May 27, 2024
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May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Breaking something can be good or bad. It usually is good to break a sweat or a fast but it normally is bad to break a promise or a heart. It typically is good to break bread, break ground or even break dance but some people who would rather… break away.

In today’s Jewish world, the concept of “breaking away” describes what happens when certain congregants at a particular synagogue decide to create their own minyan under the same or a different roof. Such minyans are unofficially known as “breakaway minyans” and often are part of the normal evolution of a growing congregation and arguably reflect a synagogue’s vibrancy and vitality. In other words, if there are enough folks who can break away to form their own minyan without destroying or materially disturbing the minyan from which they broke away, then the synagogue as a whole likely is doing quite well. In that case, breaking away is more about breaking free.

That said, in some instances a breakaway minyan can reflect division, tension and conflict within a given congregation. However, that too can be part of the natural cycle of synagogue membership and growth. Thus, a breakaway minyan is not necessarily a break-up or a breakdown and, in fact, it ultimately can be a breakthrough. As long as congregants find their niche without ruining someone else’s nook, everyone can find their nirvana.

With that understanding, it is fair to say that breakaway minyans can lead to some relatively unexpected and peculiar gatherings and groupings. Take these hypothetical breakaway minyans for example:

  1. The Anti-Announcement Minyan: Ironically, every shabbos they make an announcement that the minyan strictly prohibits announcements of any kind.
  2. The No Talking Minyan: Other than saying “Good Shabbos” or “Amen,” all oral communication is verboten. They even frown upon sign language, catcher-to-pitcher hand signals and airport runway hand gestures. So, it’s really more of a “No Communication” minyan and thus perfect for those who generally have nothing to say.
  3. The Kiddush Minyan: If heartfelt davening is the “Number 1” goal, then a hearty kiddush is goal 1.A. It features some of the fastest davening you’ll ever see yet kiddush lasts an eternity.
  4. The Old-Timers Minyan: No toddlers. No adolescents. No teens. Even young adults are banned. In fact, if you are not retired and have not been to the doctor’s office recently, you are not welcome.
  5. The Sweet-Tooth Minyan: Features overly generous candy-givers at every other pew, all of whom are dentists with ulterior motives and self-serving interests.
  6. The Ruach Minyan: Everything, including the rabbi’s sermon, gets turned into a boisterous, never-ending song. If you do not leave the Ruach minyan sweaty and hoarse, then you didn’t do it right.
  7. The Learner’s Minyan: For learning how to discretely talk to your neighbor without getting caught.
  8. The No-Chazzan/Drinking Minyan: Cantors are not welcome but, at kiddush, decanters are.
  9. The Vicarious Minyan: They all sleep in and daven vicariously through others.
  10. The Construction Minyan: It’s supposed to be a temporary minyan in a temporary location while the main minyan is under construction but it unexpectedly turns into a permanent minyan in a permanent location that calls into question the necessity and wisdom of the construction.
  11. The Chutzpah Minyan: Very large and unreasonable demands coupled with very small and unimpressive financial contributions.
  12. The Lazy Minyan: Offers every participant a personal assistant to hold your siddur and turn the pages. For an extra fee, they also will say “Amen” for you.
  13. The “I Should Have Made Aliyah” Minyan: Sandals required.
  14. The “Hi” Holiday Minyan: For the socially-focused who show up to shul on chagim just to say “hi.”
  15. The Vilde Chaya Minyan: Adults would be wise to wear ear-plugs, helmets and shin guards.
  16. The Kvetching Minyan: Constant stream of whiny complaints like “Is Hagbah really necessary? The Torah is so heavy!” or “I haven’t had an aliyah in two weeks and I paid my membership dues in full!!!”
  17. The Late Minyan: For those who are severely allergic to punctuality.
  18. The Mardi Gras Minyan: Instead of throwing candy, they throw beaded necklaces at the bar mitzvah boy.
  19. The Chelm Minyan: Instead of reading the Haf-Torah, they read half of the Torah.
  20. The Rabbis Minyan: All participants must have s’micha and a sure-fire sermon ready for any occasion.
  21. The Cantors Minyan: Perfect pitch preferred and if you can’t carry a tune, you can’t be in the room.

Final thought: It takes only ten to make a minyan and only one to break it.

By Jon Kranz


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