Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The The Bronx Minyan?

(Crossposted to Jewschool.)
Everyone agrees that there was a wave of independent Jewish prayer communities founded in the 1970s, and another wave founded after 2000, with some but not nearly as many founded in between. And many attempts have been made to draw distinctions between these two waves, but they all fail in one way or another to capture the entire data set, whether it’s the use of the word “minyan” vs. “havurah”, liturgical choices, the way the chairs are set up, or membership vs. no membership.
But I think I’ve come up with a distinction between the two principal waves of independent Jewish communities that is 100% airtight so far (though maybe you know of an exception). There are a number of minyanim, old and new, that are called “[name of city/neighborhood] Minyan”. The test for whether such a minyan is part of the older or the newer generation is whether people use a definite article when using the name of the minyan in a sentence. [UPDATE: To clarify, this hypothesis is intended to apply only to minyanim whose names fit the pattern “[name of city/neighborhood] Minyan”, not to other minyanim.]
  • “I’m going to the Highland Park Minyan this Shabbat.”
  • “I’m going to DC Minyan this Shabbat.”
More examples:
  • Founded in the 1970s: the Highland Park Minyan, the West Side Minyan, the Newton Centre Minyan
  • Founded after 2000: DC Minyan, Cambridge Minyan, Mission Minyan
(Do you know of further examples that either support or disprove this hypothesis?)
Note that even for the minyanim that usually get a definite article, “the” isn’t part of the name. It’s not an integral article as in “I’m going to a The Newton Centre Minyan event * “. This is just a question of how the name of the minyan (which does not itself contain an article) is treated grammatically, like “Ukraine” vs. “the Ukraine”.
My sources in Highland Park, New Jersey, report that a new independent minyan is in formation there. So I suggested that, in keeping with contemporary trends, they call it “Highland Park Minyan”, to avoid confusion with the Highland Park Minyan.


  1. I don't suppose it can disprove your theory if the name is set up in Hebrew syntax-- Minyan Shaleym.

  2. Sorry I wasn't clear -- I meant this hypothesis to apply only to minyanim whose names fit the pattern “[name of city/neighborhood] Minyan”, not to any of the other styles of minyan naming.

  3. That said, "The Havurah" at Beth Hillel in Lower Merion outside of Philadelphia fits your trend, especially when it was once called "The Library Minyan".

  4. I thought the minyan in Highland Park to which you are referring was just called "the minyan" to distinguish it from "the temple".

  5. The fact that people don't use a Homestar-style mandatory article does not, of course, actually demonstrate there's no "The" in the name. "The"-deletion is standard when a proper noun is used adjectivally:

    "My favorite Cure album is Disintegration."

    "Yet another New York Times scandal?"

    "200th Simpsons episode!"

  6. The Washington Square Minyan