Minyan: The Congregational Quorum

Only in a group of ten or more is there sufficient sanctity to recite certain public prayers.

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This tradition has been revived in some modern synagogues which encounter difficulties in maintaining a daily service. These congregations have resorted to hiring a number of idle men to worship daily in their synagogues instead of the synagogues of their own choice.

The requirement of a full minyan for public services has caused hardships to many small communities. A pitiful example is the remnant of the once-thriving Jewish community of Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, a community that dates back to Roman days. Of the two hundred Jewish residents, only seventeen survived the Nazi slaughter--seven men and ten women. "We hold services on Sabbaths and festivals," said the head of this miserable remnant to the writer, "even though we do not have a minyan. After all these centuries of unbroken Jewish religious life we dare not close the synagogue. In time, Jewish families from elsewhere may settle here. Then a real Jewish congregation will be reconstituted, and we shall again insist on a proper minyan."

The sad situation of Dubrovnik is repeated in numerous, though less determined, Jewish communities scattered all over the world. Should such communities be granted official permission to revert to the ancient Palestinian practice? Or should they act independently, as do the Jews of Dubrovnik?

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Rabbi Abraham Ezra Millgram (1900-1998) served as a congregational rabbi, a Hillel director, and from 1945 to 1961, Educational Director of the Commission on Jewish Education of the United Synagogue of America. During several decades of active retirement in Jerusalem, he published a number of books, including Jerusalem Curiosities (Jewish Publication Society) and A Short History of Jerusalem (Jason Aronson).