Big movement Judaism should be happy about this

At Jewschool, Aryeh Cohen has a great piece up recapping the recent Mechon Hadar Indie Minyan Conference (or whatever). Some highlights:

I think that the independent minyan phenomenon (not movement) is an important phenomenon for what it says about Judaism outside the Orthodox orbit. There have been independent minyanim in the Orthodox world forever. […] These Ortho independent minyanim (OIM) live in a similar tension with the established large Orthodox shuls which we are seeing in relation to the independent minyan phenomenon outside Orthodoxy. The similarity with the OIM is that there is a level of self-confidence that is needed to go off on one’s own and decide to establish a minyan rather than be catered to by an existing structure. On this basis, the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements should exult in the phenomenon since it shows that they have succeeded in educating a generation of Jews who have that self-confidence. Of course they (the movements, that is), on the whole, don’t.


What I missed at the conference was an actual discussion about the why of creating communities. How and if any minyan sees itself in relation to a larger Jewish/general community. What community means. There were a lot of minyanim that defined themselves as specifically not communities (“We are not a full-service minyan.”) in ways which seemed to support the mainstream notion of community. There were minyanim that obviously had no intention to challenge the prevailing concept of community in their territory, but just wanted to daven with more joy. These differences needed to be aired and debated and pushed. This is the place at which the current phenomenon might or might not be related to the Havurah movement of the 70s. Are we making a claim about what a community should look like or do we just want to daven in the little room off to the side with a little more singing and dancing? I am signed up for the former.

Check out the rest of the post here.

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2 Responses to Big movement Judaism should be happy about this

  1. Larry Kaufman April 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    While I don’t purport to speak for “big movement Judaism,” I am clearly part of it — and I for one look at the indy minyan scene as a success story, especially for our camps and youth groups.

    Equally, it is a red flag for entrenched institutionalism, and I’m still predicting that the younger generation will end up not creating a parallel community but rather taking over the one that exists and remaking it.

    As I stated in my blog piece on indy minyanim at, I find the salient characteristic to be their minyan-ness, not their independence — and what I find troublesome is the seeming self-containment of the communities that are created and their isolation, as Aryeh Cohen seems to be saying, from the larger Jewish community.

    If I had to choose just one text to head the list of the “words I live by,” it might very well be al tifrosh min hatzibur. The very fact of the Indy Minyan Conference is hopefully a transition point from me to we.

    • David A.M. Wilensky April 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

      You’re an exception to the rule, Larry.

      For the most part, the official Jews treat it like a disaster. “Why have they left us? And how can we get them back?”