Is "independent" the best descriptor of our minyanim?
There is a current boomlet of new havurot and minyanim. this boomlet it is usually dated to 2002:
The phenomenon started seven years ago with the Shtibl Minyan in Los Angeles, followed closely by Kehilat Hadar on Manhattan's Upper West. Hadar was joined in 2002 by Kol Zimrah and Darkhei Noam in New York and the D.C. Minyan in Washington...Today there are almost a dozen such minyans in New York, a handful in Boston, Washington and Philadelphia, and others in New Jersey, Denver, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Haven.
Many of these minyanim self-label as independent minyanim.
Hadar, for instance, describes itself as an an independent, egalitarian community committed to spirited traditional prayer, study and social action.The first word is independent.
When independent is used as a descriptor it is defining itself in relationship to something else. I suppose it'd be better to say defining on the basis on a non-relationship with something else. What are these minyanim independent of? I think many people presume that independent in this context is a reference to large, powerful jewish institutions, like Movements, JCCs, Synagogues, The Major Donors, etc.
The DC Minyan usually meets in a Jewish Community Center (DCJCC). Kol Zimrah often meets in a synagogue (The SAJ). Tikkun Leil Shabbat is blessed with the use of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism ( The RAC). Hadar, I believe, has often met at a Hillel (Columbia).
It is terrific that these spaces are available. The Jewish community doesn't need any more buildings, and it's great that we can share. When we were talking about things that we were independent from, Synagogues, Movements, Hillels, etc figured prominently. How odd that these four large and significant "independent minyanim" meet (sometimes or usually) in a JCC, a Synagogue, a building run by the largest denomination, and a Hillel.
I am not sure of the various financial arrangements, but in most cases, i imagine, the minyanim are charged for the additional costs to the host institution such as security if they are open later, setup, or cleanup, as appropriate. Though not free, this is a great gift, perhaps even a mutually beneficial arrangement. Minyanim don't foot the sunk costs of the buildings and Synagogues get convenient access to great services and build a relationship with many young folks. The big difference is not in which resources we use, but rather in whether or not we pay Movement dues. We don't. And as a result are not part of these vast and perhaps impersonal Movements. To be fair, we have greater ideological diversity than most large Synagogues as we try to involve a wide variety of folks. But many Synagogues also try to keep a big tent, so i am not sure this makes us distinct.
Even if the main distinction was our non-membership in Movements and non-affiliation with them, "independent" would not be the most precise term because it doesn't focus in on the distinction and is confusing. We could move toward calling ourselves non-denominational (kinda bland), post-denominational (most hostile), or trans-denominational (pretty good). That said, i could easily imagine a situation in which one of these minyanim affiliated with a Movement and still considering them a peer, ally, and network member.
What defines us is not a commitment to Movements (or independence from Movements as it were) but rather a commitment to vibrant egalitarian communities. Egalitarian in the sense that we are all equal as members. We don't have paid professionals to be Jewish for us. We are Jewish together, individually, and collectively. We don't show up to watch other people learn, we show up to study. We don't show up to watch prayer, we show up to pray. We don't show up to hear singing, we show up to sing. What word would better describe that as the nuance around we which we define?
Empowered Minyanim: this is no good because, not only is it snarky, but it also is unbearably self-important which would play into an already abounding negative stereotype.
Egalitarian Minyanim: though technically a good use of the actual definition, this word has become so closely identified with gender-based issues, it would be understood in that light, and though those issues are important, there are many gender-egalitarian communities that aren't egalitarian in other ways we care about, so it's not a good statement of what makes us different.
Fruity Minyanim: some really aren't so fruity, so this isn't ideal. plus, people would confuse us with a network of Queer Shuls.
Young Minyanim: again, this isn't really the principle. there is certainly a strong correlation between young minyanim and our kinda minyanim, but it is not really the distinction.
In short, i am still figuring out if there is a good one adjective answer to the question of how we ought to modify minyanim when we talk about the emerging core. Any ideas?