At Shir Hadash, over 300 families are involved in havurot. Most plan their activities to reflect a mix of Jewish and secular events. Calling all members of havurot past and present: What are some of the favorite things that you’ve done together as a group? Leave a comment below so that we can begin to build a community of ideas.
(Editor’s Note: Periodically, various havurot at Shir Hadash will share their thoughts on what being together has come to mean to them. Your comments and thoughts are always welcome! Here is the first in a series.)
Over the years Havurah 11 (an interfaith couples havurah) has seen some of our non-Jewish members convert to Judaism, welcomed couples who are both Jewish (even though we, kiddingly, told them one would have to convert “out,”) experienced births and deaths, weddings and divorce, shared all manner of simchot with our members and have bonded together as an extended family for each other. We travel together every year for a few days or a week at a time. We have annual gatherings for New Year’s Eve, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Break-the-fast, etc. that have become important traditions for all of us and often include our own extended families. Havurah 11 has become an integral part of the lives of all its members as well as a source of leadership for our community.
We plan our calendar a year at a time while enjoying a pot-luck brunch at someone’s home. So many of our activities are long-standing traditions, it is easy to fill up the calendar. Each activity has one or two members who are responsible for the planning and hosting of the event. Everyone participates and there’s always lots of food. Our memory book is full of joyous times and we often reminisce about the “old days” when we were all a lot younger. Growing together through middle-age and beyond, we have written a history of friendship, caring, and support among all who have been privileged to be a part of this amazing group of fun-loving people. We laugh together, we cry together… it’s better than “Cats!”
(Another installment in a continuing series…)
Every year our Havurah (formerly called the “young couples” and now “young families”), gets together and has a planning brunch. During our last meeting we started reminiscing about when we started, who was a part of the original group and who has come and gone. We’ve been together since 1998 or so, were matched up by the clergy and didn’t know each other at all when we started. None of us had children yet and most of us were originally from elsewhere, so besides being another social opportunity, the havurah filled a very important void for many of us — we now had a group with whom we could celebrate Jewish holidays and an occasional shabbat. I think we started with 5 or 6 couples and over the years have swelled to as many as 10 families. Last Passover we had 40 or more of us including more than 20 kids ages 18 months to 18 years. It was truly amazing and joyful, albeit very very noisy.
Over the years, the function of our Havurah has changed for some of us. We’ve shared the whole range of life’s experiences, from the sorrow and pain of fertility issues and the grief and loss of parents to the joy of children and now the nachas of bar and bat mitzvahs. In between there has been so much laughter and tears, support and friendship and of course a lot of cooking and eating. We still celebrate most major Jewish holidays together and have opened those events to extended families and friends who need a Jewish family with whom to celebrate.
When I think about what has made our Havurah successful, I’d say it is due to a variety of factors:
- Kind, compassionate members
- Our annual planning meeting, where everyone picks a month to organize an event
- Open in-person and electronic communication (thank goodness for email and evite)
- Flexibility and understanding (if you can make room for 20, you can probably make room for a few more)
The last one just came up at our planning session. We’ve been finding lately that with the number of activities and commitments our families have, that a monthly event is just too much during some months, and some events are not well-attended. We all acknowledged that is the stage of life our families are in, so we agreed to skip certain months this coming year.
At the end of the day, we are so thankful for all the people in our Havurah today, for those who have come and gone and our future members we haven’t met yet. While we may not all be the best of friends, we have come to see each other as family with whom we can share life’s big and little milestones. We are truly blessed!