A little something different this week. Enjoy!
PunkTorah is proud to announce the fund-raising launch for OneShul.org, the world’s first web-based, community run synagogue.
OneShul was inspired by group of PunkTorah volunteers who began meeting online to daven with one another, using PunkTorah’s recently released Indie Yeshiva Pocket Siddur (available online and through ModernTribe.com). With the popularity of this “DIY Prayer Service” came the idea for a virtual synagogue without borders, based on collective Jewish values and spiritual independence.
“Synagogues are shutting down for the same reason that brick-and-mortar business are closing,” says Executive Director Patrick Aleph. “People live online and if you believe in being where people are, then you need to be there, too.”
Says PunkTorah Creative Director and “Alterna-Rebbe” Michael Sabani, “OneShul is an open synagogue for all of us to congregate, learn, lead, and empower each other. Traditional Jewish organizations and leaders have said that real community can’t be achieved online, or as they see it, synthetically. We challenge that notion. We say that yes, real community means communicating with each other in a meaningful way and that can be done online. We are proving it right now.”
OneShul is “independent” meaning that it does not tow a party line to any of the established Jewish movements. Instead, by being community ran, participants get to decide what kind of minyanim to make, the style of worship, etc. PunkTorah hopes that OneShul will be a diverse place, where all Jewish opinions are appreciated.
OneShul has already seen major success with its live, interactive Afternoon Prayer Services and Jewish classes, led by different members of the PunkTorah community via UStream. PunkTorah hopes to expand OneShul into something much larger, providing Kabbalat Shabbat, more holiday services, an “indie yeshiva” of Jewish books and blogs that are written collaboratively by volunteers, spiritual counseling via skype, a mobile davening app for the iPhone/iPad, tzedakah and tikkun olam programs, OneShul outreach houses across the country, volunteering and internship opportunities for students interested in Jewish communal service, and a launching pad for the spiritual future of the New Jew community. “Everything that a physical synagogue has, but better,” says Aleph.
To make this happen, PunkTorah has launched a fundraising drive through IndieGoGo.com and plans to raise $5,000 to create the “synagogue of the future”.
With OneShul, PunkTorah is challenging the notion that community only exists in neighborhoods. Says Michael Sabani, “Which community is more real? The one where I show up once a week and sit next to what is essentially a stranger, say ‘Shabbat shalom’ and then leave? Or the one I am in constant contact with through Facebook and Skype, who I know I can turn to in a time of need?”
To learn more about PunkTorah’s OneShul project, visit www.indiegogo.com/oneshul
PunkTorah is a non-profit (501c3-pending) organization dedicated to independent Jewish spirituality, culture, learning and debate.
Press Contact: Patrick Aleph
I’ve neglected going to services lately because I am really not comfortable there. We go in, we pick up a siddur, we sit down, and invariably our daughter either wakes up or jumps down and starts running around. All the old bubbies start to murmur and give us dirty looks and then my wife has to escort the little vilde chaya out the door while I stay and daven alone. This is fine. It is routine and I expect it, though I’m saddened that we have to be separated during what I consider to be a both personally spiritually important time and a good spiritual environment for the kid.
My real disappointment lies in the way we are holding modern, “liberal-type” services. We all sit in rows in a fancy sanctuary, sing songs and follow along and do the “call and response” type of thing. We listen patiently as the leader drones in that “poetry/sing-songy/disingenuous” kind of high pitched voice. And it struck me that it was all so, for lack of a better word, “church-y”. I hated it. It feels like it is copying the Protestant style of Western church worship, from the music to the atmosphere. Someone at the service even made a comment (jokingly, I think) about being “quiet at church”. I thought to myself, “Shouldn’t this be different than church? Why are we trying to be like that? To fit in? No thanks.” We are different, and that should be a good thing. Jews always have been different. We’re iconoclasts! We break down walls and smash idols! Heck, we’re different from each other! You know that old chestnut, “two Jews, three opinions”!
My first exposure to a Chabad type service was really, interesting. We were on vacation, so we went somewhere we normally wouldn’t have gone. This was very different. Everyone seemed to be mumbling and shuckling and I had no idea where I was in the service. After fifteen minutes I gave up trying and I just followed along as best I could. The shaliach’s kids came right up to him and he would pick up the little ones in between prayers. It was pretty overwhelming and a disorienting.
The same type of thing happened later when I was at a much smaller minyan and everyone was davening at different speeds. I got flustered and frustrated. I even got mad at the guy next to me for going so fast and not doing it “right”. After thinking later about why I got angry, what about everyone not praying together made me some upset, I figured it out.
Jacob Siegel, in a fantastic post you should check out, put it like this:
In the middle of this cacophony of prayers, “I would form my own personal connection with G-d, and you, praying beside me, would do the same, and we would each be vocalizing at different paces, and we would each be inspiring the other to achieve a spiritual awareness that we would then carry throughout the day.” This is incredible to me. It is that independence in the midst of community, what I consider almost the definition of Yiddshkeit, that electrifies my neshama.
I’m not saying one way is right and the other wrong. I am saying that it is a shame if we are changing our nature to conform to an idea of what a progressive, liberal service should look like. Something that IndieYeshiva and PunkTorah are trying to do is to bring these ideas back into the way we “do” Jewish, and have them there for us, to make our Yiddishkeit genuine and real, and by “genuine and real” I don’t mean specifically that there is one right way to do things, but a way that resonates with our past. I’m taking about an Integral Judaism that would transcend and include the past (more on that in another post).
I would like to, if I may, let Mr. Siegel take us out, because any paraphrasing on my part would be just that, and I feel he puts is very eloquently:
‘When we pray, we share our energy. I davven, and you hear me and feel inspired, and I hear you and feel further inspired. Let’s thank our cantors for their efforts in service of us and G-d, and ask them to step down from the bimah and stand beside us, as we now all share together in our cleaving to G-d.”
They will be held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at around 2PM Eastern time. To watch, go here or here! We look forward to seeing you all there!
-Michael and Patrick
Really. I mean it.
“People feel alienated and lonely. Orthodoxy has created a framework for overcoming [that, but] in the non-Orthodox world, we haven’t figured out how to crack that nut yet,” says Nussbaum.
With The Kavana Cooperative, the volunteers (lead by Nussbaum) have drop-kicked the synagogue system and developed an alternative Jewish family in Seattle, Washington.
According to Rabbi Nussbaum, the reason the synagogue model doesn’t work has to deal with demographics. “Most synagogues are based in a post-World War Two audience.” The new generation is not stepping into the synagogue, so new communities, “alternative families” as Nussbaum calls them, have to be created.
The former rabbi of a suburban congregation, Nussbaum says that her “peer group wouldn’t walk in” to the synagogue because “demographically it was a different area.” This set Nussbaum to create something that would appeal to her and her friends.
Four years into “this glorious experiment”, Kavana is a co-op of a few hundred people with a “high level of commitment” to each other. Called a “Hillel for adults and families”, the Kavana Cooperative provides everything for a Jewish community including educational and social programs, life cycle events, Shabbat and holiday experiences.
Part of the problem with creating new models for doing anything is that there is no way to explain it. Nussbaum calls this “creating a new vocabulary”, and a constant process of defining “ourselves in contrast or comparison” to other organizations.
Is Kavana a synagogue? A havura? A school? A social club? Yes, yes, yes, yes and then some.
A week in the life of a Kavana Cooperative member can include Hebrew immersion for kids, “living room learning” in someone’s home, Kabbalat Shabbat in a coffee shop, Saturday morning traditional Shabbat minyan, or alternative holiday programming such as their upcoming trip to a local dairy farm for Shavuot.
Diversity is a key element to the Kavana experience. Unlike synagogues, which Nussbaum says are more like churches, Kavana understands that “prayer is one access point” to the Jewish experience, but that “community is the central thing.”
Mostly, it’s about “allowing people to figure out where they fit”, say Nussbaum.
Kavana Cooperative is working. Enough that the Joshua Venture has awarded the organization funds to further their goal, including setting up a leadership training program so this co-op model can be recreated everywhere.
Visit www.kavana.org for more info.