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Celebrating five years of Windy City Minyan

windy city minyan 2

My spiritual home doesn't actually have a home. It meets in my living room, or an apartment building party room, or an art gallery. On the third Friday of the month, the room is filled with the sounds of harmonized singing, the smells of homemade goodies, and the images of people making new friends. At the end of the night, I come home feeling energized. It's a minyan night.

I am so proud to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of Windy City Minyan, an independent minyan for young adults in the Lakeview area.

After I graduated college, some friends and I attended an intergenerational independent minyan in the Lakeview area for a few years. We loved this monthly tradition, but the minyan suddenly stopped meeting. I emailed the minyan's organizer to say I was sorry the minyan hadn't been meeting. He responded by asking me to take it over.

It wasn't the answer I had expected, but I gathered some friends and we decided instead of reviving the old minyan, we'd start something new. At that time, very little existed for young adults on Shabbat (now, of course, there are many options!), so we decided to focus our minyan on that population. After debating between names like Chi-town Minyan, Second City Minyan, and Deep Dish Minyan, we settled on Windy City Minyan.

Windy City Minyan held its first Shabbat service five years ago, on April 22, 2011, at my apartment. We spread the word to our friends and were so excited to see friends of friends and people we did not yet know.

We are so proud of what this minyan has become. Each month, we get between 30 and 80 participants, many of whom are new to Chicago and use this as an opportunity to meet new people. We see people who grew up in all streams of Judaism, as well as some new to the religion.

windy city minyan 1

As an independent minyan, we don't follow a specific movement of Judaism, but we define ourselves as egalitarian and we use the Conservative movement's prayer book. But being independent gives us flexibility: For example, we made a decision that we will face east (towards Jerusalem) in spaces that make sense to do so; but if east is the entrance to the apartment, we face the opposite way so as not to make latecomers uncomfortable, citing the verse of Talmud that warns against embarrassing people. We aim to be as welcoming as possible, including a greeter and a "welcome" sign at the door.

Our service leaders are our community members, and we encourage as much participation as possible by inviting people to lead Kabbalat Shabbat, Ma'ariv, and Kiddush, and also give a D'var Torah and share what Shabbat means to them (what I informally refer to as our "Shabbat Nugget"). Some are seasoned leaders and others use this welcoming group as an opportunity to learn to lead a service for the first time. All are appreciated.

We meet in apartment buildings and party rooms, and once we even met in an art gallery. Like traveling salesmen, we have a suitcase full of supplies like prayer books, painters tape for signs, door stops, garbage bags, and paper goods so that hosts merely need to let us in and we'll take care of the rest.

Following the service, we always have an oneg (reception) with appetizers and snacks -- many of us on the committee use this as an opportunity to refine our baking skills -- and twice a year we hold a potluck dinner.

Prayer doesn't always speak to me, but at Windy City Minyan, I find myself getting lost in the melodies, being completely present, thinking about the power of our voices coming together as this nomadic community. This minyan has taught me more than I ever thought I'd know about marketing, social media, room rental contracts, acoustics, Shabbat worship melodies, other Jewish organizations, apartment layouts, and logistics. I have made so many friendships and have had the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in this minyan over the last five years. I'm excited to watch it continue to grow.

Please join me in wishing Windy City Minyan a happy "minyan-niversary," and come celebrate with us at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 15 near Belmont and Lake Shore Drive for Friday night services -- and for the first time ever, a Havdalah service at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 16 near Roscoe and Sheffield. Visit us at windycityminyan.com or find us on Facebook for the exact address and more information.

Shabbat Shalom … the next Windy City Minyan is never more than a month away!

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