Friday, September 08, 2006

The choice of a new generation

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports on the National Havurah Committee Summer Institute:

RINDGE, N.H., Aug. 30 (JTA) -- When Ben Murane arrived earlier this month at the National Havurah Committee´s Summer Institute, the annual gathering of the country´s independent Jewish prayer communities, he was "surprised to see all the older people here," he says.

Murane, 23, thought he and his friends at Kol Zimrah, a three-year-old, lay-led minyan on Manhattan´s Upper West Side, were at the forefront of a religious revolution led by young people turned off by the impersonal, hierarchical nature of institutional Judaism.

He had no idea that the white-haired, guitar-playing, anti-establishment grandparents he found himself living and studying with for a week in New Hampshire had done the same thing almost four decades earlier.

"Everyone I´ve met at Kol Zimrah is young," Murane explains.

But the havurah movement is 38 years old, dating back to the 1968 founding of Havurat Shalom in Somerville, Mass., the first intentionally non-denominational community of Jewishly literate, religiously egalitarian and politically liberal young Jews.

Even as mainstream synagogues began co-opting the havurah model to reinvigorate large, impersonal congregations, a network of independent havurot grew, creating an all-volunteer National Havurah Committee and, in 1979, the first summer institute, where havurah members from across North America gather every year to sing, dance, pray, study and meditate.

This year the movement symbolically turned over the reins to the next generation. [BZ], 26, and Elizabeth Richman, 32, co-chaired the summer institute, the first time it was headed by two young people.

Read the full story! It will appear in your local Jewish newspaper in the coming week.

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