Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Why They’re Right

The responses filed on Jewschool more or less sum up why there are flaws in BZ’s argument against the argument against Independent Jewish Minyanim. But there are a few flaws that warrant further exploration.

One: How does one pay for religious school for children?

BZ argues that most of the Indie Jews are “committed;” either recently or for many years. I will not deny that fact as an active Reform Jew who takes part in many synagogue functions, I sometimes feel as if the rabbi and I are the only folks that get the Parasha Ha’Shavoah jokes that are made…but that might have to do with me having a bad sense of humor.

But who will teach Ploni and Plonit’s children? They have chosen different professions to support their family and will therefore need to teach their children something about their “committed” religious views. But if they leave it up to those who simply get together for holidays and shabbatot, then we are in trouble. We will have educated parents and deficient children. This is a question I have never heard addressed by those defending Indie Jewish movements.

Two: Can the Minyanim work with the organizations?

Yes but that would make it less fun and hipster. Brooklyn Jews and Rabbi Bachman figured it out.

Three: What about the middle of no-where Jewish Communities?

I have yet to hear anyone tell me of an Indie Jewish community in Alabama or Utah or Alaska

Four: How does change take place in the Indie Jewish community?

I would say the same way they do in other orginizations, by the will of the dedicated and the vote of the majority. So in the same way that Ploni and Plonit left Rodef Kesef (that is just rude BZ) because they didn’t like something and couldn’t get it changed, other will leave Indie Minyans.

I don’t see people doing it now, but there will be a time and they will fight over members. There will be a minyan one goes to and one that one wouldn’t be caught dead in.

But the major difference is that these minyanim will not reach-out to the unaffiliated (like really unaffiliated not just those described by BZ) and they will not try to make accommodations for change, because they see themselves as the needed change.

So overall the arguments presented by BZ are not new, just as Indie Jewish Communities and Orgs are not new. But the problem over all is that these groups are not thinking long term and if they did, they would need to affiliate with the issues they hate. I am not against Indie Jewish communities per say, just the idea that they are different from anything going one today.

3 comments:

BZ said...

The responses filed on Jewschool more or less sum up why there are flaws in BZ’s argument against the argument against Independent Jewish Minyanim.

Actually, the responses on Jewschool don't really address the content of my post, but bring up unrelated points about independent minyanim, as does your post.

The target of my post (and the "they" in my subject line) was a specific set of claims that are sometimes made about independent minyanim. Neither you nor the other commenters on Jewschool have defended those specific claims, and therefore the "they" in your subject line doesn't make sense.

And I think you're arguing with a straw man. You seem to be under the impression that I'm saying that all synagogues should be shut down and all Jews should go to independent minyanim. I'm making no such suggestion. All I'm saying is that there is a set of people for whom synagogues don't work, and independent minyanim provide a positive way that these people can be part of a Jewish community. It goes without saying that there is another set of people who are happy with synagogues, and that's great, I'm not interfering with them.

Now IF independent minyanim were having a negative effect on other Jewish communities, then that would be a valid criticism of independent minyanim. And this is the claim that I addressed in my post.

But if independent minyanim are not sufficiently serving their own constituents, then that's a cost-benefit analysis that each individual has to make for him/herself. If someone concludes that the net benefits of joining a synagogue are greater than the net benefits of being part of an independent minyan, then s/he can join a synagogue. The continued existence of independent minyanim proves that some people have come to the opposite conclusion for themselves.

One: How does one pay for religious school for children?

So I think this falls into that category. This is one of many factors that can go into a cost-benefit analysis in choosing a Jewish community (or no Jewish community), and this analysis can result in different outcomes depending on the situation. For adults who don't have children, it's not even a factor.

This is a question I have never heard addressed by those defending Indie Jewish movements.

We talk about it all the time when we're sitting around thinking about what our lives will look like in the future. The reason it doesn't come up in these arguments is because it doesn't need "defending" -- it's an internal issue.

Two: Can the Minyanim work with the organizations?

Of course they can, and they do!

Three: What about the middle of no-where Jewish Communities?

I have yet to hear anyone tell me of an Indie Jewish community in Alabama or Utah or Alaska


Alabama: I don't know its current status, but as of a few years ago, there was a havurah in Birmingham.

Utah: Minyan Netivot is a lay-led minyan that meets in members' homes.

Alaska: Ok, you got me! Now that I've been shown the error of my ways, I'm going to meet with the rest of the Kol Zimrah board and recommend that we shut down operations immediately, and I'm filling out a membership application for the local synagogue.

Ok, but seriously. While there are independent minyanim in all kinds of places, you're correct that they are more common in cities with large Jewish populations. But SO WHAT? Why should the absence of an independent minyan in Alaska prevent me from starting one in New York? How am I harming the Jews of Alaska by participating in an independent minyan in New York, and how would I be helping them by shutting the New York independent minyanim down?

(OOC, where do you live? If you don't want to name the locality, can you say a region of the country, or large city / small city / suburb / rural?)

Four: How does change take place in the Indie Jewish community?

I would say the same way they do in other orginizations, by the will of the dedicated and the vote of the majority. So in the same way that Ploni and Plonit left Rodef Kesef (that is just rude BZ) because they didn’t like something and couldn’t get it changed, other will leave Indie Minyans.


Ok, fine! But no one has a problem with that -- independent minyan founders aren't trying to please everyone, and aren't trying to build institutions that will last forever.

So overall the arguments presented by BZ are not new, just as Indie Jewish Communities and Orgs are not new.

I'm on the board of the National Havurah Committee, along with people who have been involved in havurot for 30+ years, so I'm about the last person to claim that independent Jewish communities are new. Today's new independent communities are different from the ones in the '70s in certain key ways, but the concept isn't new. Just as these communities played an important role in the '70s, they play an important role today.

Liberal Jew said...

BZ-

Fair enough and now these answers have been given and I will not ask them any more.

To be fair I will say I was half expecting you (one of "Them") to ignore me.

I do not believe the Indie movements are bad for the Jewish community, just not what a complete community is about.

I am live in New York. Work in New York and Pray and Do Jewish in New York.

I have not been to KZ, but I am willing to come. (not as POLJ, but as me...)

Thank you for answering my questions even if they were just as rude as my questions.

BZ said...

And here we're in agreement - the independent minyanim are not trying to be the entirety of Jewish life for their constituents, but represent a more a la carte approach to Jewish life. For example, Kol Zimrah as an organization isn't doing anything to address the situation in Darfur, but in addition to participating in Kol Zimrah, I (and I'm sure many others) am also contributing to AJWS, which is doing a better job at what it does than any minyan (or synagogue) ever could.

Glad to hear you're willing to check out KZ - we'd love to see you there. We're meeting next in Manhattan on Feb 23 and Mar 16, and in Brooklyn on Mar 2.