This article was first published as “New S.F. minyan embraces idea of ’empowered Judaism'” in JWeekly.
Independent minyans such as the Kitchen and Mission Minyan in San Francisco have a reputation for attracting young, progressive Jews in their 20s and 30s. But middle-age and older adults also are finding their way to these lay-led, Jewish prayer and study communities.
One of the newest is Kehillah San Francisco, a nondenominational, progressive minyan created less than two years ago.
KehillahSF participants meet monthly for a Kabbalat Shabbat service and oneg, observe the High Holy Days together and gather for semimonthly Saturday morning study sessions. They also have set up a social-action group, as well as a shiva group to support those in mourning.
The minyan was founded by a group made up of some members of San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El who were unhappy when 20-year veteran Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan’s contract was not renewed by the congregation in late 2010.
The minyan has seen interest in its model grow and its number of participants increase, including many who are older than is typical in an independent minyan, with children in high school, college and beyond. But expansion is not a primary goal of the budding venture.
“KehillahSF’s interest is quality, not quantity. It’s not necessarily hungry for growth,” explained Wolf-Prusan, one of the minyan’s participants.
Although he is a rabbi, Wolf-Prusan does not lead the minyan. “People who join KehillahSF are interested in strengthening their capacity for creating their own religious life,” he said.
“We are very much inspired by ‘Empowered Judaism,’ ” said Harriet Prensky, referring to a book by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, one of the founders of Kehilat Hadar, an independent minyan in New York.
Prensky, an attorney, helped found KehillahSF and acts as its volunteer coordinator. In fact, everyone involved is a volunteer, as there is no staff. Officially, the group has a minimal board structure to satisfy legal requirements for nonprofit religious organizations, but in practice anyone can step up to suggest an activity or lead a subgroup.
“Ideas percolate up,” said Julie Bannerman, another attorney who has been with KehillahSF since the beginning.
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© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.