FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About the Library Minyan Governing Charter
1. Why do we need a charter document?
So that newcomers, as well as veterans, can easily understand how the Minyan operates and makes decisions, and so that active participation in the Minyan’s lay-leadership structure is clearly encouraged and comfortably available. In short, for the sake of transparency and wide participation.
2. How did the charter come into being?
Abby Harris, current Minyan Master, called a Shabbat afternoon general meeting on July 23, 2011 where, among other matters, issues of governance were discussed. She appointed Joel Grossman to convene a follow-up meeting focusing on this topic, and that meeting of the Governance committee took place at the Grossman home on September 18, 2011. Discussion went forward from a 1985 governance document that Henry Morgan had found. The meeting concluded with Joel asking for volunteers for the New Charter sub-committee, and then deciding to randomly select four people from among the nine who volunteered. Those four people—Dianne Shershow, Rabbi Susan Laemmle, Rabbi Avi Havivi and Abby Harris– plus Joel have been meeting and working since then; the proposed Governing Charter represents the results of their efforts.
3. What is the plan for implementing the charter? Is there a transition plan?
The implementation plan calls for the following stages: (1) sending out the Draft Governance Charter to the entire Minyan mailing list and posting it on the Minyan website; (2) people reading it carefully; (3) their posting reactions, questions, and responses to reactions/questions within the Forum section of the Minyan website; (4) their coming prepared to the general meeting over kiddush lunch called for Shabbat, January 28, and engaging in open discussion; (5) the Charter sub-committee gathering ideas from that meeting via notes written after Shabbat by them, designated listeners, and others; (6) the sub-committee editing the Charter to reflect these ideas; (7) a committee being formed to determine how the Charter will be voted upon — for example, accepted/rejected in entirety or in parts; (8) the final version being sent out for voting; (8) Minyan membership being informed of voting results and asked to volunteer for the new committees.
Assuming that a new Governance Charter is adopted, there will be a transition period for leadership to be set in place: (1) a member of the Charter sub-committee or the larger Governance committee will schedule and lead the opening meeting of each committee; (2) members of each committee will select their chairperson; (3) those chairpeople to constitute the Steering Committee; (4) the Steering Committee will select the Rosh, who will assume that position immediately and carry forward for a term of approximately two years.
Ideally, implementation, adoption, and transition will take about two months.
4. What is the purpose of the meeting on January 28 and why is the meeting on Shabbat?
The meeting will enable Minyan members to come together at a time that works most easily for the majority. People are already at shul, and it can be very hard for many Minyan members to make another meeting time.
At the meeting, members of the Charter sub-committee will briefly review the Draft Charter, providing some background to the thinking that led to its provisions. Members of the kahal will be able to ask questions, raise issues, and suggest changes. This meeting is by no means a formality. Input from the meeting as captured in writing afterwards, as well as input posted to the Forum, will provide the basis for possible changes to the Draft Charter.
5. What types of issues does the minyan vote on… aren’t we bound by the senior rabbi of TBA?
As a constituent minyan within Temple Beth Am, the Library Minyan is bound by certain decisions of the senior rabbi, as well as other members of the TBA senior staff. Basically, the Minyan governs its own practice through a democratic process, within the guidelines of Jewish law and Temple Beth Am policy. The Charter calls for inquiries on substantial matters to be decided within the Steering Committee, by an Action Committee, or by the Minyan as a whole.
6. “Pay, Come & Serve” might have been important years ago, when we were just starting out, but isn’t it outmoded now?
Because the Library Minyan is a constituent unit of Temple Beth Am, it’s still important that its members pay to be members of the temple. Because the Minyan depends on people forming the congregation on Shabbat and holidays, it is vital that most people come to services on a more-or-less regular basis. Because the Minyan is lay-led for services as well as in its governance and creation of community, it is vital that people serve in the roles that enable tefillot and the communal structure to go forward. That said, the second two elements are necessarily subjective and to some extent, aspirational, not hard and fast requirements. There will not be a committee that checks whether a certain person did or did not actually come regularly or serve the Minyan in some way.
7. Doesn’t “Serve” really mean lead services? “
Serve” means just that, not “lead.” It means to give of oneself in some capacity to other members of the Minyan and/or to the Minyan as an entity. There are many ways to serve, and an important aim of the new Governance Charter is to greatly enlarge the range of service opportunities. Important as it is to lead or coordinate aspects of services, these represent only the visible, frontal mode of leadership. Others ways to serve fall into two basic areas: (1) participating in governance by joining one or more committees, and (2) playing a role in maintaining the Minyan’s communal structure and support of its membership as full human beings and families.
8. Where do the committees come from?
Some of the committees envisioned by the Governance Charter sub-committee came from the 1985 document; others continue or build on current committees or individual functions; and still others were created by the sub-committee because they sense a need.
Questions have been raised about increasing the number of committees, asking “since it’s already hard to get people engaged, will we really be able fill all of those positions and make each committee viable?” The thought of the sub-committee is that the more committees there are, the more the average Minyan member has to choose from. We are serious about the pay-come-and serve component and want absolutely everyone in the Minyan to find a way to serve. For many people, this will be by joining a committee that interests him or her. The sub-committee believes that people will find that joining a committee does not require a huge investment of time, and will be a good option for providing a service to the Minyan and becoming engaged in a deeper, more active way
9. What’s the idea behind the new name and role of the “Rosh”?
The sub-committee conceives the Rosh as “first among equals” — someone who (except during the initial transition period) has served on the Steering Committee during the past term or before that; someone who has experience with the give and take of Minyan activity and decision making. The title arose as a nice Hebrew term sometimes used in Jewish camping, which communicates the person’s being in a central role without suggesting that they wield undue authority or operate in a vacuum.
As specified in the Charter, the Rosh will fulfill several important functions: providing liason with the shul, convening and running meetings of the Steering Committee, and serving as point-person for members and visitors who raise questions about Minyan policy or practice. Beyond this, the Rosh will be attentive to how committees and coordinators are functioning and feeling, bringing to the Steering Committee problems that seem to be cropping up and also informally smoothing areas of friction. By definition, each Rosh will make the job his or her own, with particular emphases and initiatives. However, the new Governance Charter will prevent the Rosh and other Minyan leaders from operating in unilateral fashion, ignoring the communal decision-making process.