Holy Moly!

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Religion is a hot topic in New York these days.

You can't turn on the TV without some mention of the Pope's visit today to the Big Apple. If the Pope wasn't here, I don't think there'd be any news at all. The Pope has a number of area visits through the weekend, including Mass at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. David Letterman had a good joke the other night. The Pope will lead Mass for 45 minutes, then Mariano Rivera will come in and close it out. I just wish the Pope would swing by the trade show floor. Talk about publicity!

This weekend also marks the start of Passover. When I land in Kansas City on Saturday night, I plan on getting in my car and heading straight to Mom's house for a family Seder. Usually, I don't want to get too "Jewish" in these posts, but I feel a lot more comfortable doing it here in New York.

There have been a lot of attendees in my sessions who are Jewish or who run JCCs in the area. I had a session on Thursday that touched on member complaints and how you handle them. One complaint at JCCs that adhere to Jewish laws more strictly than other JCCs around the country was from members who don't understand why the JCCs are closed on Jewish holidays. A good response, we were told, is to start out by saying, "I understand how you feel..."

At another session, the speaker had in her handout packet a religious credo that's posted at her women-only club in Maryland. There's a quote at the top of the page toward the back of the packet from (wait, there's a pigeon in the part of the convention center where I'm typing this...where's Bert from Bert and Ernie when you need him?). Where was I? Oh, yeah. There's a quote from Philippians 4:13 on the sheet that reads: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

The speaker told us that the message is intended for her club and its members and is not meant to offend anyone. That's fine, but I wonder if she could attract more members if the club appeared more open to women of all faiths.

(The pigeon is still behind me, by the way. Is somebody going to call animal control?)

Don't think that religion doesn't play a big role in the success or failure of clubs. Before I left for this show, I saw an article about a club in Indiana that is going out of business. The owner believes that God wants the club to close so that a Christian school can open in its place. So the owner is terminating the club's lease agreement--eight years early.

"I didn't know what the Lord's timing was," the owner said. "He's decided now's the time."

According to the story, anyone who paid a one-year membership will get his or her money back if the club cannot reopen at a new location. We'll see how fate--or faith--plays out.

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