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Our history

The Newton Centre Minyan was founded in 1979 by a group of mostly young families who were deeply committed to both traditional davening and equal participation by women in all parts of the service. The Minyan’s core of Jewishly knowledgeable members—which has always included a significant number of rabbis and Jewish educators— allowed it to coalesce into a cohesive and entirely lay-led community with a strong do-it-yourself culture.

​After a few years of holding services in members’ homes, the Minyan incorporated as a religious organization to lease space at the First Baptist Church in Newton Centre, which served as its home for 15 years (1987–2002). As part of its new structure, the group formalized its leadership model, choosing a moderator every two years and making decisions at quarterly town meetings.

By the end of 2002, membership had increased from 60 households to over 160, when Hebrew College’s move to Newton provided the ideal opportunity for the Minyan to meet in a Jewish space. This large new facility enabled further growth, but after reaching just over 200 households within a few years, membership remained stable for the next 15 years.

In 2018, when Hebrew College announced the sale of its building, our community began to search for a new home. The need to find somewhere suitable and large enough within walking distance of the heart of Newton Centre presented an enormous challenge, and in the end no consensus could be reached on an alternative space, causing the Minyan to split. Roughly half the congregation chose to accept Temple Emanuel's offer to become members and continue to hold autonomous services there. The rest of us chose to remain fully independent, and after ultimately leasing 858 Walnut Street—which, by happy coincidence, served as an Orthodox synagogue in the 1970s—we became the Walnut Street Minyan.

Thu, December 1 2022 7 Kislev 5783