History and Vision
Darkhei Noam was founded in March 2002 by four individuals who were inspired by Drisha’s high holiday minyan and encouraged by the publication in the Edah Journal of Mendel Shapiro’s halakhic analysis of mixed Torah reading. From its inception, the vision for Darkhei Noam has been the creation of a minyan and community centered around inclusivity and meaningful prayer. As such, women take on active roles in the ritual life of the minyan within the bounds of halakha. Darkhei Noam strives to provide a place where all who come to pray are active participants; where the voices of davening come not just from the leaders of tefillah, but from both sides of the mechitza as well; where public space is shared by men and women; and where the intrinsic value of each individual is recognized.
Several founders of Jerusalem’s Shira Chadasha minyan gave guidance and advice to Darkhei Noam in its early stages. Initially, Darkhei Noam met on a monthly basis at Rodeph Shalom, which provided not only a space to daven but also moral support to the fledgling Darkhei Noam community. As the community grew and began meeting more frequently, Darkhei Noam was welcomed warmly by the Heschel Lower School to use its building, which provides a larger space for davening and space for childcare and youth programming.
Darkhei Noam strives to provide a warm, welcoming atmosphere as well as a meaningful, inspiring, participatory prayer experience filled with communal singing as well as space for personal prayer. In order to help achieve these goals, we ask that adults refrain from talking during services and help maintain an ambiance conducive to spirited and serious prayer.
Since its foundation, Darkhei Noam has been a lay-led minyan – the community supplies the leadership from within and helps to set the direction of the minyan. Members of the Darkhei Noam community are invited and encouraged to participate in and contribute towards all aspects of the running of the minyan, from leading davening or leining to coordinating youth programs to giving a text study to planning special events.
Darkhei Noam is led by two co-chairs, an executive committee, and an active, hands-on board. The board represents the diversity of its community with board members from various age groups and from a variety of religious and professional backgrounds.
In 2006, Rabbi Daniel Sperber joined the Darkhei Noam community in an official capacity as halakhic adviser. Rabbi Sperber is the Milan Roven Professor of Talmudic Research at Bar Ilan University and rabbi of congregation Menachem Zion in the Old City of Jerusalem. He received the Israel Prize in 1992, authored “Minhagei Yisrael,” and has done extensive research and writing on the topic of women’s roles within the bounds of halakha. In his capacity as Darkhei Noam’s halakhic adviser, the co-chairs, board, and gabbaim turn to Rabbi Sperber for halakhic guidance. Rabbi Sperber gives extended text studies and shiurim, davens with the Darkhei Noam community, and makes himself available to the community on both a formal and informal basis on his many visits to New York.
Davening and Torah Reading
The tefillah practices of Darkhei Noam reflect the minyan’s commitment to finding opportunities for women to play active roles in prayer within the framework of halakha. Women lead pseukei d’zimra and hotza’at vehaknasat sefer Torah (the Torah service) and men lead shacharit and musaf. Men and women fully participate in keriyat ha-Torah (Torah reading) in the context of a traditional minyan of ten men.
Darkhei Noam’s mechitza is designed to create 3 separate domains: a davening space for men, a davening space for women, and a public ritual space, which houses the Torah reading and provides a space for the ba’alai tefillah (the women and men who lead tefillah) to stand while leading davening.
Darkhei Noam is committed to providing as many venues as possible for the community to grow and learn. Every Shabbat morning there is a shiur given before davening begins and there is a text study before musaf. In addition, scholars are invited to learn with our minyan several times a year, offering the community opportunities for extended learning and discussions on various topics as well as communal meals with the scholars-in-residence.