Strengths and weaknesses of indie minyans and why I don’t get to go to Zoo Minyan tomorrow

Crossposted to Jewschool

Zoo Minyan, an independent minyan that meets in the neighborhood around the zoo in DC, is not meeting for davening this week. Why do I care? And why is this interesting? Let me back up:

I’m on the Bolt Bus, headed down to DC for the J Street Conference. The conference proper doesn’t start until Saturday night, but I’m heading down to spend Shabbat in DC, hoping to get some good shul-hopping done for your reading pleasure.

My plan was to go to multi-denominational, non-membership, convention-defying synagogue Sixth and I tonight and to the still-extant, just had their 40th birthday, proving all the “indie minyans will never last people wrong,” first-wave chavurah Fabrangen tomorrow morning.

But then, while emailing back and forth with Mah Rabu blogger and fellow Jewschooler BZ, he suggested the I try out Zoo Minyan instead. Apropos my post from the other day about feminizing the theology of Kaddish Shalem, he thought I might like Zoo Minyan. During their service, they apparently alternate between masculine and feminine names for God. So I got a little excited to see that in practice.

Then, as I’m sitting here on this bus, I get this e-mail from BZ with this post from their blog:

Zoo Minyan – No Davvening, but some learning, Sat. Feb 26

Zoo Minyan is not meeting for davenning Sat. Feb 26.

Sorry folks! Insufficient leyning turn-out for Zoo this shabbos, wouldn’t be lichvod Torah. Apologies for the short notice / change of plans.

But feel free to stop by for some learning after davenning elsewhere (or after shaarei sheina / sleeping in, as is your custom).

[…]

So, it’s Fabrangen for more tomorrow, after all.

But it’s not a total waste because I have some thoughts to share that came out of this failure to launch. The first time I heard such an attitude from an indie minyanaire was from an organizer of the ultra-lightweight London minyan Wandering Jews. They don’t organize anything other than a place and time. They refuse to beg people to be hosts. If no one volunteers to host, there’s no davening. If not enough people bring stuff for the potluck, there’s no communal dinner. Etc.

I heard a woman speak about this approach at Limmud Colorado a couple of years ago. She said, if people value Wandering Jews, they will make it happen. And if they’re not making it happen, then it isn’t valuable and they should just let it go and slip away. This stands in about the starkest contrast possible to the synagogue continuity-obsessed folks.

And at Zoo Minyan, it seems there is a somewhat similar attitude. And now I don’t get to go. Oh well, their loss. And Fabrangen’s gain.

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5 Responses to Strengths and weaknesses of indie minyans and why I don’t get to go to Zoo Minyan tomorrow

  1. Laura February 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    “During their service, they apparently alternate between masculine and feminine names for God.”

    Wow, so that actually happens. I would get so ridiculously distracted…but then again, I was just recognized for having complained about feminist philosophers earlier today.

    But I believe in indie minyans. And I’m secretly looking forward to one day going to that Mechon Hadar you recommended to me that one time.

    • David A.M. Wilensky March 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

      Kehillat Hadar. Mechon Hadar is a separate organization with a similar brand. MH runs Yeshivat Hadar and KH just runs services and such.

  2. Larry Kaufman February 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    A remember a weekday shacharit at the RAC, maybe 20 years ago, where the shlicha tzibur conducted the entire service in terms of brucha at.

    Meanwhile, just curious about what, besides their Whatever attitude towards convening, makes WJ lightweight?

    • David A.M. Wilensky March 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

      I meant that they are light weight in terms of their uncomplicated structure, not that they are “a lightweight.” If that makes sense.

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