Hadar Settles Down


Wandering Jews no more. Kehilat Hadar, the 10-year-old independent minyan on the Upper West Side, held its first services last weekend in its new, semi-permanent space — inside the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan’s new site at Columbus Avenue and 100th Street.

“[The move] marks a change that we’re excited about,” said Marc Aaron Melzer, one of five gabbaim on the leadership committee.

The minyan began a decade ago meeting in people’s apartments and a variety of other locations, before settling into a space in the basement of a church on West 96th Street. Though the move to Schechter’s brand-new space (the Conservative day school moved in last week, after several years in temporary locations rented from Manhattan synagogues) means a slight decrease in seating for the group, there are other benefits in store for the minyan.

The space will be available to Hadar for Jewish holidays, said Melzer, plus it won’t have to move in the summer, as they used to from the church basement, which had no air conditioning. Wheelchair and stroller accessibility, a place to store Torah scrolls and better acoustics are all perks “that are nice additions for us,” said Melzer, a member of the minyan for the past five years.

The minyan’s new space will be used throughout the week by the school as a “community room” — a place for prayer, meetings and some classes.

More than 100 participants attend Kehilat Hadar each Saturday morning, which started holding weekly services about two years ago. The so-called “independent minyan,” billed as egalitarian and traditional, inspired Rabbi Elie Kaunfer (one of the community’s founders) to write the much buzzed-about “Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities.”

And so more than a dozen people showed up last week to help haul prayer books, tables, toys and of course, the ark to their new home, which can hold up to 175 people, just four blocks away.

And as for concerns that a permanent home in a Jewish organization marks the minyan’s turn towards the establishment?

“We’re a little bit less of a wandering minyan,” said Melzer, “but we are still meeting in somebody else’s space. We’re still clearing away chairs to set up for Kiddush — our week-to-week functioning doesn’t change that much.”