Though I am generally a bleeding-heart New Deal liberal when it comes to politics, in matters of religion I am a laissez-faire free-market capitalist. It goes without saying that government and religion should have nothing to do with each other, but I would go further: I believe that religious communities function best when there is healthy competition and entrepreneurship, rather than a nationalized monopoly that wins consumers only because it is the only show in town.
Yes, I realize that in the real economy, monopoly or oligopoly is often the inevitable result of laissez-faire policies, so really I'm talking about the ideal econ-textbook version of a competitive market. And there are conditions that need to be met for that ideal market to be anywhere close to an approximation of reality. For example, in this age of global corporations, small businesses thrive best in major cities or in isolated small towns; everything in between has been taken over by McDonald's and Wal-Mart. Likewise, the independent Jewish scene has been most successful in major cities (with a sufficiently large Jewish population to make a free market possible) and in isolated communities; it is largely untested in areas in between.
In this laissez-faire model of Jewish community, communities have an incentive to be the best they can be, rather than relying on guilt to gain adherents and then wondering why it isn't working.
So that's all by way of introduction. I want to salute the latest Jewish entrepreneurial project in the District of Columbia: Tikkun Leil Shabbat, organized by a group of local activists and co-sponsored by Jews United For Justice. Here is the full flyer.
Tikkun Leil Shabbat is "a summer series of songful, soulful Sabbath services featuring a teaching about a social justice issue and followed by a potluck vegetarian dinner". There are a total of six this summer, starting this past Friday night (June 17) and continuing every fortnight. Each service is in a different style, and each is in a different neighborhood in DC. Most are hosted in homes. Each one features a guest from a social justice organization. (I'm visiting on July 15.)
We wish much success to Tikkun Leil Shabbat, and we can start plotting about how to emulate it elsewhere.