Ritual Committee Meeting

October 29, 2003

A meeting of the Ritual Committee of the Library Minyan of Temple Beth Am was held on October 29, 2003 at the home of Robert Braun beginning at 7:30 pm. In attendance were the following individuals:

Jonathan Friedman
Rachel Green
Sandra Braun
Robert Braun
Scott Taryle
Paul Nisenbaum
Mitch Miller
Steve Spronz
Avi Havivi
Cathy Lippman
Shaya Kass
Norm Levin

Robert Braun called the meeting to order and acted as Chair of the meeting. He began with a short D’var Torah, after which the following matters were discussed:

1. Prayer for Coalition Soldiers

Mitch Miller presented a proposal to add a prayer for members of the United States military serving abroad to be added to the Minyan’s regular prayers. Mitch presented two versions. One is a Prayer for the American Armed Forces which has been used in the past during times of armed conflict. The second, shorter proposal was taken from the Jewish Welfare Board prayerbook for service personnel. The participants discussed the advisability, timing and text of the addition, and whether it should become a permanent part of services, or only during times when United States military personnel are clearly in active armed conflict.

After further discussion, the Ritual Committee resolved to recommend to the Library Minyan as a whole that the following prayer be added to the existing prayer for the country:

We beseech You, O God, to shield and protect our armed forces, in the air, on sea and on land. May it be Your will that the dominion of tyranny and cruelty speedily be brought to an end and the kingdom of righteousness be established on earth with liberty and freedom for all mankind. Amen.

It was suggested that if adopted, a laminated copy be kept at the bimah, and that inserts be made available to all attendees at Minyan services.

2. Prayer for Chayalei Tzahal

Paul Nisenbaum presented the proposal to add a prayer for members of Israel’s armed forces to our daily prayers. After discussion, it was determined that the existing Prayer for Israel contained in Siddur Sim Shalom and read in the Synagogue each Shabbat directly addressed the issue and that no additional prayer was required. It was, however, recommended that the Kahal be reminded that the Prayer for Israel does encompass the safety and well-being of Israel armed forces, and that we should keep this in mind when praying.

3. Children on the Bimah

Shaya Kass presented a proposal regarding the Minyan’s position regarding the presence of young children on the Bimah. The Committee reiterated the desire of the Minyan to encourage attendance by families, including children, and determined that no change in the Minyan’s present policy was required. The Committee reiterated the Minyan’s existing policy:

  • Children who are not leading a portion of the service should not, in general, reside or spend extended periods of time on the Bimah.
  • At no time should any child (or any other person) sit on the Shulchan, particularly in the presence of a Sefer Torah.
  • The Minyan invites children to the Bimah at specific times, such as the removal and return of the Torah, and at Adon Olam.
  • It is the responsibility of parents to enforce this policy with respect to their children, although gabbaim should provide gentle reminders.

4. Videotaping in the Minyan

Bob Braun presented the question of whether videotaping of simchot will be allowed in the Minyan on Shabbat and Chagim. It was noted that Steve Spronz had submitted a separate proposal. Steve also showed a short segment of his son’s Bar Mitzvah which was recently recorded. The segment showed the area from the bimah furthest from the ark to the entire ark, the area between the seats facing toward the center of the Chapel, and the two or three seats closest to the ark.

Each of the committee members present had an opportunity to speak and individuals on the committee raised the following issues (in neither order of presentation or importance):

  • Aesthetics: The presence of videotaping creates an aesthetic barrier to prayer in the Minyan.
  • Personal Halachic issues: Notwithstanding the approval of the videotaping procedure by Rabbi Rembaum (and the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, although we have not seen the resolution), some members objected to the videotape as engaging in the act of creation on Shabbat and would feel compelled to separate themselves from any videotaping and, possibly, from any service at which videotaping took place. This would, it was felt, have a divisive impact on the Minyan community.
  • The “Two Kahal” dilemma:
  • Family Considerations: It was suggested that the prime goal of the Minyan should be to accommodate the desires of a family celebrating a simcha, and that placing the desires of the community above the desires of individual members was equally divisive to the Minyan.
  • Comparison to Imahot and Microphone:
  • Practical Issues: If videotaping is allowed, how will it be implemented?

After further discussion, the Committee determined that it was unable to propose a recommendation to the Minyan as a whole. Instead, it was the sense of the Committee that a full discussion and vote by the entire Kahal was necessary. It was anticipated that the matter would be discussed at the November 9 meeting, to be followed by an email discussion, and a mail-in vote prior to Chanukah.

5. Simcha Guidelines

Avi Havivi and Sandra Braun presented proposed guidelines to assist families celebrating b’nai mitzvot at the Minyan. The Committee reviewed and, with changes noted in the guidelines, unanimously adopted the guidelines. The guidelines are to be provided to the Temple to give to families when their simchot are scheduled for the Library Minyan. Because the guidelines are limited to implementing existing policies (whether at the Synagogue level or at the Minyan), it was determined that no further action was required.

6. Decorum in the Minyan.

It was noted that certain members had complained about the lack of decorum, ranging from excessive talking during services to inappropriate dress. It was the consensus of the Committee that existing policies adequately covered the matter, but that all members are encouraged to remind their friends and neighbors of the goal of creating a prayer-friendly environment.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 pm.

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