What does this community mean to you ?

During the past 4 or 5 years there has been a flourishing of Jewish activity in London outside of established institutions. The ethos in newly emerging communities which gather around groups like  Grassroots Jews , the Carlebach Minyan, Wandering Jews and Moishe House is earthy, thoughtful and creative. People are taking inspiration from radical festivals like Burning Man, with its ideology of community, participation, extreme creativity and pushing boundaries. They are mixing all that with a desire for a return to their roots with a more joyful and musical spirituality which people have experienced at Carlebach shuls in Jerusalem (eg Yakar) and Tzfat. They are creating gatherings where people are doing art, dance and culture in the great outdoors as well as learning texts in a serious way.

What do you think ? Do you agree ? What does this community mean to you ?  Why are you involved ?

Post a comment here. Feel free to write anything you like.

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3 thoughts on “What does this community mean to you ?

  1. Each and every person needs to feel unique and valuable, to have a good grasp on their place in society, and to feel part of a community. The latter both validating their obsession and curing our biggest fear; loneliness.

    I join a community so I can feel part of something bigger than myself but also to brig me into contact with other like-minded people. Community is all about connectivity. For me, the hope is that our small communities, free from the burdens and limitations of larger institutions, can create a powerful collective that is centred around acts of loving-kindness.

    This is how we are and can be different. The challenge is to keep this end result at the forefront of our work.

  2. I like both the post and David’s comment…

    Part of the wonder of our community is it’s ability to be what we want it to be and a ‘list’ such as mine below feels essentialist, reductive. The following should be understood as in no way attempting to be definitive or comprehensive – to my mind that goes against some of the great strengths of ‘grassroots’ communities. That said, a list is a helpful tool for me to actually be able to say something! So, personal helpful technique rather than definitive/comprehensive list!

    1) Positive self-definition

    Much of the time it seems to me that we have a sense of what we are because of what we are – rather than what we are not. This is actually a little strange, as I think ‘historically’ we came about due to a percieved ‘lack’ in the more institutionalised parts of UK jewish life. However I think (mostly?) the communities are blessed to not be ‘looking over its shoulder’ for self-definition.

    Perhaps this question encourages us to do compare and contrast more – but we should be self-concious of what this entails, it’s strengths certainly, but also its (potentially harmful) byproducts.

    2) Contribution-based, rather than leadership based?

    This is one I think we struggle with – it’s not a perfect model. However I think we can at least say that there is a strong desire to encourage widespread contribution (getting stuck in/making it our own/helping in whichever way works for you…) in a way that perhaps parallels Limmud. This can afford (amongst other things) easy access to the ‘co-ordinating’ roles (‘co-ordinating’ perhaps in distinction to more traditional ‘leadership’ models). I know from my personal experience, that if you want to contribute you are given as much autonomy as you want, whilst having helpful, supportive backing.

    You can have a meaningful input into the shape of ‘what we do’ just by… wanting to. And then… doing it.

    3) Experimentation

    This is something mentioned already, “extreme creativity and pushing boundaries”. I love that we have a ‘pluralist’ model where many different ways of doing Jew-stuff (socialising, praying, learning, eating, walking… everything, nothing… ad infinitum) are given validity – perhaps even organized to be occurring in parallel to give wider CHOICE. But what keeps this all together is that in the ‘communities’ you can feel in a safe space to experiment. Amongst (acquired?) friends, able to say no… …

    4) Reclaiming the tradition

    This is not the other side of the coin to ‘Experimentation’. Often they go hand in hand… sometimes, just knowing that you could do something untraditional gives the traditional a new zest. I think we have a confidence in the richness of Jewish tradition/heritage/culture/spirituality which encourages us to delve into those worlds. The key part here perhaps is that our benchmark for this is relevance and meaning. We want what we do to have meaning for us, be relevant to us – and enjoy making that happen.

    ——-

    Oh wow I realised this can go on forever and if I did that it would be more and more like lying. All of the above expresses truths to me, but I’m not sure I hit on the fundamentals (if that is even a thing – see above!).

    I’m not sure how we do it – but maybe what’s important is that it’s where I feel at home such that I don’t have to be concerned with ‘premises’ and can just do my thing with people who constantly enrich my life, keep my interest, and allow me to develop deep care and love for them.

    There’s (obviously) more here…

    Alon

  3. To me, this community means gathering with likeminded and different-minded people to celebrate being who we are. The independence of the community gives space to create something as individual as every person contributing to it; as challenging as the differences between us; and as inclusive as the way we don’t define ‘we’.

    A few other thoughts – grassroots minyans allow us to work with our place in the world and in history as assimilated Jews living as not-strangers in a ‘strange’ land. We acknowledge our multiple identifies and draw strength from our surroundings to make our Judaism meaningful, creating space to not have to choose between being ‘British’ or ‘Jewish’ or whatever else we may be.
    The independence of the minyan allows us to create that space because at anytime the community is defined by those who contribute their time and energy to it without the restrictions of tradition, funders, or disapproving communal elders – yet we still have the ability to draw on those resources should we choose to do so.

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