life in and around NYC is insane

Monday, January 11, 2016


One of the reasons my ancestors, an often-persecuted minority, survived for 2,000 years in the Diaspora, was a sense of community.  Build a community, a support system, not just in your own town, but connected to the next town.   And the next.  And the next.

This need for community is evident even in our prayer rituals.  An observant Jew is commanded to pray three times a day, on weekdays as well as on the Sabbath.  Although most prayers can be recited if you are alone, or with a small group, some key prayers require a minyan, a quorum of 10 adults. 

Which struck home one morning last week.

I belong to a Conservative, egalitarian synagogue.  Women have the same rights and responsibilities as men: we are counted in the minyan.  We are a large, vibrant congregation, one of the few Conservative synagogues in the area to provide both a morning and evening service during the week -- most synagogues will do either morning or evening, but not both.

It's a question of demographics.  Our synagogue has about 600 families.  On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we have as many as 2,000 people in the building.  On a typical   Saturday you might see about 100-150, more if there's a bar mitzvah or other life cycle event.  Our weekday morning service has about 20 - 25  "regulars".

 Unless there is other activity in the building -- a committee meeting, a Sisterhood event -- our evening service is not as well attended.  l can recall more than a few occasions when the Rabbi or the Cantor called me, and I became the 10th adult at a weeknight service.  And how could I forget October 2012, after Hurricane Sandy, how I made it appoint to show up because I was concerned that there wouldn't be a minyan, and we prayed by flashlight because there was no electricity?

I've become a morning "rgular" recently, I go 3-4 times a week to say Kaddish for my father.

So last week, about 14 of our morning "regulars" were out of town.  Even the Cantor was on vacation, smiling at us in the photos posted to his Facebook. 

It didn't prove to be a problem.

Until Friday. 

There were 8 of us in the room.

That's a problem.  While a quorum is usually 10, if you have 9 adults you can "cheat".  You open up the Ark and you count the Torah as the proverbial 10th man.

But there's no cheating if there are 8 people in the room.

You can't say Kaddish without a minyan.

While I can't say it was a waste of time -- time set aside for prayer is never a waste -- it was very, very disappointing.

So we started the service, skipping over those parts that we weren't able to recite...

And then, halfway through the service...the 9th person showed up.


bookworm said...

When I was young, it would have been inconceivable for a woman to be counted in a minyan. I had to look it up - for Conservative Jewry, it was (apparently) 1973 when it was first permitted. Nor could women be rabbis - one of our local congregations has had a woman serving as a rabbi for years. In some ways, our world has changed for the better. Alana

songbird's crazy world said...

How different the world is. My bat mitzvah, i1973, was held on a Friday night, and I did not read Torah. My daughters were expected to do everything a boy would do,and I bought each of them a tallit. But a friend who was raised Orthodox had to come to my synagogue to say Kaddish for her mother.

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