Shortly after the front doors are unlocked, before most of the clergy and employees arrive, Shaare Emeth is greeted bright and early by the Morning Minyan group. Few of us have experienced Shaare Emeth during sunrise, but for Allen Brockman and his fellow Minyan members, it is an important part of their weekly routine. They assemble in the calm quiet of the library, unzipping jackets and chit-chatting as they await the arrival of maybe one or two more participants. Once everyone is present, they get down to business, pulling off of the shelves grayish-blue prayer books, circa 1975.
The service flows quickly. From years of practice, they know what comes next and seem to have the page numbers memorized. A few of the members’ early Hebrew School education shows in the way they pronounce their words — Adonai like “AdonOY” and the “T” sound like an “S” sound. To a member of the millennial generation (such as myself) the Minyan feels slightly vintage, not unlike a vinyl record. Nonetheless, it is a true Reform service. Men and women pray side by side and the language is shifted so that all references to the Divine are ungendered.
The Minyan group began in 1986 as a result of the dissolution of United Hebrew’s Minyan. Allen Brockman, a Shaare Emeth member of over 47 years, was the group’s co-founder. “I thought there was a need for a Minyan,” Brockman explains. “It’s something I have to do. I have to remember my friends and the Six Million [that perished in the Shoah].”
Allen is a strong proponent of prayer. “I come [to Minyan] because I think there is a need to pray…it makes me feel better,” he asserts. Allen is not alone in what he finds in coming to Minyan. Often it is some sort of inner peace that Minyan participants are looking to gain, particularly after the passing of a loved one.
Helene Siegfreid, a member of Shaare Emeth for over 60 years, began attending Minyan after the passing of her first husband. “When I came in 2001…,” Helene remarks while holding back tears, “the Minyan was here for me…and I’d like to be here for others.”
Similarly, Sue Levin also turned to the Minyan as a source of comfort 20 years ago when her husband became ill. “I could not live and enjoy life if I did not come,” Sue explains. “I may not always know everyone in the group, but these are people who I could call in the middle of the night for help and they would be there. That is the bond we have.”
The group is small, often comprised of four or five participants. However, their sense of responsibility, to each other and to the community, is significant. “Minyan provides a service for those who want to say Kaddish,” states Larry Goldman, a Shaare Emeth member of 25 years. “We also say the Mi Shebeirach [a prayer for healing] and pray for the health of the people in our Congregation,” Larry continues.
Twice a week, this tiny Minyan gathers to pray and read the names of those who have passed and those in need of healing, and although Shaare Emeth has nearly 1,700 families, seldom are they joined by any loved ones of those whose names they read. Nevertheless, they are committed to the idea that their very presence as a Minyan group fills a community need. “Whether there is one person here, or five people, or ten… it is worth it as long as someone is praying,” asserts Brockman. “We are very welcoming to anyone who wants to come,” Sue adds. “Whether it’s for a minute or for a couple of weeks…we are here.”
When asked about the future of the Minyan group, Larry Goldman hopes that more people will join, particularly younger people, so that the service can continue to serve the Congregation.
“It’s not a chore,” Helene chuckles, “It is enjoyable, and a great way to start the day.” Perhaps she is right. You never know what you are missing until you try, and maybe 2019 is the year you try attending Minyan, even if only once. And at first, if not to pray, at least to meet some smiling faces and see the sunrise gleam through the North lobby skylight.
Tori Luecking, Director of Communications
Join the Morning Minyan anytime from 7:15 – 7:45 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.