Friday, August 10, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - August 10, 2007

It is raining but the trains are still running so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for August 10, 2007:

"Noah Feldman isn't throwing bombs, but he certainly lit a fuse. The Harvard law professor's New York Times Magazine article about his ostracism from his Modern Orthodox yeshiva continues to be a topic wherever observant Jews gather to pray, eat, or blog." Now that is progress! (ASC)
Israel doesn't think Jewish funding from the US is important. Ok fine…no more for you.
Happy Birthday POLJS!

This week we saw a few posts up on different post-hippy Jew blogs about the "Tute." Now I have made my feelings known about the Havaruh InstiTUTE and Indy minyanim well known.

Me first give’me give’me Judaism is not new. It is a product of the 1970s, when the Havaruh movement started the first time. Leaders then said the same thing that leaders now say: we are next generation of the Jewish community. While nice to say, I don't see it. Outside of the fact that when these Havurahot rent space, teach schools and make democratic decisions, (acting the same way as any other type of synagogue) they also get together and share common ideas and goal…you could say it is a movement (like all the other religious movements). So what is so different and revolutionary about you folks?

The argument that is always refuted by the likes of BZ or Trumpet Boy or Kung Fu Dude is that smaller communities can't sustain such movements. I now would will say these indy groups cannot be sustained without a strong acceptance of the mainstream Jewish community. Where else will they meet? Where else will they get funding that they take for granted? Where will they get people to eat their yummy potluck meals than from major cities with self-righteous self-aggrandizing people?

The answer is they will not. In older days yes there were fewer options for people, Jewishly and commercially – to borrow from the argument proposed on Jewschool. But unlike those who find a deeper connection in groups of exactly like-minded people, the folks of yesteryear (and most of the current Jewish community) felt that insulation in small community doesn't help you grow as a person. It isn't about options, it is about what you value more. Having people who have kids and don’t, new members and old, rich and poor, old and young, in a community makes it rich. (This is not to say that synagogues have this everywhere but it is built into the theoretical model, where as it is not in indy minyan. The Indy is a fluid and non-establishment)

Now these are my personal feelings. I don’t wish to tell indy minyaniers they can’t do what they want and I think they should be able to do just that - whatever they want! But it is shortsighted to ignore this kind of the argument.

Shabbat Shalom

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just a note--while some active NHC promoters focus centrally and perhaps a bit dogmatically on INDEPENDENT minyanim and havurot--a large percentage of the participants in the 'tute are actually committed members of synagogues themselves, whether as part of within-synagogue minyanim or as part of the general congregation or as congregational rabbis. So arguments against independent minyanim do not automatically extend to the 'tute itself.

DK said...

The Conservadox Indy-minyans are the worst. Just awful. Nothing like a bunch of snotty, ethnocentric Ivy-league squares in dockers and button downs deciding they're leftists but really don't want to leave their Hillel environment.

Just awful.

Hey, looks like the Reform Movement's education is a complete failure:http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1186557411876&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

Ha ha!

Liberal Jew said...

anon- I don't know from that...All I know is the dogmatic focus.

dk- I decided I am leftist and I have been known to wear dockers and button downs, but I went to a public school so I know what it is to deal with real life problems and the GOOD that comes from Affirmative Action...

Hoping to get a rise out of you

Anonymous said...

my point exactly. don't be criticizing that from which you do not know.

Liberal Jew said...

Well you should do the same Anon...

I am not critical of what it does, or who uses the "tute," I am critical of those who believe it is the answer to all the troubles in the community. It is short-sighted.

Kung Fu Jew 18 said...

Who said independent minyanim are the answers to all of our problems?

BZ said...

POLJ writes:
Me first give’me give’me Judaism is not new.

I'm puzzled by this characterization of havurot. If anything, havurot are the opposite of "give me give me", since they require the active contributions of volunteers in order to sustain themselves. The people you're attacking have put in hundreds of hours of their time toward building their communities, even if you think these hours were wasted. If you want to see "give me give me Judaism", go find the families who join synagogues just long enough for their children to be "bar mitzvahed" and then disappear from Jewish life.

you could say it is a movement (like all the other religious movements).

I think there is some confusion due to the many definitions of the word "movement". Yes, the "havurah movement" is a "movement" in the way that word is generally used outside the Jewish world - e.g. the civil rights movement, the impressionist movement, the Great Awakening, etc. However, it is not a "movement" in the way the word is generally applied to Jewish institutions (e.g. the Reform movement, the Conservative movement) -- there is no organization with which congregations are formally affiliated, there is no official ideology or praxis that constituents even pay lip service to, etc.

The argument that is always refuted by the likes of BZ or Trumpet Boy or Kung Fu Dude is that smaller communities can't sustain such movements.

I never understood what the "argument" was in the first place. I'll ask again: "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?"

And anyway, regardless of what we argue in the blogosphere, independent havurot/minyanim do exist in smaller Jewish communities. This year at the Institute there was a significant contingent from Columbus. Columbus is only the third-largest Jewish c ommunity in Ohio, and has an active independent havurah.

Where else will they meet?

Some independent havurot rent space from Jewish institutions, while others rent space from other organizations (churches, youth hostels, etc.) or meet in their participants' homes. And yes, some minyanim/havurot are part of synagogues.

Where else will they get funding that they take for granted?

The vast majority of independent communities don't receive any outside funding, but fund themselves.

But unlike those who find a deeper connection in groups of exactly like-minded people

You couldn't be more wrong. Yes, people who join a community with a particular davening aesthetic tend to be like-minded about davening aesthetics, but have a range of opinions about just about everything else, and these communities tend to be respectful of this diversity of opinion.

Having people who have kids and don’t, new members and old, rich and poor, old and young, in a community makes it rich. (This is not to say that synagogues have this everywhere but it is built into the theoretical model, where as it is not in indy minyan. The Indy is a fluid and non-establishment)

Why are you giving synagogues a free pass on the differences between ideals and reality, but not independent minyanim? The independent communities I'm familiar with don't say anything one way or the other in their theoretical models about (e.g.) what age their participants are. If they skew to a particular age, it's because people hear about the community by word of mouth. (Some synagogues, on the other hand, structurally exclude people who don't earn above a certain income through their dues structures, though other synagogues have a sliding scale.) As for the NHC Summer Institute, it's the most truly multigenerational Jewish community I've ever seen.

But it is shortsighted to ignore this kind of the argument.

Again, what's your argument, other than that you don't like independent minyanim?

BZ said...

DK writes:
Hey, looks like the Reform Movement's education is a complete failure:

While I can't say I entirely disagree, I don't think this article provides the appropriate evidence. The goal of Jewish education isn't to get Jews to marry other Jews; this has the means and the end reversed.

The evidence that the Reform movement's education is failing is that most self-identified Reform Jews aren't informed enough to exercise informed autonomy about their Jewish practice.

BZ said...

I am critical of those who believe it is the answer to all the troubles in the community.

I'm with Kung Fu Jew here. Can you introduce me to this straw man so that I can talk to him/her directly?