Global, Identity, Justice, Religion

The choice of a new generation

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports on the National Havurah Committee Summer Institute:

RINDGE, N.H., Aug. 30 (JTA) — When Ben Murane arrived earlier this month at the National Havurah Committee´s Summer Institute, the annual gathering of the country´s independent Jewish prayer communities, he was “surprised to see all the older people here,” he says.
Murane, 23, thought he and his friends at Kol Zimrah, a three-year-old, lay-led minyan on Manhattan´s Upper West Side, were at the forefront of a religious revolution led by young people turned off by the impersonal, hierarchical nature of institutional Judaism.
He had no idea that the white-haired, guitar-playing, anti-establishment grandparents he found himself living and studying with for a week in New Hampshire had done the same thing almost four decades earlier.
“Everyone I´ve met at Kol Zimrah is young,” Murane explains.
But the havurah movement is 38 years old, dating back to the 1968 founding of Havurat Shalom in Somerville, Mass., the first intentionally non-denominational community of Jewishly literate, religiously egalitarian and politically liberal young Jews.
Even as mainstream synagogues began co-opting the havurah model to reinvigorate large, impersonal congregations, a network of independent havurot grew, creating an all-volunteer National Havurah Committee and, in 1979, the first summer institute, where havurah members from across North America gather every year to sing, dance, pray, study and meditate.
This year the movement symbolically turned over the reins to the next generation. [BZ], 26, and Elizabeth Richman, 32, co-chaired the summer institute, the first time it was headed by two young people.

Read the full story! It will appear in your local Jewish newspaper in the coming week.

7 thoughts on “The choice of a new generation

  1. That’s a great photo (not just because I’m in it). Anybody have an inside track on getting a hold of the original high-res version?

  2. I’m so glad this article gives some historical context, but I’m also not surprised that it doesn’t go a step further in acknowledging that most Jews who have been historically disfranchised have HAD to start independent minyanim and that that continues today. And then rarely are funded to meet together to discuss it.
    The article touches on this briefly in particular in talking about people started havurah’s because of feminist principles, but says that young Jews have “moved beyond this” today–this may be true for some who participate, but I doubt for all–i’d love it if you BZ or someone else involved could speak on this…

  3. Feygele, assuming that I know who you are, I’m right behind you in the photo. More specifically, I’m the other Canadian in the photo.
    I’ll bet we can track down the photo. It probably makes more sense to post to the Everett06 list and/or NHC-D than to hope the right people are reading this here.

  4. Here’s the quote about feminism:
    “There´s less fear of halachic practice,” notes Green, adding that the founders of the havurah movement were fighting feminist and pluralist battles that today´s young Jews have moved beyond.
    I don’t think he’s saying that today’s young Jews aren’t feminist anymore; rather the opposite. When the first havurot started in the ’60s, the equality of men and women in religious and communal leadership was still a new and radical idea. (E.g., there were no women rabbis at the time.) Gender egalitarianism was a battle to be fought.
    In the present time, anyone who wants to participate in an egalitarian Jewish community can do so. The existence of this option is taken for granted. To be sure, not all Jewish communities are egalitarian, but no one is forced to be part of those communities, so there can be civil discourse between egalitarian and non-egalitarian communities, now that egalitarian communities are numerous and robust enough that they don’t have to feel threatened.
    Now that this particular battle has been won, this means that today’s young Jews can turn their attention to fighting new battles (including many other feminist battles — feminism’s job certainly isn’t done yet!).

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