The title of this post is admittedly a little disengenuous. I guess the idea of an independent minyan being associated with dirty hippies exists because many of the first such minyans were Carlebach style affairs run and attended by young Orthodox neo-hippies wearing various hippy style accoutrements like vintage flowing skirts, beaded necklaces, scarves, big-ass knitted kippahs, crazy sometimes dreadlocked hair, and in a contemporary touch, various visible piercings.
The hippies, bathed or otherwise, are still there, but the independent minyan movement represents one of the more dynamic developments in Jewish life. Faced with traditional services that they either didn’t understand or felt were less than fulfilling, the founders of various independent minyans have started their own services as a way of connecting to their Judaism in a manner they perceive to be more relevant. Such minyans span the religious/ideological gamut – from naked sabbath services, to egalitarian minyans equipped with a “Trichitza,” to more traditional Orthodox services.
Usually such minyans are spearheaded and run by younger individuals on shoe-string budgets. But not anymore! Taking a cue from the new generation, septuagenerian Billionaire Philanthropist Edgar Bronfman, 77, held “post denominational” Yom Kippur services at his Upper East Side apartment house. The by invitation-only service was even attended by Chelsea Clinton and her Jewish boyfriend.
What led Bronfman to create his own service? â€œI can’t stand most services… They’re just so boring.â€ That’s understandable I guess. He and his brother Charles were amongst the first Jews to attend private and ritzy Trinity College in Port Hope, Ontario. Their father Sam Bronfman, founder of the Bronfman dynasty, had to negotiate the matter of the boys’ Church attendance with the headmaster. Not having had the benefit of a complete Jewish upbringing, it’s no wonder Edgar was bored by all that synagogue stuff he didn’t understand.
Unlike most independent minyans that started off after a spliff-fueled conversation over a potluck vegetarian meal, Bronfman’s minyan began during lunch with Reform Rabbi Darren Levine, at the (decidedly unkosher but hella expensive) Four Seasons restaurant. The service, led by Levine included interactive dialogue, a new prayer book and lots of music. They even had a musical director, Daniel Leanse, who sang accompanied by an accoustic guitar as well as a pianist and a cellist. Half way through the service Leanse was joined by 19 year old up and coming pop singer Alana Grace (pictured above).
Well… it’s not my kind of service, but what the hell, when you’re that rich ($3 billion) you can do whatever you like. At least I am pretty sure there were no dirty hippies in attendance. Kol Zimrah beware! There’s a new game in town and it has limitless resources!