Once at odds, the two groups now seen reinforcing each other.
Special To The Jewish Week
His students have left, and Steven Exler is taking a moment to reflect. He’s just finished his session, presented to representatives of independent prayer minyanim, on how to comfort mourners. It’s a pastoral role that Exler, associate rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, has performed countless times.
Now, he wonders what’s next.
“There’s sort of a moment of fear,” said Exler, 29. “Am I teaching people to make myself obsolete? I struggle with that question.”
I found the article by, and Gary Rosenblatt’s interview of, Elie Kaunfer to be very interesting (April 2). I agreed with a number of Kaunfer’s points but disagree with his de-emphasis on Jewish experiences. In fact, the success of Chabad around the world is an example of meaningful Jewish experience being an important gateway to learning.
A young woman looks at me from her hospital bed and confesses that grappling with her illness has helped her understand what her bat mitzvah Torah portion — which concerned isolating people with certain afflictions from their community and welcoming them back in once health was restored — was really all about.
I have enormous respect for what Rabbi Elie Kaunfer and his partners have been accomplishing in engaging Jews — especially those of a younger generation — more substantively in Jewish study and worship. The excerpts from his new book “Empowered Judaism” published in the April 9 edition (“The Real Crisis In American Judaism”) give readers an excellent sense of the enormous good that is being achieved at Mechon Hadar and at independent minyanim throughout the country. I have ample reason to be proud of these things.
Elie Kaunfer’s new book, “Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us About Building Vibrant Jewish Communities” (Jewish Lights Publishing) is being described as a manifesto for independent minyanim, which have been flourishing and attracting increased attention in recent years.
The product of a Modern Orthodox home and a longtime resident of Boston, Yehuda Kurtzer reached an important spiritual decision while he was living in Washington, D.C., for a while three years ago. He and his wife, Stephanie Ives, had become active in the D.C. Minyan, an independent prayer group that meets in the capital’s Dupont Circle area, and wanted to start a similar minyan when he moved back to Boston with her for graduate school.
“We knew we had to have something like this in Boston,” Kurtzer says.
Today they do.
Tamara Charm had a watershed experience when she chanted the Torah portion at Yom Kippur services last year at Drisha, the women's Torah learning academy, for a congregation of both women and men.
"It was incredible to daven in a way which conformed to traditional halacha but felt like the women's section was participating as well as the men's," said Charm, 29. "It was very spiritual."