The Beth Am Library Minyan

Joe emails: I always wondered why no orthodox shul can come up with a substitute for this type of experience. The Beth Am Library Minyan was at a level of spiritual “truthiness” akin to a Hasidic service – the people who were there (save for one small issue to be noted in a minute) were into it. They wanted to pray, they wanted to learn, they wanted to participate, and you had to buy in to that to be there. There was really no opportunity to stare off into some three month old copy of some Jewish Action magazine, you had to be there.

The one issue is that a lot of single guys and gals were there stalking their mates with an extreme sense of urgency, but that is really not against any torah law that i am aware of, provided you had separate seating in the orthodox version – maybe the orthodox version would have to include some long distance peering.

The obvious modifications would have to be separate seating and no women leadership/participation in the rituals. However, I do not see why there could be some “Carlebach” style singing, a more discussion type torah service led by the laity, and more audience participation as part of such service. The happy minyan is a place for people who do not fit in, not those who are particularly looking for an intellectual feast, and is not appropriate for the task of making people who fit in to other places have a better time.

There is no reason that one designated person should read the entire portion – open that job up in pieces. Each person should have a revolving responsibility to discuss the text.

After there could be a kiddush at which the young singles could canoodle. I just think that most orthodox services are too by rote and boring, and turn off a beginner – think of the difference if someone came in to this minyan and…

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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