November 4, 2016

A Break From Tradition

David Wingens ‘19

The new tefillah program, which has been received well, strives to find equilibrium between student needs and school needs and it seems to be succeeding.
As of now, this tefillah program consists of just three shacharit minyans on Mondays and Thursdays and no options on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The options on Mondays and Thursdays are Minyan Havayah, Learners Minyan and Power prayers. For the mincha services, Mr. Metz, the organizer of the new system, said that he will be introducing minyanim by December.

Minyan Havayah, the most radical of the new minyans, does not include traditional prayer at all. It is comprised of meditation and introspection. This may be the right choice for people like sophomore Ayala Jones who “do not find meaning in traditional tefillah.”
Learners Minyan is more traditional but has a twist for those who are curious about why and how we pray.
“It is a slower paced minyan,” junior Jake Halpern said. This pace may be suitable for those who really want to delve deeply into the content of the prayer and do not always care if they complete a traditional service.
Power Prayers is the most traditional minyan offered and has been generally received well by the people who chose it.
“I like because everyone wants to pray and there is less messing around.” junior Ben Moses said.
Sophomore Eitan Szteinbaum went so far as to say that “Power Prayers does not go far enough in offering a space for prayer” and that “There should be a separate option to pray with a mechitzah.”
Despite this praise, Power Prayers is not right for everyone and caters to the self-selecting group of people who care about doing a complete service.
While this move toward simplification may be seen by some as a much needed streamlining of the program, others feel that the limitation of options is a step down from last year’s sometimes hectic and very flexible program.
“We should have more expanded options for non-conventional prayer,” sophomore Eitan Gerstle said. He added he is only one of the many students who feel that the large, limited minyans should be broken up into smaller, more personalized ones.
Mr. Metz said that he agrees that more choice would be better, but that he thought that the best way to start would be to focus on only three and then expand and improve from there, especially because of the limited staff available during tefillah periods. One solution that he proposed was changing the times of middle and high school tefillah periods so as to maximize the amount of faculty available for each period and to focus on different themes and goals in each.
Mr. Metz has also promised new additions to the tefillah programs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays come December. He says that he is planning on letting last year’s vaad tefillah run their electives for the month of December and he would like to see, going forward, students coming up with their own ideas for new afternoon minyans. This could potentially provide the variation that some have asked for.
These afternoon minyans would have a set time during which it would run and there would not be many running at the same time as there have been in the past. For example, va’ad tefillah would run their minyan for the month of December or for eight tefillah periods and then a new elective would take its place.
The main goal that Mr. Metz tried to keep in mind while building this new program from the ground up was to satisfy the needs of both the students and the school and to to reach an equilibrium between the school’s needs and students’ needs.
Mr. Metz especially stressed the need to “stand back and evaluate” what has come of the tefillah program after the first semester and see how it can be improved.
The new tefillah program is a work in progress but, as of now, things are running smoothly and there will be plenty of time to expand on and improve the current system.


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