Religion & Beliefs

You Count: Finding A Minyan That Works for You

Living in Nashville, it’s hard to have sympathy for people in huge Jewish communities trying to find the shul or minyan that’s just right for them. Here in Music City we don’t have that many options. There’s Orthodox, Chabad, Conservative, … Read More

By / May 3, 2007

Living in Nashville, it’s hard to have sympathy for people in huge Jewish communities trying to find the shul or minyan that’s just right for them. Here in Music City we don’t have that many options. There’s Orthodox, Chabad, Conservative, and two Reform Temples. Only the Orthodox and Conservative synagogues are within walking distance of my house, and I like the Orthodox better, ergo, I daven at the Orthodox shul. Not exactly a complex equation. But I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and I know how important shul shopping can be, especially when you’re settling in for the long haul in a new place. We’ve mentioned http://www.shulshopper.com/ ShulShopper before on Faithhacker, and I urge you to take a look and see what’s available in your neighborhood. But shulshopper still doesn’t list everything, and sometimes it’s hard to sift through all the labels and affiliations. Plus, lots of what’s on shulshopper are synagogues with rabbis and cantors and sisterhood luncheons, which I know can be hard to get excited about. Luckily, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance has an awesome listing of some minyans that will make you start getting excited about Kabbalat Shabbat on Monday. But keep in mind that they only list “partnership minyanim,” which they define as:

a prayer group that is both committed to maintaining halakhic standards and practices and also committed to including women in ritual leadership roles to the fullest extent possible within the boundaries of Jewish Law. This means that the minyan is made up of 10 men, men and women are separated by a mechitzah, and the traditional liturgy is used. However, women may fully participate in kriyat ha'Torah, including layning and receiving aliyot, and may lead parts of the prayer service such as psukei d'zimrah and kabbalat Shabbat, which do not contain d'varim she b'kedusha.

If you’re looking for something fully egalitarian, but minus stained glass and old ladies wearing doilies on their heads, I have some suggestions: If you’re in Chicago, there are actually a number of choices, though I think the minyan I grew up with is by far the best. You can see its website at Egalitarianminyan.org. There’s another egal minyan in Skokie, called the Egalitarian Minyan of Congregation Bnai Emunah. They’re also pretty great. In New York there’s Kehilat Hadar, which is known for being young, cool, and having amazing singing. In Boston there’s the Tremont Street Shul, which has an egal minyan subset with a great reputation. In LA there’s the Library Minyan, which is really friendly and laid back. In London, try Assif. Not yet up to the standards of Hadar, but great ruach, and an awesome custom of having Kiddush in the middle of davening, so your stomach isn’t grumbling through mussaf. In Jerusalem there’s Kehilat Kedem, which is at once relaxed and professional-feeling. These are just the places that come to me off the top of my head, but they’re worth checking out. And a big plus is that they all have women participating in leading services. The places on the JOFA list have some rules about when and how women can lead, but every single place I’ve talked about today actively involves women. Sweet!