Tzedek Minyanim

A key component of this year’s Faith and Public Life initiative will be the Tzedek Minyan project. Tzedek is the Hebrew word for justice, and a minyan refers to a quorum of people who come together for a sacred purpose. The Tzedek Minyan project will bring groups of BJ members together over the course of the year to study, act, or give. Some of these groups are existing BJ social action and social justice committees, programs or community organizing hevras, and will continue their work under the Tzedek Minyan banner. Additionally, we are inviting BJ members who have an idea for action, learning or philanthropy to initiate a self-organized group. Groups can be open to all BJ members, or can be geared towards families, teens or other demographics.

Below is some additional information about these groups, and what it means to create a new one for the purposes of this yearlong initiative. If you would like to create a Tzedek Minyan, or think you might be interested in doing so, please fill out this form, and keep reading for more information.

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Why are Tzedek Minyanim part of this yearlong initiative?

When 10 people gather, there the Divine Presence rests

—Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 39a & Berachot 6a

Judaism believes deeply in the power of the collective. When we learn together, our understanding is broadened and deepened by others’ insights. When we give tzedakah together, our pooled resources can do more good. When we act together, we are more powerful and effective in creating change. A minyan is a group that comes together for a sacred purpose and these small groups will give BJ members the opportunity to build relationships and form community while also acting and learning for the greater good.

What does a Tzedek Minyan do over the course of the year?

Each Tzedek Minyan will choose a focus for study, philanthropy or action, and meet regularly over the course of the year. Groups make a commitment to:

  • Meet at least five times between November 2017-June 2018
  • Have a Tzedek Minyan leader (or co-leaders) who attend an initial training for group leaders in October 2017
  • Incorporate some element of Jewish learning (see below) into their meetings
  • Share photos, stories and reflections from group members through the communications channels for this initiative, including the Faith and Public Life Facebook group.

We are also organizing a series of events, trainings, and workshops, and encourage each Tzedek Minyan to participate as much as possible in these gatherings. These events include:

  • Community Calls to Action
  • Tzedek Minyan Shabbat (February 2018)
  • Faith and Public Life Community Events (see below)

What are some examples of Tzedek Minyanim?

Each of BJ’s existing direct service and community organizing groups will be considered a Tzedek Minyan. Interested in starting your own Tzedek Minyan? Here are some examples of possible groups, both broad and specific:

  • Havurah-style group that meets to study and discuss the learning materials that we will be developing for this initiative
  • Book club that reads and discusses The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt
  • A knitting group that meets regularly to knit blankets or baby clothes for refugee families in the NYC area
  • Monthly activist gatherings using resources from other faith-based organizations or activist groups.
  • Giving circles—a group of people who pool their tzedakah money and make decisions together about where and how to donate it (BJ can provide resources and curriculum on how to do this) This is a great option for families!
  • A Living Room Conversation-style discussion group that meets regularly for learning and conversation on current political topics.
  • A group of BJ families who meet once a month in someone’s home to cook for the SPSA/BJ women’s shelter

What kind of support will each Tzedek Minyan receive from BJ?

Existing committees and hevras will continue to receive the same support and resources from BJ. Given limited staff and space capacity, new groups will operate more independently: the Tzedek Minyan leader (or co-leaders) will drive the work and facilitate the group; the group will meet outside of BJ (in someone’s home, or in another venue); and after the initial sign up period in September, group meetings and other activities will not be posted in the KJ (although some information about each group will be posted on the BJ website). These groups will receive support in the following ways:

Tzedek Minyan leaders:

  • Receive initial guidance from BJ staff, if needed, to identify resources for your group (eg: giving circle curriculum, learning materials)
  • Can be assigned a mentor (a BJ member with experience in leading a social justice/social action hevra or committee) who can help strategize and troubleshoot
  • Attend a training (see below) to help develop and strengthen their leadership skills
  • Be part of a Tzedek Minyan leaders Google Group to request and share ideas, tips, and wisdom

Tzedek Minyan members:

  • Can participate in Faith and Public Life Community Events, which will include training and space to share successes and troubleshoot challenges with other groups
  • Be able to post questions and get support through a Tzedek Minyan facebook group

How many people can be in a Tzedek Minyan?

For a Tzedek Minyan to operate, it will need to have at least 8 participants, but the maximum number depends on the nature of the group. A Tzedek Minyan that is oriented towards learning and discussion would be best suited to 12-14 participants. A Tzedek Minyan whose focus is going to rallies or protests could be open to a very large number of people. If you have an idea for Tzedek Minyan, we will work with you to determine the best number of people given the nature of your idea.

Can a Tzedek Minyan include people who are not BJ members?

Absolutely. One goal of the Tzedek Minyan project is to help foster relationships within the BJ community, so we do ask that the majority of participants be BJ members; however, non-members are certainly welcome. As with all BJ groups, the Tzedek Minyan leader or co-leaders must be a BJ member.

I have an idea for a Tzedek Minyan! What do I do?

Fill out this form by July 31. In August we will be in touch to confirm, and in September, all BJ members will have a chance to sign up for a Tzedek Minyan of their choosing. We will finalize the groups in October. (Based on the number of participants who sign up for each Tzedek Minyan, the topic of the group, or other factors, we may need to consolidate or tweak groups). On Monday October 23, we will hold a leadership development training for Tzedek Minyan leaders, addressing topics such as facilitating meetings, building relationships within your group, and troubleshooting problems that may arise.

I have more questions. Whom should I contact?

Email us at faith@bj.org.

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