“Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities”

A Panel Discussion at JTS

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950
Email: nijacobson@jtsa.edu

April 12, 2010, New York, NY

How will the independent minyan movement affect the traditional American Jewish community? What does this new movement imply for the future of synagogues and Jewish education? Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen, and Professor Steven M. Cohen will discuss these issues and Rabbi Kaunfer’s new book Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities (Jewish Lights, 2010) on Tuesday, April 27, 7:30 p.m., at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), 3080 Broadway (at 122nd St.), New York City. JTS Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen will moderate the discussion. The program is cosponsored by JTS and the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner.


Empowered Judaism
offers an analysis of the age-old question of how to build a strong Jewish community. Rabbi Kaunfer explores the independent minyan movement; the lessons it has to teach about prayer, community organizing, and volunteer leadership; and its implications for contemporary challenges in American Judaism. Noted Brandeis Professor Jonathan Sarna calls Empowered Judaism “a book that every Jewish leader will want to read and every serious Jew will want to contemplate.”

Rabbi Kaunfer, named one of the top fifty Jewish leaders by the Forward and one of Newsweek’s top fifty rabbis in 2009, is cofounder and executive director of Mechon Hadar, an institute that empowers Jews to build vibrant Jewish communities. Mechon Hadar has launched the first full-time egalitarian yeshiva program in North America, Yeshivat Hadar, where Rabbi Kaunfer teaches Talmud. A Dorot Fellow and Wexner Graduate Fellow, Rabbi Kaunfer cofounded Kehilat Hadar, an independent minyan in Manhattan committed to spirited traditional prayer, study, and social action. He was selected as an inaugural AVI CHAI Fellow and was ordained at JTS.

Rabbi Cohen became a full-time rabbi at Manhattan’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in August 2002, three months after her ordination at JTS. Passionately committed to progressive and feminist Judaism, she is an activist and an advocate for full inclusion and celebration of LGBT Jews in the Conservative Movement and the larger Jewish world. Rabbi Cohen has received numerous awards for her scholarship and leadership.

Professor Cohen, a sociologist of American Jewry, is research professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC) and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner. Professor Cohen, who has published widely since earning his PhD in Sociology at Columbia University in 1974, divides his time between New York and Jerusalem, where he has served as professor at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at Hebrew University since 1992. Prior to that he taught at Queens College, CUNY, and held visiting professorships at Yale University and The Jewish Theological Seminary. Professor Cohen is well-known for his 2000 book, The Jew Within: Self, Family, and Community in the United States, coauthored with JTS Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen.

Chancellor Arnold Eisen, one of the world’s foremost experts on American Judaism, is the seventh chancellor of JTS. Since his inauguration in 2007, he has met with world leaders, engaged in prominent interdenominational and interfaith dialogues, and championed a transformation in the education of the next generation of Conservative leadership. Before coming to JTS, Chancellor Eisen was the Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion at Stanford University. He received a PhD in the History of Jewish Thought from Hebrew University.

Admission is free but reservations are required. For more information and to register, please email publicevents@jtsa.edu or call (212) 280-6093. Attendees are asked to arrive early and bring photo identification.