Vital Signs: A Minyan Grows in Washington, D.C.

29 April, 2010

Source: Jewish Ideas Daily 


This is the sixth in a series on people and places fostering commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people in the United States and elsewhere by Professor Jack Wertheimer of the Jewish Theological Seminary. In it he tells about The DC Minyan, an independent traditional egalitarian Jewish community.

He writes:


"The Washington-based group does not fit into any ideological box. It aims to further serious lay-led prayer and serious Jewish learning.  Those wishing to lead services, read from the Torah, or deliver a sermon have to demonstrate, or acquire, competence. It also offers an educational program "Bet Midrash" on Monday evenings to deepen members' knowledge of Judaism.


Established seven years ago by Conservative and Modern Orthodox Jews dissatisfied with their respective synagogues, the minyan has worked hard to make its members feel at home.  Among its more noteworthy hybrid features is the insistence that a prayer quorum exists only when a minimum of ten men and ten women is present. Despite the separation of sexes, there is no physical barrier (mehitsah) between them, and responsibility for leading every aspect of the service is shared equally by women and men.


Serving a young age group, together with the absence of clergy, ties it  to a larger network of over 60 prayer groups scattered across the country that have been created by and for young Jewish adults. Such "independent minyanim" have sparked a great deal of curiosity and not a small degree of anxiety among leaders of conventional congregations worried about the future of the American synagogue.


It is much too early to predict the long-term future of the independent minyanim. For the present, though, there is good reason for older Jews to take pride in this phenomenon founded by day school graduates and based on egalitarianism. There is also good reason to celebrate the enthusiasm with which serious younger Jews are continuing to make their own distinctive contribution to the evolving history of Jewish public prayer."

Updated: May. 30, 2010