Conservative Jewish scholars nix Internet minyan, but OK some Web, phone prayer

Posted: Friday, October 26, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) -- A panel of Conservative Jewish scholars has ruled that a person participating in prayers with other Jews over the phone or Internet cannot be counted toward the quorum needed for communal prayer.

But individual Jews can fulfill some personal religious duties over the phone or Web by linking to a quorum that is already formed, according to the Rabbinical Assembly's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.

The ruling, published in the fall issue of the magazine of the Jewish Theological Seminary, examines the definition of the quorum, called a minyan, in light of technological advances.

The scholars based their decision on laws they say oblige Jews to be in the same physical space to form a minyan, which requires a minimum of 10 participants.

In allowing the individual to join the minyan by an audio link, the scholars looked to laws that state once a minyan is formed, someone who is not part of the group, but overhears and responds, can fulfill many prayer obligations.

Chat rooms and e-mail communications do not qualify, according to the ruling.

''To allow accessing a minyan from remote locations is to reduce the need of individuals to go out of their way to attend the minyan,'' the scholars wrote. ''But to rule against it would also be a hardship with regard to shut-ins and nursing home patients.''


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