Nine years ago, Nadia Underhill and I sat next to each other at a Hanukkah Shabbat dinner that I had organized at Emanuel Congregation in Chicago as an event for Loosely Defined. Loosely Defined was a peer group for people in their 20s and 30s without children and we regularly got together to study mitzvot with our rabbi, Michael Zedek, at a bar in Chicago. After a few years of studying the mitzvot through a Reform lens, many of us began to desire a different Shabbat experience. It was through study and random seating that Nadia and I started the conversation that would then become TBD Minyan.
TBD Minyan was, at first, an extension of Loosely Defined – which was our community or kehillah within a family-focused Reform congregation. Ultimately, Loosely Defined dissolved, Itza Mitzvah became a project of the JCC and TBD Minyan became an independent minyan meeting in private homes without synagogue involvement.
So it is this, the third proposition of Kehillah, that TBD Minyan aligns with in Jewish Megatrends. Over the course of nine years together, we have celebrated marriage, birth and promotions. We have mourned break-ups, miscarriages and downsizing. Through it all, a core group has lifted each other up, prayed together on Shabbat and welcomed the stranger who found us through public event listings.
I have always rejected the idea that non-Orthodox, Gen-X and Millenials Jews are unwilling to take Judaism seriously. We programmed assuming that there was an audience to join us for study, prayer and meals. I believe this assumption that liberal Jews can be serious Jews is what has created our kehillah.
The multi-faith emphasis that Schwarz gives to his theme of wisdom/chochma brings to mind the extent to which the TBD Minyan reaches out to and embraces the non-Jewish partners of our members. They have an equal seat at the table for giving talks, cooking our meals, planning celebrations and building a vibrant community.
Our non-Jewish partners come from many different faith backgrounds, but all (to my knowledge) have committed to Jewish homes for their children. For these couples, we aim to be fully welcoming. We are keenly aware that what comes naturally to us is hardly the standard approach of most Jewish institutions.
Ultimately, we are a group that takes Judaism and our kehillah seriously. We are committed to each other as a cohort without formal structure or institutional framing. This means that we have the freedom to change our offering as our families change. What was once a late night Shabbat dinner with bottles and bottles of wine is now a Saturday afternoon meal with bottles and bottles of milk for the babies and toddlers in our midst.
Leah Jones is the co-founder of TBD Minyan in Chicago, a current Wexner Heritage Fellow and a long-standing member of the ROI Community. When she isn’t rearranging her living room to fit a few more people over for dinner, she is the Vice President of Health Care Engagement at Olson Engage.