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The Minyan Factory

December 22, 2010 – 12:19 pm13 Comments

By David Werdiger

I’m visiting Israel very briefly, and again find myself enamoured with the “minyan factory” known as Shtiblach Katamon. It happens to be about five minutes walk from where I’m staying, which is very convenient indeed. Let me describe how it works: it’s a big house with about six rooms and a foyer/lobby. During busy times, a man stands in the foyer – I like to call him the traffic cop. He directs people to which room a minyan is either about to start or has just started. For example, the minyanim for shacharit (morning service) run every 15 minutes like clockwork, from about 6am until 10am on weekdays. It’s the same sort of thing for mincha and maariv. On Shabbat, things start a little later, and finish a lot later, and slightly different rules for Shabbat mincha (a new minyan is allowed to start as soon as a minyan in progress has completed hagbah (the lifting and display of the Torah that occurs after the reading)). The full schedule can be found here (search for the word “Shtiblach”).

Of course this isn’t the only minyan factory around. One of the largest and best known is Zichron Moshe in Jerusalem, where a maariv can be had at all hours of the night (which is very handy for people arriving from abroad who need to say kaddish), and of course there are similar Shtiblach in the frum neighbourhoods of Bnei Brak and Boro Park.

Besides the obvious convenience (especially when suffering from jetlag), what I really love about the place is the way it unites people. At any given minyan, you will find a diverse mix of all types of Jews: Sefardi and Ashkenazi, Chassidim & Mitnagdim, kippot of every size, shape and fabric, and all different styles of peyot. The shul has no standard nusach (form of prayer) – whoever leads the service prays in his own nusach. The sorts of things that sometimes cause friction in some shuls simply don’t happen there. Everyone respects the cultural diversity of the place and each other, abides by the rules, and it just works.

Could such a thing work in Australia? Probably not. The Yeshivah shul in Melbourne already has a handful of daily shacharit minyanim (6:10, 6:15, 6:45, 7:30, 8:30), Adass has a few more than that, and we are blessed with plenty of shuls already (some might say too many, but that’s a whole other topic of discussion). David Havin publishes a minyan finder twice a year that tells you the when and where.

What is required to make a good minyan factory? The most important thing is the infrastructure: a foyer with several adjoining mini-shuls, a couple of Sefer Torahs in each, and someone to direct the people. The matter of nusach could certainly be a barrier in a city like Melbourne, where people go to a shul because they are a part of that particular community. That said, many of us who live in the ‘ghetto’ are so lazy that we wouldn’t go to a place ten minutes away when there’s one five minutes away – something that could be called ‘elasticity of demand’. So we probably don’t have the Jewish population density for such a venture to succeed. Nevertheless, these shtiblach, wherever they are, stand as an outstanding model of Jewish unity.

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  • shlepper says:

    Adass is the closest thing to a minyan factory here.

    It usually has far more minyanim than listed in the Havin directory.

    Shachris from vasikin from haneitz till about 9.30-10 but often till 11.45

    Sundays and holidays and during Tishri and Nissan daily till approx 11. (mostly)

    Mincha/Maariv also seems to go non-stop from (very) early evening until 9.30 (10.00 in summer)

  • AustIsr says:

    It is unfortunate that minyan factories often replace the notion of a community shul. I daven in my local shul here in Jerusalem which operates like a minyan factory. Nobody knows each other – they daven there for convenience reasons only. There is no sense of community and the shul is basically a place to discharge one’s duty, rather than a makom where one can bring one’s family and feel a sense of belonging.

    If only there could be more smaller shtieblach here in Jerusalem which encourage a sense of belonging, where mispallelim are made to feel welcome and where there is a children’s program and kiddush (on Shabbos).

  • Marky says:

    From what I understand, in the main shtibelech area of Adass(called Poulish-behind main Shul), whoever leads the davening can daven whatever is his nusach.
    By the way David, if you’re still davening there, ask about R Efraim Gottlieb – who has now passed away. He is a legend in the Katamon shtibelech. He was the original “traffic cop” and the life of that Shul. Very special person.

  • @Austlsr – that’s an interesting point. Many people who make Aliyah from here complain that they don’t have the same sense of community living in Jerusalem as they do in Melbourne. In Israel there are no “Jewish” suburbs.

    I was advised that the Shtiblach 7.15 shacharis minyan was composed largely of regulars. However, you are quite right in pointing out that the Shtible is not women- and children-friendly.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    thanks David – I really enjoyed this piece
    did Austlsr say they are not women friendly?
    I missed that – although did notice the reference to children, who are sometimes more of a feature in public Jewish life than their mothers – I thought mispallelim meant ‘daveners’ ? does it refer specifically to women?

  • The article I linked to from JPost said so. Access for women to Shtiblach Katamon is through a side door and very limited. I’ve been there mostly on weekdays where you wouldn’t expect a big turnout of women, so can’t speak as to how many show up. The one in Zichron Moshe says they have provision for women.

  • AustIsr says:

    Mandi – I didn’t mention women but it is true that these minyan factories do not promote an inclusivist atmosphere on Shabbos, be it for children, women – or even men! In fact, I have yet to find a shul in my area of JLM – even one which is not a minyan factory – that encourages husbands to attend with their wives and kids. Shuls here in JLM are, unfortunately, considered places to discharge one’s duty, not to socialise or encourage broader Jewish identity, interaction and learning for the family.

    Outside of JLM in the smaller townships one does however find shuls more comparable to the community-minded exists in chutz laaretz.

    BTW… Mispallelim means congregants.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    hi AustIsr – well, my strong impression from the article was that the ‘factory’ is decidely not aimed at women. I was interested that no-one even mentioned it (I hadnt read the JPost article til David directed me to it) . As you say its about obligation – and really its primarily Orthodox men who see shule in that way.

    For shule goers who go for other reasons – women across the spectrum and men and women who are traditional rather than ‘frum’ – shule is as much/ more about community, culture, the ritual as it is about the strict obligation to daven.

    And yet shule going is quite a defining act of being Jewish – Jews go to shule for all sorts of reasons. And as we get older we like shule more…

    so in a way the different shule experience in Israel is a shame – I have heard many people say over the years that they stopped going to shule when they made aliyah…

    BUT – big but, its very different in the progressive world. I have Masorti friends in JLM whose shule life seems much more like shule out of Israel.

  • xyz says:

    Shul is a Beit Haknesset – a place designed purely to davven which also serves as a Beit Hamedrash as well. Praying with minyan daily and studying Torah regularly is a duty for men and not for women.

    Reform, masorti and the others have very little praying – an abbreviated stunted service and torah reading of sorts on Friday night and Saturday morning (when, if their is no special simcha they struggle to fill a handful of seats). There is of course no genuine Torah study in the agendas so of course they have to make some sort of use of their posh edifices and their well-remunerated clergymen/women. Thus they have to resort to bingo, lectures, book and film evenings, israeli dancing classes and cookery and other decidedly not-religious attractions in attempts to justify their existence and the salaries.

    Unlike the Rav of a orthodox shul who has shaalot to answer, daily shiurim to deliver and no less ‘social work’ than his reform ‘colleagues’ (visiting the sick, counseling etc).

    This is just a short response to those who are unhappy with the non-social life of shteeblech.

    But the truth is that in the Yeshiva and Adass communities where there are many minyanim daily – morning and evening, there is a actually a very active and vibrant social life for all – including the women and children.
    You won’t find any of them complaining as do those who think that Shul is a once a week experience.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    aah David – it would seem that theres more to facilitating diversity than accepting any nusach at a minyan factory.

    And ‘xyz’ – interesting to see you lack the courage of your convictions to use your real name as you insult the integrity of the way that other Jews identify and even daven

    shabbat shalom GA readers of all denominations.

  • xyz says:

    Did I say anything that is incorrect, Mandy?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi xyz – indeed you did, Incorrect description of Masorti services; many in Israel and the US at least which include the full Torah reading for the week. The shule I referred to in JLM uses the Rinat Yisrael siddur and does not abbreviate the shabbat service at all.
    And I think its a very long time since any shule in Australia ran a bingo night, and if shules do run social and fundraising and tzedaka events, good for them. What is your issue with that?

    But even if you are factually correct in the way you describe say reform services, I find it sad that you dismiss them. You don’t own Judaism or Jewish practice. You may not like it but Jews who are practise differently to you dont need your blessing or approval.

    I only know David Werdiger virtually but I love how he writes about things in the Orthodox world that may not be known or broadly understood, or even if they are, he bring things to life in an interesting and colourful way that piques people’s interest and possibly encourages people to find out more.

    And then your comments come along -dismissing the discussion and the interest.

    The question of whether you are correct or not is less important than the question of whether you re right, and I don’t think you are.

  • xyz says:

    Sorry for being passionate about the faith of my forefathers and getting upset about the fraudulent use of the term Judaism and Torah by the Cs and Rs.

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