The call for a minyan Thursday night illustrated the goal of the African-American Jewish Coalition of Anne Arundel County -- mutual understanding.
The coalition met at the Kneseth Israel Synagogue in Annapolis, with about a dozen members of the two communities attending. During the meeting, four of the Jewish representatives were called away to help with a service elsewhere in the synagogue.
While the rest of the puzzled committee waited, coalition member Sheila Litzky explained that the men were asked to help form a minyan, the quorum of 10 adult Jews required for communal prayer.
"Orthodox Jews pray three times a day, with the evening prayer just after sunset," Litzky said.
"For the service to be (religiously) legal, you need the 10 men."
Finding a minyan can be critical for extremely significant prayers, such as saying kaddish, a prayer recited dailyin the synagogue after the death of a close relatives.
"This is avery sacred obligation," Litzky said. "There are many stories in literature about the search for the 10th man."
The Rev. Colin Macrae Lambert, a coalition member and pastor of Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Annapolis, said such explanations were part of why the group was meeting.
One of the group's purposes -- spelled out in the proposed bylaws -- is to "recognize and respect the commonalities and differences among the members of the two communities and to educate its members to them."
Lambert told the Jewish coalition members, "As a Gentile, I would like to thank you for sharing thatinformation about the prayer, this rich heritage."
The coalition -- the first of its kind in the county -- also reviewed bylaws formulated by a committee, working out appropriate wording for rules that will govern its existence.
Presiding were newly elected co-chairmenVincent O. Leggett, vice president of the county Board of Education,and Donald Aronson, an official with the federal Food and Drug Administration.
The bylaws specify eight purposes, which members will vote onat their next meeting.
One purpose was the hope that the coalition will "act . . . as a unified voice of the AAJC on issues of local, state, national and international concern to the African-American and Jewish communities."
The proposed statement of purpose also said the group would keep members informed of activities scheduled byboth communities, as well as defining and promoting black and Jewishviewpoints to the community.
The AAJC, formed earlier this summerto unite the two communities, plans to hold its meetings in different locations as a way of "reaching out to the community in different places."