Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Independent minyan gossip column #2

This week's big story comes to us from the colony of Washington DC. (That's right, this is the story from outside the fifty states that we hinted at last time.) I believe Mah Rabu is the first to break this story on the blogosphere. Tikkun Leil Shabbat and DC Reform Chavurah are merging! The new super-havurah will combine Tikkun Leil Shabbat's name, DC Reform Chavurah's space at the Religious Action Center, and both groups' passion for social justice activism and ruach-filled prayer. This is no shotgun marriage; the two minyanim have co-sponsored services in the past, including a combined service the weekend of the Darfur rally that attracted 115 people, beating out Kol Zimrah's 108 that same Friday night (or, more to the point, combining with KZ for a total of 223). In fact, there was so much overlap between DCRC and TLS that they decided that there was no point in having one group of people run two minyanim, inside sources say. The new TLS juggernaut will meet monthly or more, and will alternate between two "aesthetics": (1) musical instruments, sitting in a circle; (2) no instruments, facing east.

Why this is big news:
  • The new TLS combines two (and possibly more) styles of services, in series rather than in parallel. This means that individuals can go only on the weeks that their preferred style is happening, or they can go every time. It sounds like many will opt for the latter. This bimodal distribution will allow each style of prayer to be fully actualized, rather than averaging the two styles for a half-assed "compromise". It also creates an environment for built-in cross-fertilization. The diverse community will be a laboratory for Stage-3 pluralism.
  • The TLS juggernaut, with its increased size and frequency, instantly challenges the hegemony of DC Minyan (which, despite its website's uncanny similarity to the Kehilat Hadar website, isn't fully egalitarian) as flagship minyan of DC's young Jewish transient scene. The appearance of this second duumvir will lead to a healthier DC independent minyan scene all around, as the constellation of minyanim comes to more accurately reflect the Jewish identities of their constituent population.
  • Kol Zimrah has a sister minyan on this continent!
  • Self-identified Reform Jews are finally building up the confidence and social capital to join in the reindeer games of the funky pluralistic post-denominational Jewish world, rather than being the tiny invisible outcast minyan that the rest of Hillel never hears about. Sure, DCRC is dropping the "Reform" from its name so that the combined DCRC/TLS can appeal to people across denominational lines, but through this merger (which happened entirely naturally as a result of the strong connections between TLS and DCRC) the Reform influence will continue to be felt by people from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds, and through this merger the people from specifically Reform backgrounds can experience a broader understanding of what a Reform Jewish community can be.

The news from New York:
  • The Hadar Shavuot Retreat is sold out. In other news, the sun rose this morning, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. It's nice to see the universe following its natural order.
  • The solid and growing Brooklyn delegation to Kol Zimrah has pulled off a benevolent coup. After three years of dedicated trekking to the Upper West Side, this March they invited the whole community to a bonus Brooklyn edition of Kol Zimrah, with assistance from the Park Slope Minyan. It was such a success that the Funk hasn't seen the last of Kings County. This summer, KZ will return to its usual stomping grounds in Riverside Park (hoping to decrease its historical rain-out rate of 36%), but there will also be special Brooklyn Funks in July and August. Which borough is next?
  • Jew It Yourself is going to revolutionize the independent Jewish world when it goes live. But I can't say any more until then.
Keep the tips coming!


  1. Totally irrelevant comment: I'm confused about the use of duumvir. American Heritage tells me it means "a member of a duumvirate." But you're calling the whole DCRC/TLS enterprise a "second duumvir." Is there another duumvirate in DC? I'm almost positive it's just too late and I've been studying grammar for too long and I'm missing something obvious....

    Also, has duumvirate transcended its technical meanings, which aren't precisely applicable to the TLS enterprise? "Triumvirate" seems to have a more expansive technical meaning these days... maybe duumvirate just hasn't caught up:

    du·um·vi·rate n.

    1. Any of various two-man executive boards in the Roman Republic.
    2. A regime or partnership of two persons.

    Vaguely more subtantial question: Why does this mean that KZ has a sister minyan on this continent only now? TLS and DCRC both existed before, and it doesn't sound like they're going to combine styles, so it's not like there's any one minyan that's any more like KZ than there was before.

    Now I stop writing silly comments.

  2. Sorry I wasn't clear. I didn't mean that DCRC and TLS were two members of a duumvirate. I meant that DC Minyan is the first duumvir, and the combined DCRC/TLS is the second, in contrast to the status quo ante, in which DC Minyan was the hegemon.

    Re the second question: As I understand it, all services of the new TLS will be "full liturgy" (they're getting purple siddurim), so the davening style on the instrument/circle weeks will be closer to KZ than to the old DCRC.

  3. Oops... all of the duumvir stuff made me forget what I really came here to say....

    MAZAL TOV to DCRC and TLS! Great news for the Jews! I can't wait to visit.

  4. Want to celebrate with the happy couple? DC Reform Chavurah and Tikkun Leil Shabbat has registered for some gifts that they will need for their new life together: purple siddurim. Want to give one book to support this community?
    Give here:

  5. Self-identified Reform Jews are finally building up the confidence and social capital to join in the reindeer games of the funky pluralistic post-denominational Jewish world

    This is a great point, and one in which I have more than a passing interest. Being, myself, a Reform Jew -- or at least that was how I identified before I found Elat Chayyim & Renewal, and I still belong to, serve on the board of, and lead services at a Reform shul -- I'm always excited when this kind of cross-pollination happens, and when Reform Jews feel comfortable enough with our Jewishness that we can join the greater party.

  6. technical question...

    DCM is not actually egalitarian?

  7. DCM is not actually egalitarian?

    It's symmetric, in that all policies that apply to men also apply (separately) to women. However, these policies still differentiate people by gender. Seating is separate, with no mixed section, and a group of 10 Jewish adults is not counted as a minyan (they require 10 men and 10 women).

  8. BZ-you are correct that the plan is to use a "full" liturgy on insturmental weeks.
    big brother-the DC minyan has a rather unusual approach to seating in that it is seperated by phenotypic sex but does sp without the use of a visual barrier (mechitza). I have felt very checked out the few times i've davened there. i imagine other people feel the same way.
    once you separate the seating by sex or gender you have created most of the problems that exist with mechitzas in terms of conforming to gender and sexual bianaries, but by focusing the space on sex-based definitions without actually separating the spaces a sexually charged space is created.
    this is not to say that sexually charged spaces can't have fantastic energy and lots of good davenen, just that i haven't experienced it that way at DCM. perhaps i should go more, but it just feels like an awkward place to pray.

  9. TLS rocks the house! Wedding registry! I love it!

  10. "by focusing the space on sex-based definitions without actually separating the spaces a sexually charged space is created." (zt)

    unless the crowd is overwhelmingly partnered. (totally changes the dynamic.) or maybe this is more about partnered-ness than any space arrangement.

  11. eako... is that the wsm vibe?

  12. yup. and lots of beautiful babies.