What is a Havurah? A Havurah (plural Havurot), which comes from the Hebrew word for friend, is a group of synagogue members – couples, families, singles, or a mix of these – who meet regularly for Jewish socializing, learning, and celebration. Each havurah takes on a personality of its own, reflecting the thoughts and interests of its members.
Why Join A Havurah? Havurot are a great way to make new friends and have the warmth and support of a close-knit community within the larger synagogue context. A havurah is an integral part of synagogue life! Belonging to a Temple Emanuel havurah offers members a great opportunity to get together in a smaller group with others who share similar interests to plan programs which meet their unique needs. Here are just a few reasons!
Socialization – The socialization process of getting to know one another is critical to the success of a havurah. A cohesive group takes time to develop. You may want to consider holding the initial meeting without children so that the adults can get acquainted and plan the future direction of the group. Although the social “chemistry” in a havurah is important, a havurah’s ability to plan a meaningful agenda is even more so. By doing activities together every month or so, your havurah will become more and more cohesive as time goes on.
It’s a good idea for everyone to bring a calendar to the first havurah event, so that your group can plan at least the next four or five meetings. One or two members of the Havurah Committee will be happy to attend your first meeting to act as a facilitator and get you off to a good start.
For the second meeting, you could suggest that everyone bring two or three ideas for havurah activities. You can then assess what your shared goals and program ideas are and how you can best achieve those goals.
Your havurah should also prepare a mailing list to distribute to all of your members. Your havurah should schedule at least one meeting per year as a Planning Meeting. At this time you can check to be certain that all members’ interests and expectations are still being met.
Holiday and Shabbat Celebrations – In past years, havurot have held Hanukah parties together, baked hamentashen and delivered Shalach Manot baskets for Purim, visited a matzo factory and feasted at Seders for Passover, planted seeds for Tu B’Shevat, held picnics and bon fires on Lag B’Omer, invited one another for Shabbat dinner, and attended Shabbat services and other special synagogue events together.
Learning – Jewish learning can take many forms. Groups have attended Jewish cultural events like the annual Jewish Film Festival, exchanged books and articles, attended lectures and concerts together, or invited outside speakers to speak to their group. Any one of the Rabbinical staff (Rabbi Gardenswartz and Rabbi Robinson along with Cantor Rosemberg and Cantor Sheini Dan Nesson) can lead a discussion at one of your monthly events. Additional speakers can be found to speak to your group on a topic of your choice. Additionally, havurot have been formed around a common interest such as social action or a group trip to Israel.
Life Cycle Events – Some havurot think of themselves as extended family. They share times of joy and sadness. They rejoice at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and at the birth of a child. They reach out when members are ill or when death occurs. Sharing life experiences and doing mitzvoth are experiences which help to bring havurah members closer together.
Bonding – Finally, new havurot should not expect too much too soon! If a sense of extended family is to be formed, patience, understanding, and time are essential. Each group will evolve its own way of celebrating and learning. No formal “leader” is necessary. What is most important is the sense of COMMITMENT from each member of the havurah. Every member should be actively involved in one way or another so that their commitment will grow.
NOTE: There’s a wonderful website from a synagogue in California, Valley Beth Shalom, that has lots of information about havurot and how they function, as well as tips and activity ideas. Use this link to view their Havurot pages.
Consider Joining a Havurah!
Complete this brief Temple Emanuel Havurah Questionnaire today.
For more information, please contact our Temple Emanuel Havurah Committee co-chairs:
Valerie Lowenstein, 617-630-5277, email@example.com