Even More About Us


The Aquarian Minyan was established with the avowed purpose “to renew the old and make holy the new” (Rav Kook). As an egalitarian community we believe that each of us can be a vehicle for the Light and that we all are holy teachers and holy students in different ways and at different times. By embracing our Jewish heritage and revitalizing prayer, rituals and teachings, we have endeavored to provide a spiritually alive Jewish home for souls to evolve and be nurtured. We welcome all to join us in celebration and learning.

The Aquarian Minyan got its start in 1974 when Rabbi Zalman Schachter- Shalomi hosted a month-long Kabbalah workshop. People were excited by his experiential style and inclusion of mystical and cross-cultural ideas. A small group decided to organize a community that would continue to celebrate Shabbat in this fashion. Over the years, the Aquarian Minyan has grown from a loose-knit group, to a havurah, to a non-profit organization, to a spiritual community. This year, we are joyously celebrating our 36th Anniversary and reformulating our vision for the future.

The Minyan is a multi-layered community. While some participants are content to attend the High Holidays and a few events during the year, others join together in a more intimate community in which we experience the joy and challenge of close relationships, care for one another in times of grief or illness, and enjoy the deep experience of creating worship and study together. At times in our history we have had a rabbi, and at other times we have been lay-led. In 2006, the community connected powerfully with a visiting rabbi, Diane Elliot, who was with us for the High Holy Days. Reb Diane is now our Teaching Rabbi, and we are enriched by her deep, direct spirituality, her dance and movement, her focus on the feminine in Jewish worship, her creative scholarship, and her deeply spiritual services.

Our rich calendar of worship and study events is generated by the evolving interests of community members and is led by diverse groups of member–leaders, the Teaching Rabbi, and guest leaders and scholars. Currently, in addition to services,we offer spiritual practice classes with Rabbi Diane, a variety of other brief classes, and a monthly Author Night featuring the creativity of our members and friends. Minor holidays, such as Simchat Torah and Purim, are often joyfully celebrated with a consortium of local Renewal communities.

Because of our focus on the immediacy and joy of worship, we feel very akin to the historic movement of Hasidism, which in the eighteenth century sought to create a joyful mode of personal and communal worship. As a contemporary egalitarian community, we incorporate and transform the values of Hasidism and call ourselves neo-Hasidic. Often we study the mystical and spiritual practices of the Hasidic masters.

In the years since our founding, a vibrant Jewish Renewal movement has grown up around our original teacher, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. The movement focuses on re-infusing Judaism with spirituality and integrating the best of progressive thought. Today, Jewish Renewal has a national organization, ALEPH, a publication, an association of Renewal rabbis, a rabbinical training program, and a bi-annual gathering, the Kallah.

The Minyan currently holds Kabbalat Shabbat services, Shabbat morning services, and Seudat Shlisheet (Third Meal Saturday afternoon) study gatherings in private homes several times a month. High Holiday services take place in rented quarters to accommodate the large numbers of attendees. Our innovative participatory services are known for their spiritual depth, heartfelt intensity, and joy.The services are meaningful for Jews who have earlier turned to other spiritual traditions to find the path to their soul. Our services often incorporate music and dancing and are led by members and friends of the Minyan. Many of the leaders have liturgical or rabbinical training, or are poets, singers, dancers, or simply individuals with something to share. Over the years, the Minyan has been a fertile incubator for Jewish spiritual leaders in the Renewal movement. We are proud of our alumni, who serve as rabbis, cantors and lay leaders of congregations throughout the world. Our community continues to offer rich opportunities for individuals to develop their spirituality and their leadership abilities.

Our Shabbat and High Holiday prayerbooks combine traditional prayers with contemporary interpretations by Minyan members and other Renewal liturgists. Most prayers are presented with Hebrew transliteration and gender inclusive Hebrew and English options.

The Aquarian Minyan is governed by an elected Council. Although the Minyan has no permanent building for its worship, we do have an administrative office and a hotline which can be called to find out about upcoming events. A weekly e-mail update of events is also available to all, and an online newsletter is published periodically.

Our website, www.aquarianminyan.org, carries much information about us and our activities, and provides an opportunity to sign up for weekly updates, events, and membership. There are many opportunities for interested participants to volunteer in this member-led enterprise. Members can serve on committees that plan and manage programs, welcome new members to the community, edit and produce the newsletter, raise funds, and care for the ill and the bereaved. Members interested in service leadership can join the committee on spiritual leadership, which plans and presents services and deals with other spiritual issues.

The Aquarian Minyan welcomes all interested individuals and families to join the community and is open to all levels of observance and participation. Since we are an egalitarian community, All events that we sponsor or that we list in our publications are egalitarian.

Please contact the Aquarian Minyan at (510) 981-2130 or peruse our website for more information and upcoming event listings. If you would like to talk with us, please contact Abigail Grafton 510-914-4247 for more information. She will be delighted to have a member invite you to join her/him at one of our events.

The Aquarian Minyan