History & Values

Mission & Values

Kehilat Hadar is an independent, egalitarian community committed to spirited traditional prayer, study and social action. 

Core Mission:

Kehilat Hadar is committed to prayer services with spirited davening and leyning. Kehilat Hadar services use the traditional liturgy in a halachic framework and are marked by widespread communal participation, inspiring melodies and thoughtful divrei Torah. We believe that close attention to detail and planning, coupled with flexibility and responsiveness, produces the best possible experience for all. 

Kehilat Hadar Community:

Kehilat Hadar appeals to a wide section of the general Jewish community: young and old, secular and observant, straight and gay. We are committed to furthering openness and hospitality to both newcomers and long-time members. 

Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Hasadim:

Kehilat Hadar is the primary Jewish community for hundreds of people. While Shabbat morning services remain the backbone of Kehilat Hadar, our programming also includes holiday services, regular Jewish text study and social action/advocacy. 

Prayer Education:

Kehilat Hadar is committed to education, specifically on issues related to prayer (both for participants and for leaders). We do not believe in "watering down" the traditional experience of prayer; rather we aim to inspire and educate so that people of all backgrounds can appreciate and participate in Kehilat Hadar's services and programs. 

Broad Participation:

Kehilat Hadar is marked by a spirit of volunteerism, and community members are the primary leaders of the davening, leyning and teaching. Kehilat Hadar believes that excitement, not guilt, is the most effective method of motivating a volunteer community. We have demonstrated that people who experience high-quality religious programming are excited to return and take on leadership roles.

 

History

by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, co-founder of Kehilat Hadar

In April of 2001, Mara Benjamin, Elie Kaunfer and Ethan Tucker met at the Abbey Pub to draw up plans for a new Shabbat morning minyan: full traditional liturgy, entirely lay-led, spirited davening and use of creative melodies, a 5-minute Dvar Torah, Popems at kiddush. Later that month, 60 people packed into a one-bedroom apartment on 110th Street for Shabbat morning minyan; thus was born Kehilat Hadar.

Kehilat Hadar outgrew 14 spaces that first year, all the while adding additional services. Some of the early highlights included: Tisha B'Av in Central Park, Friday night davening on the roof of the Key West, Simchat Torah dancing at El Taller Latino Americano cultural center, Purim at the Franciscan Community Center. By October of 2001, we chose a name for the minyan. In the first year alone, 120 people led davening or read Torah. The Gabbai leadership expanded to include Debbie Kaufman, Adam Wall, Debbi Bohnen and Josh Greenfield.

In 2002, Kehilat Hadar held its first annual Shavuot retreat; 75 were expected, 240 signed up. That fall, Kehilat Hadar held its first High Holiday services (at St. Luke's Hospital), where Rabbi Julia Andelman and Aryeh Bernstein led davening, and Rabbi Shai Held served as scholar in residence. Close to 500 people came to Yom Kippur Davening. Kehilat Hadar also launched the weekly Beit Midrash at the JCC in 2002, which has drawn over 1,000 in its first 6 years to explore Jewish texts in the original through havruta (in partners) study.  Rabbi Shai Held became Scholar in Residence at Kehilat Hadar at 2003 and continued to serve in this distinguished capacity through High Holidays of 2008.

Kehilat Hadar continued to grow, and as members of the community left New York, others moved in, and assumed leadership roles. In 2004, the community structure expanded to include a Leadership Team of 20 people who help coordinate Kehilat Hadar's ongoing program activities, participate in various Kehilat Hadar policy decisions, evaluate current programs, and design future initiatives.

In 2005, Dr. Shuly Schwartz donated a sefer Torah to Kehilat Hadar written in memory of Rabbi Gershon Schwartz; community members chose the verses to decorate the Torah cover. In 2007, Kehilat Hadar purchased a second sefer Torah from the Avenue Z Jewish Center, and celebrated its arrival with a Shabbaton in 2008.

In 2009, Kehilat Hadar began meeting weekly on Shabbat mornings and broadened its leadership structure to include a Shamash Team of individuals who help to run services in partnership with the Gabbaim.

 

About Our Name

Adapted from a d'var Torah written and delivered by Elie Kaunfer, Kehilat Hadar co-founder, introducing the name "Kehilat Hadar" during Sukkot 5762 (October 2001)

Hadar is a noun meaning splendor or glory, and it is also a verb meaning to glorify, respect or honor. It appears numerous times in tefillot: including in the Kaddish (Yithadar) and Ashrei (Hadar k'vod hodecha...Uch'vod hadar malchuto).

Hadar also expresses some of the hopes and aspirations we have for the minyan and the community we are forming. Below we analyze it in three classic relationships: Bein adam l'atzmo (internal), Bein adam l'havero (interpersonal), and Bein adam l'Makom (relationship with God).

Bein adam l'atzmo:

In the Torah, the etrog is referred to as Pri Etz Hadar (fruit of the beautiful tree, or beautiful fruit of the tree). In the Talmud, there is a discussion about what exactly this means. Rabbi Abahu offers the following comment: Don't read Hadar as splendor, rather read it as something which dwells (dar) on its tree from year to year (Sukkah 35a). Rashi explains this to mean that the etrog is the only fruit which remains on the tree from one season to the next. Therefore, an etrog tree has well-ripened fruit from years past co-existing with newly budding fruit from the current year.

We look at this as a metaphor for an ideal internal relationship: We all bring to the community our ripened fruit, the experiences and ideas we have developed in the past, our patterns and rhythms which define us. The challenge is to be open to new ideas and experiences (budding fruit) without rejecting the ripened fruit of our past. We hope to make the minyan a space where people strive for that internal coexistence.

Bein adam l'havero:

Hadar is used in the Torah as a verb in the following verse from Leviticus 19:32: V'hadarta p'nei zaken (Pay respect to the elder). We hope to broaden that mitzvah to include all members of the community: our minyan aspires to be a place where everyone pays respect to each other, from simply introducing yourself to someone new to creating a culture of hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests into your home).

Bein adam laMakom:

There is a rich tradition in rabbinic and kabbalistic literature of God, not only people, needing salvation. This is one understanding of the somewhat cryptic phrase we say repeatedly during the hoshanot: Ani v'ho hoshia na: Save me and Him (referring to God). In this light, we analyzed one final use of the word Hadar in the liturgy:

Psalm 104:1 states: Hod v'hadar lavashta (You dressed in splendor and glory). We traditionally say this line when we put on the talit, and we can imagine God dressing in a metaphoric prayer shawl. The hope we have for this minyan is that through our prayers and actions, we will provide that comforting covering to God, doing our part in contributing to God's salvation. The challenge to strive towards that goal will remain a motivating force behind our activities as a kahal.

We are excited to embrace the name Hadar, with all of its implications and challenges.

 

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