Saving our Minyan: Recommitting to Daily Prayer as a Community
I grew up in rural Tennessee where religion is a cultural and societal force. Part of the “culture” of the South in many places, even today, are large black billboards with messages from God in stark white writing upon them—pithy, charming statements like “Sin: it seemed like a good idea at the time” or “Don’t miss life’s best. Find God” or “Hell…I’d never thought of that”. While some of these resonate far less for me than others, one of the billboards that always struck me as authentic and true, regardless of one’s faith is “the family that prays together, stays together.”
While the billboard speaks to families, I believe it is also true of communities. “A community that prays together, stays together”. Over the past five years we have explored a whole host of ways to bolster our community in its devotion to prayer and the act of praying together with family and fellow community members. The results of our efforts are readily apparent in our Netivot Haneshamah programs on Shabbat morning, as well as the opportunities we provide for families to pray together on Shabbat, Sunday mornings, and throughout the High Holidays. Many of these initiatives have grown and developed over time. I am sure they will continue to do so.
However, prayer is not something that we as a community can sequester to Shabbat and the High Holidays. If a community strives to be a fully realized kehillah kedoshah, then prayer must be not only a daily part of the personal and family lives of its members but also a part of its daily communal life.
We are blessed to be the only non-Orthodox congregation in the South Bay to have daily prayer. Each day, our community provides an opportunity for prayer, meditation, mindfulness, and communal connection for members and non-members. It also provides a space for mourners to say kaddish and be supported in their grief process. In fact, our daily minyan was initially established by Sandy Mayer z’’l in memory of Rabbi Pressman’s wife, Beverly Pressman z’’l so that members of the Pressman family and all those in mourning would have a prayer service to attend. Many congregants have expressed how meaningful daily minyan was during their time of mourning. Some have paid the mitzvah forward by attending regularly even after their period of mourning has ended, ensuring others in our community will be able to receive the same support.
Over the years, our minyan has faced moments of struggle. Today, we find it in trouble, once again. Regularly our numbers come up short and calls must be made to ask people to drive over to CBD to help make a minyan. Sometimes these efforts also end in vain. As a congregation of well over 500 membership units, it reflects negatively on us all when we cannot form a minyan for those seeking a place to pray in community and those mourning the loss of loved ones. In fact, over the last year there have been a number of minyan regulars who have wondered whether we should stop holding daily minyan. This would be a tremendous, grievous loss for us all.
The good news is that gentle reminders like this one have been efficacious, but it requires you taking an action item. I am not asking you to come every evening or even once a week. If you commit to one minyan a month ( a 20 minute commitment plus commute time) we will resolve our minyan woes. It is a modest request that will bring you a sense of fulfillment in doing a mitzvah for yourself and others.
We have reached a time when it is necessary for each of us to make a commitment and take to heart God’s words: “A community that prays together, stays together”. Please commit to minyan! Sunday at 9:30am, Mondays through Thursdays at 7pm, and Fridays at 6:30 for an hour-long kabbalat Shabbat service.