Culture, Religion

The The Bronx Minyan?

(Crossposted to Mah Rabu.)
Everyone agrees that there was a wave of independent Jewish prayer communities founded in the 1970s, and another wave founded after 2000, with some but not nearly as many founded in between. And many attempts have been made to draw distinctions between these two waves, but they all fail in one way or another to capture the entire data set, whether it’s the use of the word “minyan” vs. “havurah”, liturgical choices, the way the chairs are set up, or membership vs. no membership.
But I think I’ve come up with a distinction between the two principal waves of independent Jewish communities that is 100% airtight so far (though maybe you know of an exception). There are a number of minyanim, old and new, that are called “[name of city/neighborhood] Minyan”. The test for whether such a minyan is part of the older or the newer generation is whether people use a definite article when using the name of the minyan in sentence.
[UPDATE: To clarify, this hypothesis is intended to apply only to minyanim whose names fit the pattern “[name of city/neighborhood] Minyan”, not to other minyanim.] Compare:

  • “I’m going to the Highland Park Minyan this Shabbat.”
  • “I’m going to DC Minyan this Shabbat.”

More examples:

  • Founded in the 1970s: the Highland Park Minyan, the West Side Minyan, the Newton Centre Minyan
  • Founded after 2000: DC Minyan, Cambridge Minyan, Mission Minyan

(Do you know of further examples that either support or disprove this hypothesis?)
Note that even for the minyanim that usually get a definite article, “the” isn’t part of the name. It’s not an integral article as in “I’m going to a The Newton Centre Minyan event * “. This is just a question of how the name of the minyan (which does not itself contain an article) is treated grammatically, like “Ukraine” vs. “the Ukraine”.
My sources in Highland Park, New Jersey, report that a new independent minyan is in formation there. So I suggested that, in keeping with contemporary trends, they call it “Highland Park Minyan”, to avoid confusion with the Highland Park Minyan.

17 thoughts on “The The Bronx Minyan?

  1. interesting… i think it works in LA, too, for the egal minyanim. There was “the Library Minyan” from the 70s, and there’s “the Shtibl” which was founded by members of that gen (but it might actually be officially Shtibl, at least that’s how the current gen of young Jews refers to it.”
    Then there’s PicoEgal, Valley Ruach and a couple more. There’s an Orthodox minyan frequented by the older generation “the Happy Minyan” and then there’s a younger, more progressive one known as “Ten and Ten”
    Looks like your definite article theory holds water on the west coast too…

  2. hm. got one to disprove the theory. minyan ma’t. does that work? definitely an early generation one. and a recent addition to the scene, the Chai minyan, also on the UWS. but i do think you’re right in most cases…

  3. Not sure what to do with Havurat Shalom, Dorshei Derech, B’nai Or…all Hebrew names in your theory. And Minyan M’at is also hard to classify…

  4. Sorry I wasn’t clear — I meant this hypothesis to apply only to minyanim whose names fit the pattern “[name of city/neighborhood] Minyan”, not to any of the other styles of minyan naming.

  5. BZ,
    It is interesting that you bring up the geographic element. One of the ideas that I think has been ignored by the articles about indy minyanim is the desire by young Jews to root themselves in a particular urban space. In addition to the three minyanim you suggest there is picoegal (that justin mentioned and which the two of us gabbaied at different times) washington sq minyan, minyan merkaz and kol hakfar play on the theme and i am sure others. I wonder if the geographical naming is a way of combating the transitory experience of post-modern extended adolescence. Thoughts?

    1. Oh right, I forgot to include Washington Square Minyan, which also fits the pattern.
      Another explanation for geographical naming (which doesn’t conflict with your explanation) might be that as communication becomes globalized, the minyan namespace also becomes global. So there may be a Temple Beth Israel in every city, but people starting new minyanim (and perhaps new synagogues too) are now more likely to check that the name they want isn’t already in use anywhere, not just in their own city. This sharply limits the available names. However, geographically based names are more likely to be a safe bet, because if a name isn’t in use in your own city, it probably isn’t in use anywhere (unless there’s another city or neighborhood with the same name).

  6. When I was starting a minyan a year ago, those of us building it got to the (very painful) naming stage. This consisted in part of going through our list of candidate names, Googling them, seeing what other minyanim/shuls/communities had the same or very similar names, and deciding whether that was a problem or not. And then, if simply sharing a name wasn’t a problem, we had to look to see if they’d already registered the obvious URL…

  7. I’ve actually heard DC Minyan called “The DC Minyan” pretty frequently, since I became familiar with it back in 2005.

    The first sentence on their website begins, “The Mission Minyan is…” Their FAQ fairly consistently refers to “the mission minyan”
    Of course, thanks to the internet, they can now change it to fit your rule, but it’s not currently the case. Sorry.

    1. Dan-
      Thanks for the correction. I guess I misremembered how I heard people refer to that minyan (I’ve never been there myself). So I guess this distinction fails like all the others.
      On the other hand, I wonder if this particular case is influenced by the fact that the neighborhood is commonly called “the Mission” (like many San Francisco neighborhoods that get definite articles). Maybe it should be parsed as “(the Mission) Minyan”, rather than “the (Mission Minyan)”?

  9. Parsing it as “(The Mission) Minyan” would be reasonably accurate and a good way to keep your rule alive, if barely.
    I should note that Washington Square Minyan uses THE in it’s above the line title and in most of the homepage text.
    Perhaps the real thing is that people of this generation tend to drop “the” in oral conversation even if they include it in written documents. Sadly, not quite as flashy a conclusion.

  10. The pre-cursor to Dorhsei Derekh and Minyan Marsorati was called the Germantown Minyan. I think the the was not part of the name but suspect that it usually accompanied the title. Does that fit with this pattern?

  11. Sara, interesting that you use “the” with Chai minyan; I’ve been hearing it without any definite article. Just last night, my roommate told me he was preparing a d’var Torah for Chai minyan.

  12. When I worked for USCJ in the late 90’s we were supposed to refer it as “The United Synagogue…” with a capital “T” but I’ve heard they have since dropped that standard. Perhaps this reflects a subconscious desire to incorporate the innovations of post-2000 independent minyanim into an association of bricks-and-mortar synagogues? But I think this is a stretch.

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