Wednesday morning minyans at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha have gone from famine to feast, as more than two dozen Community Day School students join the congregation’s so called “Minyanaires” each week to participate in the prayer service — and have breakfast — all before their first period classes begin.
Called the “Minyan Makers,” the 26 students are all seventh- and eighth-graders who have volunteered to help Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha get at least 10 Jews together on Wednesdays so that public prayers can be recited according to Jewish tradition.
While the congregation has no problem assembling at least 10 Jews on other mornings, Wednesdays have always been a challenge, according to Rabbi Chuck Diamond, spiritual leader of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha.
“Everybody is happy with the solution to our Wednesday problem,” said minyan leader Joe Charny. “We had a problem getting a minyan on Wednesdays, and it was solved when the students came to take part. And they do show up in ever increasing numbers.”
As an added bonus, Charny added, “It lowers the average age [of the Minyanaires] from 85 to 25.”
Part of the appeal to the students of heading to a local synagogue to start their day may be the breakfast, which follows the service at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha — anything from French toast to eggs or pancakes — and the connection they feel to Diamond.
“The kids have a really good relationship with Rabbi Chuck,” said Tzippy Mazer, head of Hebrew and Jewish studies at Community Day School.”
Diamond, who spends several weeks each summer in Ontario, Canada, at Camp Ramah, seems to have a way with kids. He tries to include a social component for the Minyan Makers, and even purchased sweatshirts for the kids that sport the number “10” on back. The students are permitted to wear the sweatshirts to school as part of their uniform, according to Avi Baran Munro, head of school at Community Day School.
The Minyan Maker program is also in place at Congregation Beth Shalom, where about four students come each week, generally on Wednesdays, to help insure that congregation has a minyan as well, according to Rabbi Michael Werbow. Beth Shalom’s minyan is also followed by breakfast.
“It’s good to have the kids there as insurance, if you will, and to be part of the minyan,” Werbow said.
While some of the Minyan Makers are members of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha or Beth Shalom, others are members of Temple Sinai, Chabad, Shaare Torah and Rodef Shalom, Diamond said.
Community Day School had been trying to reach out to area congregations for some time to get the Minyan Maker program started, according to Mazer. It was not until last year that Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha and Beth Shalom decided to take advantage of the offer to send students to help make a minyan.
As a result, the students get to use the prayer skills they learn at Community Day School, and to find meaning, according to Munro.
“For us, it is a wonderful opportunity for our kids to see how meaningful it is for them to make a minyan,” Munro said. “It’s been a wonderful partnership.”
The school welcomes requests from other congregations that need a little help making minyan during the week, she said.
“It’s a win-win,” said Diamond. “Everybody benefits. The kids love it. They mix with the seniors that come to minyan, they participate in the service, and they have a nice breakfast.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)