Traditional, spirited prayer at new minyan

A new minyan in Berkeley started by young adults has been holding two lay-led Shabbat services a month since December, and is planning to hold its first High Holy Days services this fall.

Raphael Magarik

Minyan Dafna (dafna means “laurel” or “bay laurel” in Hebrew) was founded by a small group of East Bay residents who were interested in holding traditional services that were fully egalitarian, according to Raphael Magarik, 27, a Ph.D. candidate in English literature at U.C. Berkeley and one of the minyan’s founders.

“There wasn’t anything that was filling that niche,” said Magarik, a native New Yorker who grew up Reconstruc-tionist and now considers himself a traditional Jew. “I think the feeling was that in addition to expressing the values of people like me in a really concrete and full way, there’s also a sense that there might be a niche for a small, lay-led, non-synagogue-based minyan.”

Minyan Dafna’s services include the full traditional liturgy, including a full Torah reading and a full repetition of the seven benedictions of the Musaf Amidah.

The Bay Area has other popular lay-led minyans, such as Mission Minyan and East Bay Minyan (now on hiatus), but Magarik said Minyan Dafna operates in a more fully gender egalitarian manner. For example, 10 people of any sex are needed to create a minyan, and women can lead any part of the service.

The minyan has been drawing between 30 and 50 people to its once-a-month Friday night services in members’ homes, and about 20 people to its once-a-month Saturday morning services in the art room of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, according to Magarik. Word of the services, which started in December, has mostly spread through word of mouth, but there is also a website (www. where one can sign up to be on the mailing list.

Many attendees are in their 20s and 30s, but Magarik said he hopes the minyan will appeal to a diverse group of people.

“I’m hoping it will grown in demographic diversity,” he said. “I’m really excited to have both younger and older folks.”

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.