There’s the Forward 50 — a listing of the 50 most influential Jews; Newsweek’s top 100 rabbis; and New York Jewish Week’s 36 under 36. JTA even names the 100 most influential Jewish tweeters. So, two years ago, we decided to get in the annual list game. We decided to create a minyan.
We purposefully kept the definition of who could be included very broad. It isn’t about influence or power. Our minyan is made up of people we simply think are interesting — people who make our community what it is. And we don’t decide — you do.
I’ve been thrilled with the diversity of those who have been named Minyanaires. Students and teachers; lay leaders and agency directors; artists and innovators. We’ve named cultural leaders, thought leaders, political leaders and congregational leaders. Together they represent our community.
Which is why we picked 10 as our number. There is something so profoundly brilliant about the need to have a minyan, of moments in our lives we shouldn’t be alone. I’m thinking specifically of the need to have at least 10 people present to say Kaddish or birkat ha gomel (prayer recited after overcoming danger). When we mourn and when we are grateful for a healthy childbirth we, by law, must be surrounded by our community.
I think about conversations I had this week when researching the story about the new Federation leadership training initiatives. For our community to move forward, I was told, we need lay leaders and staff. We need the partnership of volunteers and professionals. And we need everyone to feel empowered and fulfilled and valued.
I agree. We need people who step up and help us move forward in interesting and meaningful ways. Everyone from Oren Charnoff, the University of Maryland student who sends student interns to Tel Aviv with UMD TAMID, the group he founded. Or Alyza Lewin, the attorney, who, along with her father, is fighting for the right of a family to list “Israel” as their child’s place of birth. Or William Daroff, who in addition to being an influential voice on Twitter, is a powerhouse in Congress and the Knesset on behalf of the Jewish Federations. All three are previous Minyanaires.
So, my dear readers, the time has come to pick our class of 2013. Who were the most interesting local Jews of the past year? Your son’s preschool teacher? That young social entrepreneur who lives down the hall? The senior who speaks to high school students about surviving the Holocaust? No further restrictions on who can be nominated — just someone who is Jewish, lives in the District Maryland or Virginia and is interesting — for any reason.
Email me and let me know who should be called out as exemplifying what makes our Jewish community special. Tell me who and tell me why. But do it soon. We’ll announce our new minyan early January.