FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What is DC Minyan?
- I am coming to DC Minyan for the first time. What can I expect? Is there anything I should know?
- Is DC Minyan affiliated with a particular movement in Judaism?
- How can DC Minyan be both halachic and egalitarian?
- Does DC Minyan have a rabbi? How are clergy involved with DC Minyan?
- How are halachic (Jewish legal) decisions made at DC Minyan?
- What are DC Minyan services like? Who are the people leading DC Minyan’s services?
- How can I lead services, read Torah, or give a Dvar Torah or Dvar Tefillah? How can I get an aliyah?
- Can someone teach me how to lead services or read Torah if I don’t already have these skills, or if I need to brush up on my skills?
- What is DC Minyan’s leadership structure? How is DC Minyan run?
- How is the Steering Committee selected?
- What is DC Minyan’s kashrut (Jewish dietary law) policy?
- What are the demographics of DC Minyan?
- Is DC Minyan inclusive and welcoming of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community? Is DC Minyan a safe space for transgender, gender variant, and gender-queer people?
- Does DC Minyan offer programming geared toward parents and kids?
- How does membership work at DC Minyan?
- Why does DC Minyan need my membership dues and other financial contributions? When I make a donation to DC Minyan, how is it used?
- How do I make a payment or donation to DC Minyan?
- How can I get involved in a particular aspect of DC Minyan’s programming?
- How can I join the DC Minyan email list? How can I join the DC Minyan bulletin list?
- How can I find out the dates and times of upcoming DC Minyan services and programs?
- I am looking for a spot at a Shabbat meal – can DC Minyan help find me a place? I have extra spots at my Shabbat table, and I would like to invite some DC Minyan community members or guests to join my meal – how do I do this?
- I am moving to DC and want to live near the DC Minyan community. How can I find housing and/or a roommate? What neighborhoods should I consider?
- Why was DC Minyan formed? What is DC Minyan’s organizational history?
- How does everyone at DC Minyan seem to know each other? Are there social events where I can meet people in an informal setting?
- I have a question that wasn’t answered here. Whom can I ask?
1. What is DC Minyan?
DC Minyan is a traditional, egalitarian, lay-led Jewish community located in Dupont Circle, in the heart of Washington, DC. At DC Minyan, we seek to provide a warm and intellectually engaging community for prayer and study.
DC Minyan meets for Shabbat morning services on the first and third Shabbat of every month, Friday evening services on the second and fourth Shabbat of each month, most holidays, and selected special events. Seating at services is separate for men and women, but we do not have a mechitzah (separation or partition between men and women). Among the other programs we offer are a weekly beit midrash (learning community), regular happy hours, social action programs, community meals, and events geared toward families with children. We are proud to be hosted by the DC JCC, located on the corner of 16th and Q streets NW.
2. I am coming to DC Minyan for the first time. What can I expect? Is there anything I should know?
Welcome! We look forward to meeting you!
Our services are located at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th Street, N.W. (the corner of Q Street and 16th Street NW). Please check our online calendar at www.dcminyan.org to find out the room in which the service or event you plan to attend will be held, or the front desk attendant at the JCC will be happy to let you know. Please note that the entrance to the JCC is on Q Street and not 16th Street. Men and women sit separately at DC Minyan, but there is no mechitzah (partition or separation between men and women). Upon entering the Community Hall, women sit on the right side and men sit on the left side. At DC Minyan we count a minyan (quorum) of 10 men and 10 women as necessary for a community service. This approach accomodates diverse opinions regarding the halachic requirements for a minyan while at the same time ensuring an egalitarian service. Siddurim (prayer books) and chumashim (books containing the weekly Torah and Haftarah portion) are located in carts outside of the Community Hall.
After services every week, the Steering Committee member (please see FAQ #10 for information on DC Minyan’s leadership structure) making announcements hangs out in the front of the room with the hope of meeting new people. Please take this opportunity to come over and introduce yourself! Since DC Minyan has over 100 attendees on any given week, it is difficult for DC Minyan leaders to identify every new person who walks through the doors. However, the leaders are eager to meet new folks and guests in the community, so please come over and say hello after the announcements and during kiddush!
3. Is DC Minyan affiliated with a particular movement in Judaism?
DC Minyan is not affiliated with any particular movement (Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, or Renewal), and members of the DC Minyan community come from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds. We are an egalitarian community, meaning that women and men lead and participate in all aspects of services. Our services follow a traditional format and all of our services and programming are planned in accordance with halachah (Jewish law).
While DC Minyan is not affiliated with any particular movement, DC Minyan does regularly interact with other independent minyanim across the country to share experiences, ideas, and best practices. Additionally, we are always open to collaborating with Jewish communities of all denominations to develop joint programming.
4. How can DC Minyan be both halachic and egalitarian?
All DC Minyan tefillot (prayer services) and events are rooted in an understanding of, and conducted in accordance with, halacha (Jewish law). While some believe halacha requires that tefillah (prayer) be led by a man, a close examination of classic Jewish sources reveals ample support for equal participation by women and men in davening (prayer leading) and leining (Torah reading). To review some of the sources on which DC Minyan relies, as well as links to a variety of teshuvot (rabbinic responsa) and other resources on this issue, please visit http://www.kehilathadar.org/node/145.
5. Does DC Minyan have a rabbi? How are clergy involved with DC Minyan?
DC Minyan is lay-led and does not have a rabbi. However, DC Minyan leadership consults with community members and rabbis when specific halachic questions arise. One rabbi with whom DC Minyan regularly consults is Rabbi Ethan Tucker of Mechon Hadar (www.mechonhadar.org) in New York. Additionally, DC Minyan has relationships with a number of rabbis in the Washington, DC area, many of whom are willing to help with life cycle needs for members of the DC Minyan community. If you would like to be referred to a local rabbi for assistance with a life cycle event or for pastoral counseling, please contact the Steering Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. How are halachic decisions made at DC Minyan?
The Steering Committee (please see FAQ #10 for more information on the Steering Committee) and Gabbai Committee (please see FAQ #7 for more information on the Gabbai Committee) are responsible for making halachic (Jewish legal) decisions. In arriving at a conclusion on a halachic issue, the Steering Committee and Gabbai Committee consider source texts on the issue. For routine questions, or questions about how DC Minyan has handled a particular halachic issue in the past, the committees may also consult DC Minyan members who have deep Jewish textual knowledge or knowledge of DC Minyan’s institutional history. When a particular question is novel or requires significant background knowledge or research, or when the committees feel that a rabbinic opinion would be of assistance, the committees consult with Rabbi Ethan Tucker (please see FAQ #5 for more information about Rabbi Tucker).
7. What are DC Minyan services like? Who are the people leading DC Minyan’s services?
DC Minyan services are spirited and lively! We conduct services in accordance with traditional Jewish liturgy. We provide two different siddurim (prayer books) — Artscroll and Sim Shalom — along with the Hertz chumash (book containing the weekly Torah and Haftarah portions) for the Torah service. Throughout the service, the gabbaim (ritual coordinators) announce the corresponding pages in those siddurim. We also encourage people to bring their own siddur if they would like to do so. In addition, we have a number of transliterated Artscroll siddurim available for those who would like transliteration.
Our services are led by members of the DC Minyan community. The DC Minyan Gabbai Committee is responsible for orchestrating DC Minyan services, including assigning those who lead services and read Torah. The gabbaim typically reach out to community members to participate weeks in advance in order to provide participants with adequate time to prepare. If you would like to participate in DC Minyan services, please email email@example.com.
8. How can I lead services, read Torah, or give a Dvar Torah or Dvar Tefillah? How can I get an aliyah?
The Gabbai Committee is always happy to hear from those who would like to participate in services, and the gabbaim (ritual coordinators) make every effort to respond to everyone who volunteers. If you would like to volunteer your skills, please email the Gabbai Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to reaching out to the gabbaim, you can indicate your service-leading and Torah-reading skills and interest on your annual DC Minyan membership form and/or respond to the Gabbai Committee’s semi-annual “Call for Participants” email. If you are leading services or reading Torah, haftarah, or megillah at DC Minyan for the first time, even if you have led or read in other communities, a gabbai will review your portion with you at least one week in advance. DC Minyan participants possess a wide range of skills and experience, and this policy exists to ensure quality in DC Minyan services.
If you would like to give a Dvar Torah (a brief talk about the weekly Torah portion) or Dvar Tefillah (a brief talk about a particular prayer), please email email@example.com.
We would love to honor you with an aliyah (being called up to the Torah)! If you would like an aliyah, please let one of the gabbaim know on Shabbat morning before the Torah service begins or by email in advance of Shabbat firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, if you would like an aliyah in honor of a special occasion, please be sure to email the Gabbai Committee in advance of your requested date. We usually have over 100 people at Shabbat morning services, and there are a limited number of honors to give out each time. However, it is certainly not our intention to overlook anyone in particular! Since we cannot always remember who has been given aliyot in the past, we need your help in letting us know if you haven’t received an honor. One easy way to get an aliyah is to come to services on the early side (hint hint…).
9. Can someone teach me how to lead services or read Torah if I don’t already have these skills, or if I need to brush up on my skills?
10. What is DC Minyan’s leadership structure? How is DC Minyan run?
The Steering Committee is the executive body of DC Minyan. The Steering Committee is responsible for day-to-day operations, setting the programmatic course of DC Minyan, and broadly ensuring that the goals of DC Minyan are achieved, as expressed by the DC Minyan Leadership Council and general membership. The Steering Committee consists of 4 DC Minyan members. Each Steering Committee member serves a 2 year term, with 2 of the 4 Steering Committee member positions turning over each year.
The DC Minyan Leadership Council works with the Steering Committee to set the long-term vision of DC Minyan, make large or long-term logistical and programming decisions, determine membership rates, approve major budgetary expenditures, and set the DC Minyan annual budget. The Leadership Council meets approximately once per month and is composed of DC Minyan members who coordinate the broad range of services and programming. The chairperson of the following committees have a seat on the Leadership Council: Administrator, DC Beit Midrash, Chinuch (Education), Community Relations, Gabbai, Finance/Development, Hospitality, Social Action, Special Events, and Kids & Parents.
In addition to committees whose chairpersons sit on the Leadership Council, the following leadership positions exist: Communications Manager, Dvar Tefillah Coordinator, Dvar Torah Coordinator, Friday night Oneg Coordinator, Greening Coordinator, Happy Hour Coordinator, Kiddush/Catering, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer/Questioning, Life Cycle Events, and Web/Tech.
If you are interested in getting involved in leadership at DC Minyan, please email email@example.com.
11. How is the Steering Committee selected?
Each fall, the current Steering Committee solicits nominations for new Steering Committee members from the community via the weekly email and announcements after services. Any DC Minyan member in good standing is eligible to nominate any member in good standing. Candidates for the Steering Committee should demonstrate a strong commitment to DC Minyan, robust leadership skills, and a depth of Jewish knowledge.
Once the specified time period for nominations closes, the nominees are notified and are asked either to accept or decline the nomination. Nominees who accept the nomination are interviewed by the Steering Committee Selection Committee,
which consists of the 4 current Steering Committee members and 3 members of the Leadership Council. The Leadership Council votes on which 3 Leadership Council members will serve on the Steering Committee Selection Committee. The Steering Committee Selection Committee votes to select the 2 new Steering Committee members. Each Steering Committee member serves a 2 year term, with 2 of the 4 Steering Committee member positions turning over every year.
12. What is DC Minyan’s kashrut (Jewish dietary law) policy?
DC Minyan adheres to strict kashrut standards at all of our communal events, which include all formal events coordinated by DC Minyan or DC Beit Midrash and advertised through our weekly emails such as kiddush, onegs, lunch-and-learns, or community dinners. Food served at any communal DC Minyan event must be prepared using certified kosher products on utensils and appliances that are kosher. For informal hospitality meal matches, our hospitality coordinators may match people either with a meal that adheres to the communal standard or with a vegetarian meal. Hospitality coordinators will make matches based on the preferences and practices of those being matched. For a complete description of the kashrut policy, please see our Kashrut Policy page, as well as our Kashrut Resources page.
13. What are the demographics of DC Minyan?
The DC Minyan community includes recent college graduates, single people, married couples, parents and children, baby boomers and more. DC Minyan welcomes people of all ages, from all backgrounds, and with all levels of familiarity with Jewish texts and ritual.
14. Is DC Minyan inclusive and welcoming of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community? Is DC Minyan a safe space for transgender, gender variant, and gender-queer people?
DC Minyan is an inclusive and welcoming community. We do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Members of the LGBTQ community are actively engaged and encouraged to be involved in all aspects of DC Minyan, including participating in and leading tefillah (prayer), leadership, and social programming. We gladly encourage LGBTQ couples to celebrate their smachot (joyful occasions), including marriages and commitment ceremonies, at DC Minyan. Although DC Minyan does not conduct any type of marriage or commitment ceremonies, we would be happy to connect people who are interested in a Jewish marriage/commitment ceremony with local resources.
At DC Minyan, men and women sit separately during prayer services (please see FAQ #2 for a discussion of the origin of our separate seating policy). Everyone who attends DC Minyan is encouraged to sit with the gender with which they most identify.
If you have any questions regarding LGBTQ issues and/or areas of interest at DC Minyan, please do not hesitate to email LGBTQ@dcminyan.org.
15. Does DC Minyan offer programming geared toward parents and kids?
Yes! DC Minyan is thrilled to provide programming for the many parents and kids in our community. We have regular Tot Shabbat services for children that take place during the Torah reading at Shabbat morning services. Our special events such as kids’ Purim and Chanukah parties and a family Sukkah decorating event are family-friendly and engaging programs for children of many ages. We also offer babysitting during high holiday services and at adult Lunch and Learns so that parents can take part in services and learning programs while knowing that their children are being well cared for.
For more information about programming for parents and kids, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
16. How does membership work at DC Minyan?
Membership affords DC Minyan attendees the opportunity to opt in formally and secure the financial security of the DC Minyan community. Becoming a member is an important way to affiliate with the DC Minyan community. Members receive tangible benefits such as free community lunches and reduced rates for events, as well as intangible benefits such as support during life cycle events. Annual membership at DC Minyan begins with the High Holidays in the fall and continues for 12 months. Members can join at any time throughout the year for a pro-rated fee (simply by dividing the dues by the number of months left before the High Holidays).
To join DC Minyan, please fill out the membership form found on our website, www.dcminyan.org. Our membership rates are listed on the website, under the “Get Involved” tab, in the “Membership” section. Membership in DC Minyan is a tax-deductible, charitable expense. DC Minyan is an inclusive community, and absolutely no one will be denied membership because of inability to pay. If you are unable to pay the listed fees, we ask you to contact the Steering Committee at email@example.com and contribute whatever monetary amount you can. The DC Minyan Steering Committee maintains strict confidentiality regarding discounted fees.
If you have questions about becoming a member or membership dues, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
17. Why does DC Minyan need my membership dues and other financial contributions? When I make a donation to DC Minyan, how is it used?
The majority of DC Minyan’s funds go towards covering the cost of space rental at the DC JCC for weekly programming and special events. Funds also pay for holiday programming, as well as for educational and social programming throughout the course of the year. Other costs include paying teachers and speakers, purchasing and maintaining ritual items, and providing materials for other DC Minyan events. Every contribution helps us continue to provide enjoyable and meaningful services, as well as various types of programming. Contributions to DC Minyan are tax-deductible.
DC Minyan’s leadership works very hard to ensure that every donation we receive is put to good use. Our budget is reviewed annually, and the leadership makes sure that the budget continues to reflect our community’s evolving needs. The budget is approved by the Leadership Council each December, and a Community Meeting is held each spring to review the budget with the membership.
If you have any questions or want more specific information about DC Minyan’s budget, please email email@example.com.
18. How do I make a payment or donation to DC Minyan?
The quickest and easiest way to make a payment to DC Minyan is to use PayPal by following this link. The payment is immediate and secure, and you will automatically receive an emailed receipt of your payment. Be sure to note in the “Description” box what your payment is for (e.g. Membership, Shabbat lunch, donation).
If paying by PayPal is not convenient, you can also send a check to D.C. Minyan, P.O. Box 53291, Washington, DC 20009.
19. How can I get involved in a particular aspect of DC Minyan’s programming?
DC Minyan services and programming depend on the willingness of volunteers! Please visit the “About” tab at www.dcminyan.org, and scroll down to the section entitled “Our Leadership” to find a list of all of the DC Minyan leadership contacts. Feel free to reach out to any of these leaders about getting involved in their particular area. If you have any questions about whom to contact regarding a particular aspect of DC Minyan’s programming, please email the Steering Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
20. How can I join the DC Minyan email list? How can I join the DC Minyan bulletin list?
To join the DC Minyan email list or the DC Minyan bulletin, please scroll to the top right corner of this webpage, where it says, “Enter your email address to sign up for DC Minyan Newsletter(s).” Enter you email address in the box and click “Go.”
After joining the DC Minyan email list, you will receive DC Minyan’s weekly email detailing current and upcoming services, events, community smachot (joyful celebrations), and volunteer opportunities. You will also receive occasional stand-alone email announcements regarding specific events or information relevant to the DC Minyan community.
The weekly bulletin is separate and distinct from the weekly DC Minyan announcements. In contrast to the announcements, which focus specifically on DC Minyan events, the bulletin is a guide to community events and includes housing listings. For instance, if you are looking for an apartment, you could place a notice in the bulletin.
21. How can I find out the dates and times of upcoming DC Minyan services and programs?
All DC Minyan services and programs are listed on the calendar section of our website, www.dcminyan.org. You can download the calendar to your personal online calendar, or you can also pick up a brightly colored hard copy of the calendar at DC Minyan services. The hard copy calendars come out quarterly, and we always note in the weekly email announcements when a new calendar is available.
22. I am looking for a spot at a Shabbat meal – can DC Minyan help find me a place? I have extra spots at my Shabbat table, and I would like to invite some DC Minyan community members or guests to join my meal – how do I do this?
As part of our efforts to be a welcoming community, DC Minyan helps match people looking for Shabbat meals with community members who are hosting meals. If you are looking for a Shabbat meal, please contact the DC Minyan hospitality coordinators by emailing email@example.com. They will do their best to set you up with a host for a Shabbat meal.
If you are planning a Shabbat meal, we encourage you to help make DC Minyan a more welcoming community by leaving available a spot or two for guests looking for a Shabbat meal. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to let our hospitality coordinators know when you have additional space available at your meal on a given Shabbat. If someone requests hospitality that week, one of the coordinators will get in touch with you. Hosting a hospitality guest is a great way to get to know more people in the DC Minyan community!
Additionally, if you are generally willing to host guests, please email email@example.com to be added to the DC Minyan hospitality list. The hospitality coordinators email people on this list occasionally when they are looking for additional hosts.
Please note that all home hospitality meals must adhere to DC Minyan’s kashrut policy. Please see FAQ #12 for more information on DC Minyan’s kashrut policy.
23. I am moving to DC and want to live near the DC Minyan community. How can I find housing and/or a roommate? What neighborhoods should I consider?
We encourage those looking for housing or those who have housing available to post a notice in our weekly bulletin. You may do so by e-mailing a short paragraph with your specifications to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A large percentage of DC Minyan members live in the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan/Woodley Park neighborhoods. DC Minyan members also live in the U Street Corridor, Foggy Bottom, Logan Circle, and other neighborhoods in the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia metropolitan area.
24. Why was DC Minyan formed? What is DC Minyan’s organizational history?
DC Minyan began when a group of Jews in the DC area met informally to discuss forming a new minyan (prayer group). The individuals who attended this meeting came from a diverse set of Jewish backgrounds — some had been attending
Conservative synagogues, others had been going to Orthodox synagogues — and had differing conceptions of what this new community would look like. Some goals that many of the initial organizers shared included affording women a significant role in services; creating a friendly community; retaining a sense of fidelity to halachah (Jewish law); empowering community members to shape services and events through a lay-led organizational structure; and holding meaningful and inspiring services.
At this initial meeting, individuals expressed interest in exploring halachic (Jewish legal) issues surrounding the role of women in prayer. The group decided to explore this topic by convening classes on three issues related to women and prayer: women reading from the Torah; women serving as shlichei tzibur (prayer leaders); and women counting in a minyan (quorum). Approximately 60 people attended these classes.
Following the initial conversation and the three classes, four individuals — Beth Tritter, Kenny Jeruchim, Jessica Lieberman, and Adam Szubin — expressed interest in committing time to help organize a minyan that would be committed to both halachah and egalitarianism. These four individuals represented a spectrum of Jewish experience: they had grown up in Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox settings. At the time, two were attending a Conservative synagogue and two were attending an Orthodox synagogue.
Informed by their own diverse experiences, these four people decided to form a community that could accommodate people from a variety of Jewish backgrounds. There was consensus among the group that services should be fully egalitarian, meaning that women and men would lead all parts of the service and read Torah. On the issue of composing a minyan/quorum, there were different halachic interpretations as to whether a minyan should consist of 10 men only or of 10 people (men and women). One feasible solution was to require 10 men AND 10 women to make a minyan. This model would ensure that 10 men would be present for those who believed that was necessary, but would also require the presence of 10 women to ensure that the necessary quorum for starting services was an egalitarian one. After considering the alternatives, the “10 and 10″ policy was deemed the best way to accommodate the diverse opinions of those who had attended the classes and expressed interest in participating in this new community. The group also decided to have separate seating for men and women without a mechitzah (separation or partition between men and women), a practice that is used by a small minority of Conservative and Orthodox synagogues.
The group called itself DC Minyan (it was meant to be a temporary name but, as you can tell, it stuck) and first met for Shabbat services in February 2002 at Luna Books in Dupont Circle. Initially, the group planned to meet every other week. Services consistently attracted 50-60 people, and it became clear that DC Minyan needed a larger space. In the late spring of 2002, DC Minyan moved to the Washington DC Jewish Community Center.
In fall 2002, DC Minyan held High Holiday services on Yom Kippur. In connection with its Yom Kippur services, DC Minyan instituted membership as a way of raising revenue to pay for its meeting space. Also in the fall of 2002, a group of individuals founded DC Beit Midrash, DC Minyan’s flagship study program that continues to meet weekly on Monday nights.
Since DC Minyan’s beginnings in 2002, our community has continued to grow and thrive. We now have nearly 300 members. Current DC Minyan programs include (but are not limited to) Shabbat morning services on the first and third Saturdays of each month, Shabbat evening services on the second and fourth Friday nights of each month, High Holiday and other holiday services, social action programs, Hannukah and Purim events, lunch/dinner-and-learn speakers, Seudah Shlishit learning events, and children’s programming. Weekly attendance averages around 100-120 people on Saturday mornings and 50-80 people on Friday nights.
25. How does everyone at DC Minyan seem to know each other? Are there social events where I can meet people in an informal setting?
It may seem like everyone is talking to someone they know during kiddush and other events, but in fact many people at DC Minyan do not know each other. Others have gotten to know one another by regularly attending DC Minyan services or by volunteering to help with a DC Minyan program. Most people who come to DC Minyan would love to get to know more people in the room. We encourage you to introduce yourself to people you don’t know, and we encourage DC Minyan leaders to look out for and welcome newcomers.
There are many opportunities to get to know people through happy hours, the annual Chanukah party and more! These programs offer a setting more intimate and substantive than kiddush to get to know others in the DC Minyan community. Information about all of our programs is available on our website, www.dcminyan.org.
26. I have a question that wasn’t answered here. Whom can I ask?
Please do not hesitate to email email@example.com with any questions, concerns, feedback items, constructive criticism, or musings! We look forward to hearing from you.