For the entire month of February, a group of online Jewish presences have been proposing one new idea for the Jewish community per day. The project is called 28 Days, 28 Ideas. And over at Jewschool, I get the last word with Idea #28: The Beit Cafe. Here’s a taste:
I recently heard a favorite rabbi of mine say that the American Jewish community may have made a mistake early on by placing all of its communal institution eggs in the beit kneset, or synagogue, basket. He suggested that the beit midrash, or house of study might have been a better choice.
What the beit midrash has going for it is the potential to do highly diverse learning that will attract Jews from many background to sit together and learn. What it doesn’t have going for it is its format. It’s formal and it brings to mind all kinds of imagery and connotations that will turn off many contemporary Jews.
But what about a third kind of beit? What about the modern institution known as the Beit Cafe, perhaps better known in America as the Coffee House? It’s place where discussions happen, planned or spontaneous, as well as cultural events like readings and musical performances. In the contemporary American mind, exciting intellectual and cultural movements are associated with coffee shops, a definite plus for this model.
I’ll start by describing the place I’m imagining and then I’ll talk about why it makes sense for the American Jewish community today.
Read the rest here.