Egalitarian Conservative Minyan Meeting
October 30, 1995 Minutes

23 people were present. We thank you for coming and contributing your opinions, and we are happy that so many people were able to come.

Issues discussed:

1) Birkat Hamazon

It was decided by general consensus to keep the Birkat Hamazon as is. The word "Chaverai" may be added to, but may not replace the word "Rabotai" at the beginning, and later may not replace the other terms in "Birshut Maranan v'Rabanan v'Rabotai". Please see item number one on page one of the summary of the meeting on March 27, 1995 for further detail.

2) Respect

This fell into three categories.
a) Respecting the gabbaim
It should be understood that the gabbaim put effort into asking people to participate in services, and that it is very difficult to get a wide variety of people when there is a small core group who is interested. It is encouraged that everyone participate as much as they feel comfortable and if they would like to learn how to lead a service, chant Torah or Haftorah, they should know that the gabbaim are willing to help. Please see item number two on page two of last year's March summary for further detail. It was encouraged that members of the community not make executive decisions or exercise control over the happenings of the minyan without consulting the gabbaim. Furthermore, it was pointed out that the gabbaim need to consult on a more regular basis before services if something non-standard will be happening during the service which deserves attention before services so as to avoid discussion during services.
b) Respecting Birkat Hamazon/ Prayer
We need to keep in mind that we should be respectful when we bentch or pray.
c) Respecting each other
We need to realize that comments made at the minyan to minyan members do affect the way the minyan feels to many people, and that our actions and words may have negative implications. There are many people who no longer feel comfortable in our community and we need to remedy that by looking at our interactions with others in another light. Rabbi Winick pointed out that all of us are responsible for this and all of us have to deal with the fact that not everyone who could feel at home in our minyan does anymore. It is encouraged that we try to make each other feel more comfortable as a community in whatever way we can.

3) Community issues

a) Lunch
We will try to have Saturday lunch together as a community, no matter in which room we end up, and we shall respect those who are still eating when deciding when to start Birkat Hamazon. Sherman Function Hall will be reserved as much as possible, but it should be realized that Saturday afternoon functions are quite common and we cannot always get that room.
b) Seudah Shlishit/ Havdalah
It was encouraged by a few people that we try new tunes for Havdalah every once in a while and that they be taught during Seudah Shlishit. In addition we should attempt to use the slow tune at the end of Birkat Hamazon more often. Praise was expressed for the improved community feeling at Seudah Shlishit this year, and concern was expressed for the type of songs we sing. We need to remember that Seudah Shlishit falls at the end of Shabbat so many of our tunes will be slow and mellow. On the converse, we need to remember on Friday night that we are starting Shabbat and should not be singing as mellow as we would be on a Saturday night.
c) Speed of davening
Some prayers need to be slowed down and others need to be sped up. The upshot is that whomever is leading needs to realize the needs of the community as much as he/she can, and the community needs to realize that it is very hard for the Shaliach Tzibbur to decide whether he/she is davening too fast or too slow. To this end, it was suggested that the gabbaim quietly inform the leader during the service if a pace change needs to be made. The point was also made that the community should not try to speed up or slow down the leader by singing too loudly and powerfully in their own speed. We need to let the leader set the pace. Lastly, the comment was made that Shir HaMaalot is generally done too quickly.
d) Singing
It was encouraged that the leader lead the community during the service in singing many of the prayers that are singable. Some would like to see more tunes done in Pesuke DeZimra, some would like to see Az Yashir Moshe done more often, and some would like to see a wider variety of tunes used.

Issues discussed and tabled until further discussion:

1) Having a halachic authority help us to make decisions

We debated the merits of having someone either make halachic decisions for us or to help us make decisions. It was pointed out that there is a difference between halachic issues and issues that we can deal with on our own. It was also pointed out that this may not be the most beneficial thing for us unless we can find someone to be with us one or two Shabbatot per semester at the least. It should be understood that though Rabbi Winick is involved with us and cares greatly about our minyan, she does not want this role. It was observed that we may want someone to teach and to be a resource, and that this might be more expensive than someone who is only a resource and does not teach. Other issues of concern were the possibility of getting an alum to do this, the possibility of getting more than one person to fulfill the needs of more than one segment of our diverse community, and going to the Conservative Movement's Law Committee for free advice. Issues of who would pick the advisor, monetary issues, and other related issues will be discussed in another meeting. 13 people voted to have another meeting concerning how to deal with this process. 2 were opposed. 7 abstained.

2) Liturgical changes

It was pointed out that perhaps our policy (see issue 2 on page one of last year's minutes from the March meeting) should change if there is an overwhelming feeling that it needs to be changed, but the policy seemed generally to be accepted by most in attendance. It was pointed out that our Prayer book, Sim Shalom, already makes many liturgical changes, and there was interest in forming a separate meeting to discuss these changes and others that may need to be made depending on interest of the community. It should be noted that the inclusion of Imahot in the Amidah is not the only change which is being considered, but there are no specifics yet as to which changes might be discussed at this separate meeting.

3) Cohen/Levi

Issues to consider: We don't have many active Cohanim and Leviim in our minyan. We are halachically based, and it is halachically acceptable to call Cohanim and Leviim and it is a minority opinion that it is acceptable not to call them for the first and second aliyot. There are active people in our minyan who feel very strongly on both sides. It was proposed after much discussion that we vote to call Cohanim and Leviim to the Torah for the first and second Aliyot respectivelly, giving the Cohanim and Leviim the privelige to choose to accept their honor or not to. 11 were in favor and 11 were opposed, no abstentions. Therefore a movement was made to table the discussion until the next meeting: 15 voted to table it, out of 22 present at the time.

Issues decided:

After considering the concerns of classes in the late afternoon, members of our community wanting more opportunity to say Kaddish in an egalitarian setting, and the concern of being able to get a minyan in the evening, we decided to try a daily weekday maariv set for 6:30 each night (Mon-Thurs), possibly a little earlier on Sundays. We will start this Monday, November 6 at 6:30 pm, somewhere in the Sherman building, exact location to be announced. It was decided to keep morning weekday minyan on Monday and Thursday only (with the exceptions of Rosh Chodesh and holidays) at this time. The concern was expressed that people are having trouble getting up early, and everyone at the meeting was encouraged to come to morning minyan as much as they can.
If you have any questions contact:
Heather Amy Austern '96, or Micah Berman '98
Gabbaim, Brandeis University Egalitarian Conservative Minyan 95-96
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David Rosenthal D.O. was a gabbi of the Brandeis Egal Minyan 1992-1993.


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