Brookline KICKS!

This is a guest post from Rachel Silverman, 5th year Rabbinical student at JTS, and member of KICKS’ leadership team.
What do you call a new independent minyan that is neither new nor independent? The folks in Brookline, MA have decided to call it KICKS – Kehillath Israel‘s Community Kabbalat Shabbat. It fits few, if any, of the criteria that define the independent minyan movement – Brooklineand yet it is, without a doubt, the place you are going to want to be on Friday nights in Boston – starting March 12.
We can’t claim to be independent because not only are we meeting INSIDE a Conservative synagogue, but we are actually becoming the Kabbalat Shabbat service FOR the synagogue. That’s right. Kehillath Israel has graciously handed over responsibility for their Friday evening service to a group of young, empowered Jewish leaders, straight out of Kehilat Hadar, Kehilat Kedem, and the Washington Square Minyan (all great and vibrant places from which we are regularly inspired and have learned a tremendous amount).
Just as if we were creating a minyan from scratch, the leadership team has been meeting diligently to confront the big questions of how to make this happen. How do we balance quality davening with a sense of inclusivity? How do we create a feeling of community outside of our prayer space? How do we make the chapel a warm and welcoming place to be? Our answers are nothing earth-shattering, but they are the result of thoughtful, careful deliberations which will hopefully produce the right atmosphere for a prayerful experience.
I’ve never been one to predict what is to come, but if I had to take a gander, I’d say this is the wave of the future. The combination of being in a synagogue that feels like an independent minyan is a win-win situation. The synagogue gets active, engaged, passionate, (mostly) young participants through their doors – a group of people who otherwise tend to avoid synagogues at any cost. The minyan-goers get the spiritual, energetic davening and the warm, welcoming, peer community – both of which they’ve been craving. As the minyan participants get older, they have a natural connection to a synagogue for lifecycle events, nursery schools, and movement specific opportunities, such as Israel trips, USY, etc. Put all together, we create a vibrant intergenerational community.
Sure, working within a synagogue structure has its challenges. Changes require buy-in from the existing community and rabbi – and there is only so much change that will, ultimately, be permitted. But that structure also means that we can focus on what we’re good at (amazing davening and creating community), and not get bogged down in questions of things we can’t change (the set up of the room, for example). In our case, KI and Rabbi Hamilton could not be more open to the change that we want to create – and I’m confident that their support is what will ultimately make us successful.
One of the unique features of KICKS is that we have created a davening leadership corps that will meet monthly to cultivate intentional leadership of our tefilah. We will work together to establish goals for our davening, to consider the arc and flow of the service, to think together about tunes that shape the arc, the give and take of leader and kahal, and the use of space, voice and body in shaping davening and inviting the energy of the kahal. It is also our goal to reach out and train new leaders. We look forward to offering sessions to help develop these skills among people who want to learn and join our team.
KICKS is kicking off (yes, pun intended) on March 12. We meet in the Rabb chapel of Congregation Kehillath Israel, 384 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA. Mincha begins at 5:35, Kabbalat Shabbat will be at 5:55, and Ma’ariv will be at 6:30. We will meet weekly, but start times will vary depending on candle-lighting. We’re planning Shabbat dinners, both potluck and home hospitality, for future weeks.
You can join our facebook group here, and sign up for our mailing list (a google group) here. You can also email [email protected] with questions, comments, or your desire to get involved.

16 thoughts on “Brookline KICKS!

  1. I went to a Friday night service at KI a few weeks ago (which wasn’t officially KICKS yet, but was perhaps a trial run, involving many of the people and elements that are making it happen) and I recommend it.

  2. Sounds similar to well-established minyanim like the Library Minyan at Beth Hillel-Beth El (in Wynnewood, PA) or Minyan Mesorti and Dorshei Derech at the Germantown Jewish Centre. All of the above are lay-lead “independent” minyanim hosted by and operating within the auspices of larger synagogues. Members of the minyanim are typically members of the synagogues, and there’s creative and communal growth throughout the wider community.

  3. There are quite a few shuls around the country that have minyans like this; one of the interesting features seem to be that they have a lifecycle – the independent minyans – and this seems to be true for the completely independent ones as well- need to start over every ten years or so as people get married and have children.
    It might be useful for minyans to figure out a way to build this cycle in. I don’t know how one would accomplish that (well, I have some ideas, but too long to go into in the comments section), but it would go a long way towards keeping things vigorous all over.

    1. And if you solve this, then they’ll still have to start over every 50 years or so, or every 100 years. But so what? If we had to ask “What will happen in 10 years?” before we started any new initiatives, then there would never be any new initiatives.

  4. My comments on KICKS could go off in a number of directions (all, I might add, leading to desirable destinations).
    First, your post might have been named “What established synagogues need to learn from independent minyanim.”
    And what are the things they need to learn? Most important is to empower the daveners to decide how they want to daven, rather than making those decisions in a board room populated by balebatim who show up only for the Yamim Noraim and for yahrtzeit.
    Second is to remember that the operative word is minyan, not independent. This phenomenon is not “the enemy,” but it may in fact be “the future.”
    Third is follow the precept that I learned many years ago from my then rabbi (who is still my rabbi although we are at different congregations 1000 miles apart) Don Rossoff, who taught that there should be four elements whenever Jews get together — prayer, study, eating, and schmoozing.
    Finally, though I’d like to try KICKS out if I were in Brookline, I have found a minyan that satisfied most of the above criteria — Kahal — in a (Reform) synagogue in Evanston IL — and as with KICKS, I believe it provides a model other congregations might emulate.

  5. KICKS is different from the other minyanim mentioned in the comment thread, in that it’s not an alternative to the main sanctuary service, but is the Friday night service at KI. And I think that if it weren’t for independent minyanim’s record of success, there is zero chance that a synagogue would relinquish its Friday night service to a group like this. (I say that just to preempt any comments along the lines of “See, it’s possible to do this within an existing synagogue, so there was no reason to start all these independent minyanim.”)

  6. But if it “is” the Kabbalat shabbat minyan, how is it not just the ritual/prayer committee of the shul (or rather a ritual/prayer committee of the shul, seeing as they must have another one covering the other minyanim). This is not a criticism. I think it is great that a shul is interested in young leadership, and is giving them free reign. This is clearly an outgrowth and result of the indy minyan thing, but I’m not sure what makes this a miyan other than the name. That “independent” branding may be important, but its still just branding.

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