membership management, mobile app, volunteer management
- Silver plan: $20/user/month, includes community-based support and online-knowledge base
- Gold plan: $30/user/month, includes up to 2.5 hours of live support each month with a minimum of five users
- Platinum plan: $50/user/month, included unlimited live support, with a minimum of 10 users
QuickBooks Online integration is an additional $100/month, unlimited forms is an additional $1,000/year, and the Member Portal is an additional $1,300/year for up to 500 logins.
The Contacts view in Jvillage
Jvillage is a Jewish-centric internet company based in Burlington, Vermont, offering three different services: website design, original Jewish content, and a synagogue database software package called JManage.
JManage is a database, but it does much more than just keep track of names. It has a built-in Yahrzeit notification module, and can also be used to run your Hebrew school.
You can even use JManage to run your synagogue’s website, manage your volunteers, handle accounting, and run detailed reports. Jvillage offers full hosting and monitoring, and support via phone or email.
Key synagogue-specific features: Hebrew school management, Yahrzeit notifications
Other key features: Accounts receivable, calendar, directory, donation management, email/text, event registration, membership management, online member portal, online payments, volunteer management
Pricing: Jvillage does not publish its prices online, but those interested can contact the team for more information.
The Yahrzeit information screen in MMOnTheWeb
MM2000, or Membership Management 2000, has been building software specifically for synagogues for several decades. It recently revamped its product by adding a Salesforce CRM integration that puts MM2000 on a par with the most modern synagogue software.
MMOnTheWeb is a member-facing module that allows members of your synagogue to log in and make payments and donations, register for events and school, and update their member profiles in the directory from any device with an internet connection.
MM2000 even has a B’nai Mitzvah module, and optional Hebrew school module.
According to Idealware:
“Limitations to the online system feel well-thought out and not dictated by the difficulty of the programming task at hand—for instance, the online portal doesn’t allow members to edit their own Yahrzeit data to ensure the integrity of the data…”
Key synagogue-specific features: B’nai Mitzvah, cemetery management, Hebrew school, Shalach Manot, special event seating, Yahrzeit, Yiskor Book
Other key features: Accounting, donation acknowledgement, email, membership management
Pricing: MM2000 costs an initial purchase price of $2,750 for a single user or $3,350 for up to five users. Additional five-user license packs are $600. That includes the membership module, accounts receivable, B’nai Mitzvah, cemetery, donation acknowledgement, email, Yiskor Book module, special event seating, Yahrzeit module, and a year of unlimited phone support.
Click here for a list of optional upgrades, including member portal, Hebrew School module, and Shalach Manot module.
Have you tried MM2000? Please leave a review here!
The Family Yahrzeits screen in Rakefet Online
Named for a settlement in northern Israel, Rakefet Online began almost 30 years ago as an installed synagogue management system called Rakefet for Windows and then Rakefet Unlimited, but it is now a fully cloud-hosted system.
The software is primarily a membership database, but Rakefet Online also offers some financial features, along with an integrated Jewish calendar.
According to Idealware, “Rakefet Online could be a valid choice for smaller synagogues that want a cloud-based system and don’t need event management and accounting integration right away.”
Key synagogue-specific features: Hebrew School management, High Holiday seating, Jewish calendar, Yahrzeit notifications
Other key features: Accounts receivable, donation management, membership management
Rakefet Online is $90/month for the first year, then $40/month after that.
The Member Portal in ShulCloud
ShulCloud was originally designed by a synagogue for its own use, then developed into a web-based, cloud-hosted synagogue management system. They now claim more than 600 synagogues around the world in the ShulCloud network.
ShulCloud does a lot, everything from accounts receivable to website management, with a bunch of synagogue-specific features added in recent years.
According to Idealware, “ShulCloud is a product with lots of potential that is growing quickly in response to member needs.”
Key synagogue-specific features: Cemetery management, Gabbai management, Hebrew School management, High Holiday seating, Yahrzeit, Zmanim
Other key features: Accounts receivable, calendar management, donation tracking, event management, membership management, newsletter management, online member portal, website management
- Standard: $99.99/month, includes website management, donation management, and membership management
- Premium: $199.99/month, adds membership portal with payments, invoicing system, and Gabbai management, with discounts for Shuls with less than 100 accounts
- School: $299.99/month, adds a full school management module
There are discounts for those who pay for six months or a year up front.
Have you tried any synagogue software that isn’t listed here? Please let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to check it out!
And now that you’re well on your way to implementing a new synagogue software system, you might like to read these other articles on making things a little easier at your house of worship:
- The 20 Best Resources for Free Church Graphics
- How Churches Today Can Use Technology to Rebuild Community
- 5 Off-the-Wall Ideas To Pump Some Energy Into Your Church Groups
Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.