The Beit Cafe: My addition to 28 Days, 28 Ideas

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.

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4 Responses to The Beit Cafe: My addition to 28 Days, 28 Ideas

  1. Larry Kaufman February 28, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    I hope your brilliant idea attracts the attention (and funding) that it deserves. Kol hakavod.

  2. ariel March 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    sorry your idea is not new in 1996 makor cafe opened in NYC it is closed at this time but there is a newer one the expanded on this type of place

    http://www.92y.org/content/about_92YTribeca.asp?92YT_global=92TRIabout

    http://www.92y.org/content/92TRI_Mission_History.asp

    • David A.M. Wilensky March 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

      ariel, I am aware of Makor. If you look at the comments at Jewschool, you’ll see how very different this idea is from Makor upon close examination.