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UnterwegsEgalitärer Minjan
Egalitarian Minyan

In November 1993 - during the Jewish Culture Days which focused on Jewish life in California - Rabbi Laura Geller was invited to talk about her experiences with egalitarian groups and liturgies. At that function, a paper with the following question was passed around: Who is interested in an egalitarian minjan?

Oranienburger StrasseSome weeks later a group started with egalitarian shabbat services every three weeks. A "minjan" is the quorum of 10 adult males in traditional Judaism who are necessary for a service. In non-orthodox branches of Judaism women are also counted. They have the same possibilities and responsibilities as men such as wearing a kippa and a tallit (prayer shawl), preparing the liturgy or the Torah portion of the week, leading the service... (In liberal Judaism women are ordained as rabbis. The first woman rabbi in the world was Regina Jonas, 1902-1944, who lived in Berlin and was murdered in Auschwitz)

The egalitarian minjan in Berlin and the Rosh Chodesh Group are the only groups in Germany, even in the liberal spectrum, where children of Jewish fathers are accepted as Jews.

We are in search of how Judaism can be meaningful for our lives at the beginning of the 21st century as women or men, living as singles or married, in heterosexual or gay / lesbian partnerships, with or without children... The siddur (prayerbook) / liturgy, on which maintains most parts of the traditional service is based, is in Hebrew (with transcription), English and German. But there are also many prayers and blessings, which are not in traditional prayerbooks such as the Coming Out Prayer about longing for the truth.

"Many prayers are taken from reconstructionist siddurim or from liturgies of American feminists, but our liturgy remains open and flexible and there is always the possibility to add, to deepen and to develop new ways of expression... Traditional services are held in Hebrew whereas in our service everybody prays in the language s/he prefers. For some prayers we wrote new German adaptations, e.g. the traditional morning blessings". The parasha, the weekly portion of Torah, is not only read, but also discussed. Different commentaries from ancient and modern times are used and new approaches such as feminist or psychoanalytic are included.

After the service there is always a kiddush as an expression to blessing of shabbat and enjoy a common meal. The egalitarian minjan is democratic and respects different attitudes concerning religious and political issues. It opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Arab, sexist, homophobic and racist attitudes.

Sometimes the egalitarian minyan organizes workshops (Heschel-Yahrzeit, holiday preparations) and one vision for the future is to contribute to a net-work of egalitarian groups in Eastern Europe (Prague, Warsaw, Budapest ...)

Bet Debora - Berlin


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