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“Trends in Alternative and Independent Minyanim that Every Synagogue Should Know" The focus of the workshop "Trends

in Alternative Minyanim that Every Synagogue Should Know" was to explore experiences of alternative minayim; both those held in our Conservative temples and those which are independent without any connection to our shuls. Through our discussions at the workshop we learned that the alternative minyanim offer opportunities to reach out and engage our members in alternative prayer experiences while creating different gateways for making connections to our communities. Joel Cutler Oceanside Jewish Center METNY VP

The East Side – Mizrach Minyan Leor Sinai 5 Year Rabbinical Student, Jewish Theological Seminary

We are a once-a-month Minyan, meeting every first Friday of the month. We seek to bring together like-minded Jews, young professionals ages 24-40, interested in creating community, developing spiritually and experiencing Shabbat in a beautiful setting. The idea came out of the realization that there really is not much happening for young Jewish adults, Friday evenings on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for young adults. We average 30 participants - the highest attendance was 45 and lowest 17 - who are connected through a core group of individuals representing various areas of occupation in the NYC area. With their support and contacts we involve a wide range of interests and participants. Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv are led by volunteers; a Dvar Torah is delivered by Leor Sinai (the minyan’s coordinator), and an announcement sheet highlights additional Shabbat and festival services in local synagogues; including programming and events coordinated by various organizations. The initiative is supported by the Metropolitan New York (METNY) Region of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in partnership with several organizations and local synagogues. The Minyan is housed at the Park Avenue Synagogue (87th & Madison). One aspect that shuls need to be open to is the idea of creating “points of entry”. This is a term used by the Hillels at universities and can be applied to particular synagogues. The reality of today is that Jews have varying interests, expectations, and are willing to travel to a service or event if it is of interest; by providing “points of entry”, topics of interest, or a specialized program - a synagogue could better serve its community and attract a wide range of members.

Forest Hills Minyan Forest Hills, Queens Dan Werlin METNY Board Member

FHM meets every two to three weeks on Saturdays and occasional Fridays. We use a room at the Forest Hills Jewish Center (FHJC), which also provides us with siddurim, chumashim, taleisim and a Torah, in addition to set-up and clean-up services by their maintenance staff. Our attendance is in the range of 25-35 on any given week, with a very high degree of consistent attendance. That is, new faces trickle in only gradually, but those that come, come regularly. Demographically, attenders can be characterized in two way: by shul affiliation, and by standard demographic categories. A plurality of our attenders are also regular shul attenders. Another segment are shul members, but attend our services more often than shul services. A third group is comprised of people with no known affiliation or are affiliated with a local Orthodox synagogue. In more conventional demographic terms, roughly 50-65% of attenders are married couples in their 30s; some with children. The remainder is composed of couples in their 40s and 50s; those with children are high school age or older. There is a sprinkling of single adults in their late 30s and early 40s, and adults 60 and older. The focus of our programming is to provide a smoothly run, lay led service with spirited congregational singing. Our target audience is people who are looking for this--we have no demographic targets. Although that is our specific reason for being, fostering community is also essential and we periodically attach lunches and dinners to our services. There is always a kiddush. The services themselves are "standard traditional egalitarian." That is, a full traditional service in which men and women participate equally. The experiences of FHM can may be helpful for other shuls. The magic ingredient has been the high level of support we have received from the shul leadership. Both the they and us have viewed FHM not as competition with the "main service," but as complementary to it. Many people move back and forth, one week with the shul the next week with FHM. And the availability of quality children's programming has brought people who came first to FHM, to come back for FHJC. Regular shul members who are deeply embedded in the community but have been looking for a different type of service, now have both. Although some come only for FHM, we have tried to design programming that takes advantage of and builds upon existing structures and groups.

Kol haKfar Zach Thacher We are a small minyan that gathers in peoples' homes in the Village, or within walking distance of the Village, on Friday nights twice a month. We provide spirited, egalitarian, all Hebrew davening for Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv, and then have a social kiddish where people socialize and hang out until late. We usually feature a short discussion on the parsha, and sometimes a meal as well. We have no rabbi or chazan. Zachary Thacher, the minyan founder, provides almost all of the organizational leadership, while others contribute by opening their homes, leading services if they have good voices and know the tefillot, contributing to kiddushes and most of all, by just showing up. A small, ad hoc group within out greater community helps with sending out emails and scheduling hosts. All communications are done via email, a blog and Facebook. Kol haKfar attendees are almost all in their 20s - 30s, and not necessarily from downtown. We're proud that among our community we have several women of color who have converted to Judaism, and many gay members. The ratio between men and women isn't as lopsided as other places -- it seems to be fairly even. We have over 300 people on our list serv, and each event attracts 15 - 30 people depending if we provide a kosher meal or not to follow davening. If we had more funds, we'd have more meals and attract greater numbers. We always meet in members apartments. What attracts people to Kol haKfar is the informal, DIY nature of the community -- and, after 7 years -our members have come to value the steadiness of the minyan and the ability to form lasting relationships within the community. To put it simply, we've built a chevre of younger Jews looking for a way to celebrate their Jewishness and to forge social bonds with people with similar values -- without having to be in the "scene" of the Upper West Side, or by being trapped in the institutional setting of a synagogue that doesn't meet our needs. Shuls can learn from us by: 1 - providing better opportunities for young, unattached people to mingle. Mostly, shuls offer services on a Friday night and then everyone leaves. Daven and dash. Or there's a kiddish on Saturday afternoon but it's in a loud room that doesn't facilitate mellower conversations. Young people want to meet each other. Having unstructured onegs with a nice atmosphere helps more than you can imagine. The Synaplex movement is a great and important step in the direction, but they tend to be loud, highly structured events within the institution that make it hard for people to meet in a relaxed setting. Anecdotally, I haven't heard of many people meeting that way, more likely I've seen people come with their group and leave with their group. What we need is cross pollination in settings that are inviting and low key. 2 - offering variety with their services. One of the attractions of a minyan is that it's lay led. This isn't always the best solution, but it does guarantee members a chance to hear different davening styles and to try new tunes. Hearing the same Chazan every week can be boring. Mixing it up help a great deal. 3 - encouraging group participation. Everyone has to lend a hand for a minyan to work. This excites people and makes them feel valuable -- and gives them something to talk about. I'm sure there are ways for shuls to foster volunteer opportunities and build up a sense of being needed. If our local synagogues downtown did a better job of fostering community -- instead of the daven and dash model, or the stiff institutional dinners for "young professionals" as a poorly masked code word for singles -- I imagine our minyan would be put out of business. But they don't, so we thrive.

Kol HaNeshamah Minyan at the Oceanside Jewish Center, Oceanside, NY. Joel Cutler Oceanside Jewish Center and METNY Vice President Brief description of your minyan, including where it meets, how often, target audience, average attendance, and any special features: At Beth Shalom/Oceanside Jewish Center (“OJC”) we began an alternative, lay led service in December 2007, which we call the Kol HaNeshamah Minyan (KHNM) that meets once a month on Shabbat morning (typically the second or third week of each month). With the full support and encouragement of our Rabbi, we started from the premise that our regular Shabbat morning services are very meaningful and wonderful led by our Rabbi and Cantor. The goal of the KHNM has been to create an alternative and spirited davening experience which would bring back some congregants who no longer regularly attend Shabbat services, to provide a gateway to attract members who previously have not attended services, as well as offer regular Shabbat attendees a different prayer experience once a month. We have been averaging 25 to 40 attendees; most of whom are in the 40 to mid 50’s age range. We start the KHNS service at 9:30 AM (our regular Shabbat services start at 9:00 AM) and we finish around 12:00 noon (coinciding with the conclusion of the regular OJC services) so we can come back together as an OJC community for kiddush and to socialize with the rest of the OJC Shabbat attendees. Unlike our regular service at OJC, we have a shortened P’Sueka D’Zimra and read a triennial torah reading (this was critical to our ability to hold the KHNS service, since historically OJC has not had a large number of congregants who can read torah). We do not have a specific prayer leader, but we sit around in a circle and jointly lead the prayers through participatory davening, seeking to chant out loud in unison the entire portions of most of the prayers with limited silent davening. We have incorporated melodies that range from the traditional Shabbat synagogue melodies, to those of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Kehillat Hadar in NYC, and Shira Hadasha in Jerusalem. We have been very successful in encouraging the participants to read torah and haftorah and give d’var torahs—many of whom have never previously participated in services. We have discussed the possibility of adding a learning session that would be held in the half hour before services begin, and a monthly or periodic Friday night Kabballat Shabbat service. What a shul can learn from OJC’s alternative minyan experience that they can integrated into their service or community?: Through this alternative prayer experience we have attracted some temple members who previously have not attended Shabbat services, and have empowered the attendees to participate in the service, such as read torah; created a different monthly davening experience through participatory singing and davening; and many of the participants have gained a greater familiarity of the siddur and prayers. It has resulted in the creation of a smaller community within our larger synagogue community which has made some of attendees feel more comfortable and willing to participate in the KHNS service. The KHNS service has also strengthened the connection of some of the participants to OJC, and their frequency and comfort in attending our regular weekly Shabbat services. We would hope that this could also evolve into a potential means of outreach to the larger local Jewish community to attract additional members to OJC. Our success in attracting participants has been through personal contact and invitations. You have to anticipate some resistance and the misconception from some congregants that the alternative service intends to be separatist or is detracting from the regular service, and recognize that the “alternative” nature of the service will not connect with many congregants. It is therefore very important that you have the support of the Rabbi and lay leadership, and that you emphasize the positive experience of the participants in the alternative service, and generally articulate the positive aspects of (and not criticize) the regular congregational service.