The 2010 Library Minyan Heshbon Hanefesh Report

As part of our strategic planning, we had two “Heshbon Hanefesh” (accounting of the soul) meetings to determine where we are as a minyan, and where we would like to go.  The following account represents the results of those meetings.

At our first meeting (August 2009), we had an open forum where we brainstormed the issues that people felt were the most pressing for the Minyan.  Seth Schulweis, Fran Grossman and Abby Harris reviewed the topics, and noticed that many concerns clustered along certain topics.

At our second meeting, February 6, 2010, members were invited to go to the table representing the topic they were most interested in discussing.  The group deliberating on each topic became our ad hoc committees.

The table topics, representing the most compelling concerns of Minyan members during 2010, were “Inreach,” (involving groups within our constituency who might feel the least involved, both in participation and in decision-making, ie children, teenagers, young adults); “Outreach,” (our relationship with the greater shul, in particular with the new rabbi); and the “Day to Day” issues involved with running a weekly prayer service – concerns regarding the physical plant, Kiddush, davening.  We divided the “Day to Day” table into two smaller groups, in order to more fairly distribute the topics, and we also had a table devoted to Ritual concerns.  Each table had a facilitator.

Below are the discussion notes from each table, and text to describe what follow-up has resulted.

In the notes you will notice that some issues were merely ~Discussed in the committee and some were √ Resolved.  Some committees made a Recommendation. 

The blue term √ Implemented means that the ideas discussed in the committee came to fruition and have become a new program or innovation in the Minyan.  Details about the implementation are found in the Follow up and Results after the meeting notes. The red term  √ Completed means that the discussion is essentially concluded, but that there is no change in the situation.  Details are found in the Follow up and Results.  The green terms  ≥ Open issue and  ≥ Deferred to Ritual committee refer to an issue that might require further discussion, or might be awaiting action, etc.  An issue which has been deferred to the Ritual committee is one that cannot be acted upon without Ritual involvement. By and large green items are NOT explained in the Follow up and Results, unless part of the concern has been implemented but part is still in process.


The Inreach committee (led by Terri Cohan Link)

~ Discussed:

1.             Inviting children to the bima for Adon Olam, and distributing candy to them. √ Implemented.

2.             Potluck meals as an opportunity to meet new people in different surroundings. √ Implemented.

3.             Participating in Pre-Bnai Mitzvah meetings with families –when the children are in third, fourth grade — to encourage them to begin to come to the Library Minyan. ≥ Open issue.

4.             Having regular announcements regarding our principle of being welcoming to all, as one of several ways to improve our friendliness and warmth as a minyan. ≥ Open issue.

5.             The importance of reconsidering and breaking old habits so as to become more welcoming and warm to new and prospective members.  Recommendation: periodically ask kahal to sit in a new place. ≥ Open issue.

Follow up and results of Table 1

  1. √ Implemented. Sandra Lepson volunteered to be the new “Children’s Gabbai.”  Sandra works with the Shabbat gabbaim, the Musaf Shaliach, and the person making kiddush, to invite children to the bima for Adon Olam and kiddush.  Sandra is also the “candy man” handing out candies to the children on the bima; and helps insure that the kids get grape juice if they desire.
  1. √ Implemented.

a.     The “Diaspora Potluck Committee” (chaired by Teri Cohan Link, Susan Laemmle, John Antignas; also Sandy Brenner, Fran Malina, Bob Roosth, Abby Harris) met to discuss and create a new potluck program.

b.     Established dates for three different types of events.

c.     Wrote guidelines; posted on LM website.

d.     Solicited hosts and co-hosts for the events.

e.     Advertised to kahal by announcements and flyer.

f.      Used electronic invitations (evite).

g.     First Shabbat lunch, Dec 11 at Dina and Gordon Bernat-Kunin’s fully subscribed.

h.     Feedback mechanism: created on-line survey (SurveyMonkey) to measure attitudes towards potluck meals program.

Table 2

The Outreach to Shul committee (led by Joel Grossman)

√ Resolved:

a.     to invite Rabbi Kligfeld to give the drash periodically in the minyan (~4-6 times a year). ≥ Open issue.

b.     to cancel LM one day to encourage everyone to go upstairs. ≥ Open issue.


Day to Day “Physical plant and Kiddush” sub-committee (led by Seth Schulweis)

√ Resolved:

2.             that we make kiddush from the bima at the end of Shabbat services.  √ Implemented.

3.             that we need a task force to explore alternative kiddushim. √ Implemented.

4.             to remove the artwork from the Chapel.  √ Implemented.

5.             to explore alternate emergency routes for mobility challenged members, especially the use of the garage ramp. √ Completed.


Follow up and results of Table 3A

1.             √ Implemented. Except in the case of a bar/bat mitzvah kiddush, where the family’s preferences might influence whether Kiddush is chanted on the bima or at the meal, the Gabbai of the day will assign someone to lead kiddush immediately after Adon Olam.

a.     In the case of a sponsored kiddush, the gabbai will offer the honor of chanting Kiddush first to the sponsor(s.)  Norm Saiger, Ritual Chair, has ruled that an unlimited number of people may “lead” Kiddush, so all the sponsors may, if so desired.

b.     We have coordinated with the shul for the appropriate set-up of grapejuice and cups.


2.             √ Implemented. Carl Sunshine, Mayer Brenner, and Annette Berman volunteered to chair a Kiddush task force.

a.     In unison with a similar task force from BAIT Tefillah, Sheryl Goldman and Rabbi Kligfeld, we have determined strategies for a kiddush alternative to a catered kiddush, which can be costly and which lessens our opportunities for involvement.

b.     Scheduling of these “do it ourselves” kiddushim has been dependent upon the availability of the milchig kitchen, but we can bring in food, cook (with heat) in advance of kiddush, prepare, and serve kiddush.

c.     Rabbi Kligfeld has okayed (in principle) the ability to use the fleishig kitchen for a parve Kiddush in the event that the milchig kitchen is not available.

d.     Our first DIO kiddush was in July; our second was October 16.

e.     Carl Sunshine and Abby Harris

i.    wrote kiddush guidelines (the options for different kiddushim available in the LM);

ii.    approved by the kiddush committee and

iii.     posted on the LM website.

3.             √ Implemented. In accord with other groups that use the Chapel on a regular basis, we asked maintenance to remove the artwork from the Chapel, and to patch and repaint the walls.  Maintenance re-hung the artwork in the hallway behind the Chapel’s stained glass windows.

4.             √ Completed.  Our evacuation plans call for all evacuees to use stairs to exit our building. Mobility-challenged evacuees would be dependent on volunteers to help carry them up the stairs.

a.     Abby Harris and James Collins investigated the possibility that we could evacuate a congregant in a wheelchair through the ramp in the garage.

b.     However, the Fire Department prohibits the use of the garage ramp in our evacuation plan.  We cannot use the garage ramp in our evacuation plan.

c.     Recommendation: An important element to successful outcomes in an emergency is to have a plan. Although this chafes at the independent nature of the minyan, we must respect the experience of the Fire Department, and, in the interests of safety and the wellbeing of the entire minyan, we ask that members abide by the plan.

Table 3B

The Day to Day “Standards” sub-committee (led by Kathleen Schulweis)


  1. Simchas: has our policy changed regarding who may celebrate bar/bat mitzvah and other smachot?  Strong feeling among the group to have only members of our minyan to have their simchas.  √ Completed.
  2. The minyan needs better lines of communication, perhaps listserv. √ Implemented.  ≥ Open issue.
  3. Innovation, creativity and melodies. ≥ Deferred to Ritual Committee
    1. Encouraging people to try new melodies and other innovations (poetry, kavanot, to invite people’s kavanah in prayer. And, when someone introduces a new melody, they should be mindful of the value of repetition over time so that people get used to it.
    2. two parts of the service mentioned where people would especially like to see more creativity are

i.    P’zukei de-Zimrah

ii.    Torah service: Prayer for our Country, Prayer for Israel, and Prayer for Peace.

  1. Policy regarding talit and kipah for people honored with an aliyah, hagbah, galila. ≥ Open issue.

a.     What do we want our policy to be—institutional or individual choice?

b.     Once we have a policy, how is it enforced?

c.     Recommendation: Shawn Fields-Meyer should give a drash to open up this question.

  1. Dashot: One person raised concerns about standards regarding our drashot and the value of having people in the minyon who could meet with a first-time darshan. ≥ Open issue.
  2. The desire for innovation was for the sake of increasing ruach. The melodies and style of our services are perceived, by most people, to be related to the aging population of the minyan. The desire for innovation was matched by expressions of anxiety about change. We want to ask that people be sensitive to the need for balance. And we ask that we collectively give ourselves permission to experiment. ≥ Open issue.

Follow up and results Table 3B

  1. √ Completed.    The table committee was unaware of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guidelines posted on our LM website.  They contain clear guidelines regarding the minyan’s expectations of participation and involvement on the part of families and their children wishing to have a bar/bat mitzvah in the minyan.
  2. √ Implemented.  ≥ Open issue.  Under the direction of Bob Roosth, our webmaster, we have signed up with to maintain our email list and send out group emails.
    1. The minyan email list contains approximately 300 names.
    2. Interested parties can sign up for our mailing list through our website.
    3. Uninterested parties can unsubscribe from our mailing list.
    4. In September 2010, the traditional LM monthly newsletter “The Minyan Monthly” was reborn.
    5. Although we have the ability to send group emails to our community, we do not have the capability of on-line discussion.
    6. We are experimenting with SurveyMonkey on-line surveys to solicit Minyan members’ feedback.
  1. ≥ Deferred to Ritual Committee  The Ritual Committee will examine these issues; perhaps establishing a “Prayer for our Country/Israel/Peace” taskforce.

Table 4  

The ritual committee (led by Norm Saiger, ritual chair):

√ Resolved:

a.     to approve the new mahzor Lev Shalem for use in the LM High Holiday services. √ Implemented.

b.     not to pursue the institution of Birkat Kohenim for Festivals. √ Implemented.

c.     not to hold Erev Simhat Torah services in the LM this year (5771). √ Implemented.

~ Discussed: 

Full Kriyah with no resultant action or recommendation. ≥ Open issue.

This report, like the Heshbon Hanefesh process, is the work of many hands, minds, and hearts.  The Library Minyan is greatly indebted to Fran Grossman, our Strategic Planning Chairperson, for her efforts.

Thank you also to Joel Grossman, Rabbi Susan Laemmle, Teri Cohan Link, Debbie Rich, Norm Saiger, Kathleen Schulweis, Seth Schulweis and Ruth Sohn, for their work at the Heshbon Hanefesh meetings.

Yasher koach to all who participated at tables in February 2010 and who helped formulate the ideas contained in this report.  A huge yasher koach to those who have helped the ideas become realities, including, but not limited to, John Antignas, Annette Berman, Meyer Brenner, Sandy Brenner, James Collins, Sheryl Goldman, Anita (AJ) Happel, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, Rabbi Susan Laemmle, Sandra Lepson, Teri Cohan Link, Fran Malina, Bob Roosth, Kathy Rosenblatt, and Carl Sunshine.

Any comments or questions should be directed to our current Minyan Master Abby Harris at

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