2010 Minyan Conference

On April 25 2010, Mechon Hadar held the public portion of its third independent minyan conference, a unique event which brought together the shared wisdom of independent minyan leaders, clergy, volunteers, and Jewish communal professionals dedicated to building vibrant Jewish communities.


Empowered Judaism: How to Build Vibrant Jewish Communities
Practical skills workshops with leaders from independent minyanim, synagogues and Jewish organizations


When: Sunday April 25, 2010, 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Location: Central Synagogue, 123 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022


11am – 12pm: Sessions

Prayer with a Purpose: Clarifying and Communicating Your Minyan's Vision

Shawn Landres, Jewish Jumpstart (Los Angeles, CA)
What is your minyan's vision for itself and the world around it? Does your minyan have a mission? This session will offer a hands-on opportunity to reflect on and clarify your community's purpose.


Keeping our Torahs Kosher

Jen Taylor Friedman
How we can use basic techniques and the Internet to keep our sifrei Torah kosher. Take-away techniques and a vision for the future


Sweet Singers of Zion: Training Effective Prayer Leaders

Elizabeth Sacks, Central Synagogue (New York, NY)
How can we train those in our community to become and grow into effective prayer leaders? We will explore how to help sh'lichei tzibbur have a better understanding of themselves as a prayer leaders, gain skills for leading any service, and ultimately create a meaningful prayer environment for themselves and the kehilah.


Bikkur Cholim: How to Visit the Sick

Mimi Lewis and Avi Strausberg, Mechon Hadar (New York, NY)
In this session, we will share experiences and address some of the issues that come up when visiting the sick. Who are the "cholim"? What role does Judaism or prayer play in these visits? How do you approach one who is sick? 


Expecting the Unexpected: Gabbaing on the Fly

Ethan Tucker, Mechon Hadar (New York, NY)
What happens when you discover that the Sefer Torah  is invalid in the middle of an aliyah?  How about when your 10th person walks out in the middle of kaddish?  We will examine these questions and others (including your own) as we attempt to perfect the art of smooth gabbaing in even the most unexpected circumstances.


Minyanim and the Law - Not from Sinai

Marcia Eisenberg, Esq.
We will cover some basic incorporation procedures, governance issues and IRS information which is specific to religious corporations.


Mara d'Atra? Considering the Role of a Posek in an Empowered Community

Micha'el Rosenberg, Ft. Tryon Jewish Center (New York, NY)
Classically, one of the main roles a rabbi would play in a Jewish community was answering questions and resolving disputes about Jewish law. But if our goal is to empower Jews, then the image of an authority-figure who answers the questions of a community and acts as the ultimate authority in determining the ritual practice of the community is, to say the least, out of step. What then, if anything, is the role of rabbis, poskim, and scholars in Empowered Jewish communities? How should the interplay between individuals, communal leadership, and rabbinic/halakhic/scholarly authority look in an Empowered community?


Pedagogy and Minyanim

Amanda Pogany, Mechon Hadar (New York, NY) and Altshul (Brooklyn, NY)
This session will focus on hands-on, easy to apply, basic pedagogic concepts.  This session is useful if you teach a shiur once in a while, or everyday! Topics will include:  planning a shiur, creating a source sheet, time management, setting goals, etc.


12pm – 12:30pm: Brunch/Welcome to additional participants


12:45pm – 2:00pm: Practical skills workshop 1 (8 options)

Creating Meaningful Tefilot In Suburban USA: One Model - Room 601

David Schuck, Pelham Jewish Center (Pelham Manor, NY)
This session will explore the process through which a suburban synagogue is working to transform the synagogue Shabbat experience into a meaningful prayer and study experience.  The session will explore both the visionary aspects of the process as well as the practical strategic thinking involved.


Joey Weisenberg's Spontaneous Jewish Choir; Bringing a Melody to Life - Room 602

Joey Weisenberg, Mechon Hadar (New York, NY)
In this class, we will focus on learning one old Jewish melody, studying its musical mechanics, and bringing that melody to life collectively with beautiful harmony and rhythm.


Multiple Minyanim in a Shul: How Can It Work Well? - Room 603

Jeremy Kalmanofsky, Ansche Chesed (New York, NY)
In this session we will explore the complex issue of hosting multiple minyanim in one synagogue community. How do multiple davening options affect a community spirit, for better and worse? What can the role of the rabbi be in fostering this atmosphere? What are some predictable pitfalls of this arrangement and how can they be best avoided? How could this serve as a potential model for cooperation among minyanim and synagogues nationwide? We will explore some of the practical lessons from Congregation Ansche Chesed, an established synagogue with decades of experience with multiple minyanim.


Space and Sound in Davening - Room 501

Ezra Weinberg and Shira Wallach, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun (New York, NY)
Join us for a conversation on how to best utilize space and sound to create an environment conducive to prayer. In our exploration, we will use a "sound bath" activity, study excerpts from Rambam's Mishneh Torah, and sing together.


Demystifying Fundraising: Starting from the Grassroots - Room 604

Lani Santo, American Jewish World Service and Altshul (Brooklyn, NY)
Participants will explore the concept of grassroots fundraising, gain confidence in their ability to engage in grassroots fundraising, and understand why this is an important part of strengthening an independent minyan. 


The Foundations of Social Media: Tools, Skills and Mindsets for Success Online - Room 902

Lisa Colton, Darim Online and Charlottesville Minyan (Charlottesville, VA)
As Clay Shirky writes in his famous book Here Comes Everybody, the age of social media means “organizations no longer have a monopoly on organizing.”  Today’s tools are cheap (if not free) and amazingly useful for organizing our community, delegating administrative tasks, and helping us achieve our goals.  Come learn the wisdom of the social media revolution, how you can put it to work for your needs, and what’s working well for other minyanim.  Come to share your work, get your questions answered, and walk away with a toolbox full of goodies.


Minyan Decision Making: Balancing Rules and Rigidity, Informality and Anarchy - Room 503

Stefan Gottschalk, Tikkun Leil Shabbat (Washington, DC)
Let's have a realistic discussion of the different approaches a minyan can take to decision making.   We can share stories and views about choosing decision making processes; communicating, documenting and delegating; dealing with disputes; and how to suggest and implement changes to decision making processes. 


Shabbat Together: Creating Excellent Family Services – Room 504

Beth Kalisch, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue (New York, NY)
Join us as we think through new approaches to family services. Using the model of "Shabbat Together" at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, we will explore a number of options and possibilities.


2:15pm – 3:30pm: Practical skills workshop 2 (8 options)

Starting With A Blank Slate: Creating Your Educational Program From Scratch - Room 902

Lisa Colton, Darim Online and Charlottesville Minyan (Charlottesville, VA); Pam Edelman, Zamru (Princeton, NJ)
Minyanim are in a unique position of being able to create an educational program for children and families that embodies their communal values, and is designed to serve the needs of modern families. Join us to learn from the experience of two communities who have done this, and to discuss the opportunities, challenges and guiding principles that can help minyanim and other Jewish educators design successful models for our communities. Bring your questions, case studies, ideas and an open mind.


Let the Sound Resound - Room 501

Miriam Margles, Danforth Jewish Circle (Toronto, ON)
This is a workshop in sound, song and silence, voice and vibration.  The session will combine exercises that open your voice, attune your ears, deepen your breath and stir your joy, while learning original liturgical melodies by Miriam Margles (you might know her three-part composition of Ilu Finu).  This workshop is equally for those who are comfortable singers as well as those who feel vocally challenged.    


Building Singing Communities - Room 602

Joey Weisenberg, Mechon Hadar (New York, NY)
As a followup to the Spontaneous Jewish Choir class, this class will focus on strategies for developing singing and music in your communities, and how to take the greatest advantage of the musical potential that's already present. 


L'chu N'ran'nah: Making the Most of a Bentcher - Room 601

Barry Walfish, National Havurah Committee; Miriam-Simma Walfish, Mechon Hadar (New York, NY)
Come join us as we introduce a brand new bencher, Lchu N'ran'nah.  Together we will see how a bentcher can be not only a repository of blessings and songs but also a dynamic educational tool. We will do an in-depth study of one zemirah, looking at the author's sources and use of language and thus come to appreciate how the authors used the zemirot to articulate fundamental teachings about the nature and meaning of Shabbat.


Expanding "Egalitarian:" Making Minyanim More Accessible - Room 504

Miriam Steinberg-Egeth, Minyan Tikvah (Philadelphia, PA)
In this workshop, participants will explore the differing needs of their participants and how to make davening and other minyan activities comfortable to people from a variety of backgrounds.  Bring a particular story from your minyan or an issue you'd like to discuss, or just come prepared to brainstorm strategies for making all of our communities more welcoming.


Supporting the Mourner: A Guide to "Being There" for Community Members Suffering a Loss - Room 603

Steven Exler, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (Bronx, NY)
This session will discuss the critical role the community plays in mourning and offer guidance on how to be there in the right ways for others in mourning.  Topics include presence at funeral and burial, visiting during shiva, the year of mourning.  Text study, roleplays, and discussion.


Empowering an Existing Community:  Early Lessons on (In)(ter)Dependence between KICKS and Congregation Kehillath Israel - Room 503

Jacob Cytryn and Rachel Silverman, KICKS (Brooklin, MA)
How can existing synagogues and those considering starting a "new" prayer community work together?  Less than two months ago, Congregation Kehilath Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Brookline, MA, welcomed KICKS (Kehillath Israel Community Kabbalat Shabbat) as its regular Friday night davening.  The experiment, though in its earliest stages, has reenergized the synagogue in a new way and captivated the excitement of different demographic sections of the local community.  Though in its earliest stages, the KICKS experiment is promising, and this session will provide a forum for learning together from both opportunities seized and mistakes made.  We will workshop challenges and strategies from the perspectives of synagogue professionals, synagogue lay leaders, prospective independent minyan founders, and participants in both settings.


Hilchot Pluralism:  Theory and Practice of Pluralistic Jewish Communities

Ben Dreyfus, Segulah (Washington, DC/Silver Spring, MD) - Room 604
Every community has some areas on which it takes a firm stand, and other issues on which it seeks to be pluralistic, accommodating multiple practices and identities.  What does it mean to be pluralistic, and how do we implement this in our communities?  We will explore the theory of Jewish pluralism, and share pluralistic practices developed in our communities.


3:30pm - 4:00pm: Closing with Shai Held, Mechon Hadar