Jonathan Boyer may be the Happy Minyan’s unsung hero, though he’s more than happy to sing the shul’s praises. The Shlomo Carlebach-inspired synagogue was launched some 17 years ago to answer the need for an aufruf for a friend of Boyer’s who was unaffiliated at the time. A small circle of friends, all unattached to synagogues, rented a room from Beth Jacob Congregation for their service, thereby, unknowingly, giving birth to the Happy Minyan.
The shul is now housed at Karate Academy, where each week they convert the dojo space into a synagogue on Friday afternoons, and then switch it back by Sunday. But rather than feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work required, Boyer says he feels “blessed” to have been the one from the start who was making calls to ensure that there would be a minyan, as well as Torah readers, prayer books and seating. Boyer now acts as quasi-executive director, although no such titles exist at the Happy Minyan, and his efforts certainly don’t come with a paycheck. “I’ve done it all at the shul, from child care to catering,” he said, and his contributions have helped make a home for the 100 to 150 people attending the weekly Friday evening and Saturday morning services.
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Boyer says he grew up in a “traditional” family in Los Angeles, was active in the Jewish community and attended the Hebrew University during his junior year abroad in college. “It was traditional, in that we had Shabbos dinners and celebrated the holidays, but I wouldn’t say it was religious,” he remembers. At least not compared to the 25-hour Shabbat that Boyer celebrates now, or his current level of commitment to spiritual Judaism.
So how did he get so connected to his Judaism? “I got to spend time with Shlomo Carlebach and was incredibly inspired by him,” Boyer said, and he has remained close with Carlebach’s family ever since. “We found that there was this group of Jews who were all looking for something more, who weren’t finding a shul that they fit, and the Happy Minyan offers a different way to connect to Judaism, God and our people.”
As if helping to run a shul doesn’t fill his days, Boyer has worked full-time in the young adult division of The Jewish Federation for the past six years and, with his wife, Julie, is the proud parent of their 4 -year-old son, Ezra.
The Happy Minyan’s principles of serving God with joy and being happy throughout daily living isn’t just a passion for Boyer, “It is a true love. I feel like we’re just scratching the surface, and with the means to do it, would be able to spread this message of joy and method of meaningful connection to so many more.”