Rise of independent groups influencing Judaism

Dozens of “independent minyanim” — unaffiliated Jewish worship communities — have sprung up in the past decade, mixing elements of the mainstream denominations while answering to none of them.

Ten years ago, the United States had two independent minyanim, plural of minyan. Today, there at least 70 involving about 20,000 people, said Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, who wrote a book on the independent minyanim, “Empowered Judaism.”

The number involved is a small percentage of the estimated 5.2 million Jews in the U.S. But Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, said the movement is driven by the most devout and educated Jews, and its ideas on worship, prayer and what defines a community will inevitably cross into mainstream practice.

“What happens in American Judaism over and over is that the margins influence the mainstream,” Sarna said. “I don’t expect many of the independent minyanim themselves will be long lasting. But I think we will look back and say that they had long-lasting influence.”


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