The Healthy Growth of Our Minyan

March 4, 2014
By bethmordecai
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The Healthy Growth of Our Minyan

Bulletin Article

March 2014

The Healthy Growth of Our Minyan

A few months after my first High Holidays at Beth Mordecai in 2012, I was sitting with our (now) President Norman Silverstein to talk about what was happening in the synagogue. The meeting occurred in the middle of the week after another failure to make a minyan[1] on Saturday morning. As we talked about some of our successes like the Pep Rally, Shabbat by the Sea, the High Holidays, and the Installation, Norman also made a critical point about our minyan. He said that the health of our community is only as strong as our weekly minyan because that’s where we spend the most amount of time together. At the time, I was hesitant to agree. I’ve seen many independent minyanim in New York and Israel thrive on a once a month basis and how some of these minyanim struggled when they went to a weekly schedule because of the added time commitment. Could we get people in our community to make that much of a regular commitment? Or should the health of our community be based on the success of our special services and unique events that entice people to come on a less intense schedule?

Fast forward almost 15 months and I still believe that special services and unique events (like our upcoming Homecoming Weekend on March 14-16) do more to bring our community together than regular minyanim. Yet, as I’ve seen the weekly ebb and flow of our community through the prism of our weekly Shabbat minyanim, I’ve also realized that Norman was right: the health of our community is dependent upon the success of our weekly minyanim, and I’m happy to report that nearly 15 months since that conversation, our minyan’s growth[2] is healthy.

Because of the size of our community, I’ve been able to get a good handle on how often we get a minyan and who comes on Friday night and Saturday morning. Around the time of my conversation with Norman, and continuing for a good half of my first year, I would estimate that we managed to get a minyan nearly 50-70% of the time. Fridays were generally our strongest minyan, though sometimes we did not hit the required 10 people, and we often struggled with Saturday mornings even though there was always a delicious Kiddush lunch to follow!

Yet, this is no longer the case. Using some hard data I’ve collected since last May, I am pleased to let you know that over the last two and a half months, we have achieved a minyan in 13 of our 14 regular minyanim on both Fridays and Saturdays (93% success rate) and we have averaged just over 14 people per minyan![3] Clearly this is a change from those early days when we were struggling to get 10 for a minyan, and it’s even a change from June 2013 till these past High Holidays when we only achieved a minyan 56% of the time. What’s even more impressive is that when it comes to attendance, 4 out of the top 10 minyanim over the past two years have occurred during these past two and a half months (two of which numbered in the 20s). And if we exclude the special weekday minyanim we arranged for shiva or for yahrtzeit, then the number jumps from 4 to 7 out of the top 10 minyanim for attendance.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room to grow. Only a handful of our members attend both Friday and Saturday services together on a regular basis (and two of them live in my home!). This has two effects – the first is that it puts an extra burden on all of the regulars who attend at least once a month to attend frequently to make sure we have a minyan. If we use the special Shabbat by the Sea service in August as a benchmark[4] for the number of people we could draw to services, 21 of the 54 attendees come on a regular basis of at least once a month. As such, you can see that if we need around 20 people per weekend to make sure we have a minyan for both Friday and Saturday, there isn’t a lot of room to spare. So while we’re not expecting everyone to come every week, we believe that if more people who come only on occasion will become a regular attendee, our minyanim will be healthier and our communal bonds will be tighter.

This leads to the second effect of not having much crossover from Friday night to Saturday morning. If you only come at one particular time of the weekend, you will get only get half the snapshot of what our community looks like on a weekly basis. And since many of our regular attendees are some of the most active participants in our community, you won’t be able to see just how active and tight-knit of a community we’re becoming. So if you come on a Friday night, check out our Torah reading and discussions on Saturday mornings. If you mostly enjoy Saturday mornings, see the kind of spirituality we’re cultivating on Friday nights.

There is much room to grow to build our minyan to the level it needs to be in order to be foundation for our community’s health. Yet, even while there is much room to grow, there is so much we’ve already accomplished to make our minyanim healthy. So what do you say…won’t you join us for minyan?

[1] Quorum of 10 post bar/bat mitzvah Jewish people needed to say all of the prayers in the service, including the Mourner’s Kaddish.

[2] There are many different ways to quantify and qualify “growth.” For the purpose of this article though, I will only be focusing on attendance figures.

[3] This number does not include the times we had to cancel because of the snow or special services like White Out Friday Night, Family Shabbat, or Parashah Study because the purpose is to judge how we’re doing on achieving a minyan on a weekly basis as opposed to special occasions.

[4] This service can be used as a benchmark because it had the highest attendance (54) of any service we’ve run outside the High Holidays and the first Cantor Showcase last March and it included many kinds of shul goers including people who come on a regular basis, people who come on occasion or only to special services, and people who are new to the community.

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