In early 2020, pre-COVID, the Northern California Board of Rabbis (NCBOR), based in San Francisco, and the Taube Center for Jewish Life & Learning, based in Warsaw, Poland, co-created Minyan Makers, a Jewish text-based learning initiative. Over the course of a year, Bay Area rabbis led online workshops for Jewish cultural and educational professionals across Poland that explored the contemporary relevance of Jewish religious texts.
Minyan Makers brought together 12 NCBOR rabbis and 44 professionals from 21 Polish Jewish institutions. Divided into four minyanim, groups of at least ten participants, they studied selected texts from the Torah, siddur (Jewish prayer book), Talmud, Kabbalah, and rabbinic commentaries. Funded by a grant to NCBOR from Taube Philanthropies, the NCBOR coordinated the rabbis, and the Taube Center’s Libitzky Family Foundation rabbinic intern, Gabe Miner, facilitated the cohorts.
The program’s fourth and final cycle is now coming to a close.The program participants represented an array of Polish Jewish cultural institutions, including the American Jewish Committee, the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute, the Auschwitz Jewish Center, the Galicia Jewish Museum, Hillels and JCCs in Krakow and Warsaw, the Jewish Culture Festival in Kraków, and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
“Minyan Makers showed me how to work with various religious texts and relate them to current events and to our everyday lives,” says Anna Wencel, an educator at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków.
The success of the program encouraged Miner, who is currently continuing rabbinic studies at HUC-JIR’s New York campus, to create a successor program, Doresh. In rabbinic texts the word doresh means to interpret or teach, from the root meaning to seek, as in “to seek answers or understanding.”