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Havurah FAQ’s

What is a Havurah?

A Havurah, which comes from the Hebrew word for friend, is a group of synagogue members 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. The participants study together… they eat together… they celebrate Jewish life together… they support each other, as an extended family, by being there for one another. Some Havurot are homogeneous (all couples or families of the same general age) and others are more diverse (a combination of couples and singles, younger and older, with children and without children).

How often does a Havurah meet?

This is completely up to the group, but we recommend that regular meetings — every month or every 6 weeks — take place in order to strengthen group cohesiveness and continuity.

How many people should be in a Havurah?

Optimally, the size of a Havurah should depend on how many adults are able to fit comfortably in a typical living room or family room. It should be small enough so that conversation is meaningful, even if some people are absent, (no less than 8 adults) and not too large (14 adults) so as to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. Family activities are generally held in the larger homes, often utilizing several rooms, and adult meetings are held in the smaller homes.

Is it necessary that the Havurah maintain Jewish practices?

Experience has shown that the Havurah is most meaningful to its members because of the Jewish component. The Jewish cultural and religious atmosphere that transcends every activity makes the Havurah different than a couples club, book group, or school function. The extent of religious observance will be determined by the group members, keeping in mind the purpose of the group and the practices of its members.

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If you are interesting in joining an existing havurah or in forming a new one, please contact Kayla Riesman, our Director of Congregational Learning and Engagement.

When do we begin?

Once you have been informed that you have been assigned to a Havurah, it is time to begin. The staff at Temple Aliyah will be working closely with your group and someone will inform you of the time and place of the first meeting.

Second Wave's Havurah History

In early 2002, under the direction of Rabbi Perkins, Temple Aliyah’s then Family Educator, Terri Swartz-Russell, took the challenge to encourage congregants to form havurot. It was a chance to strengthen personal relationships in the context of our common Judaic interests and was felt to be an effective vehicle for keeping congregants engaged as they moved through their “Jewish journeys.”

Members of "Second Wave" Havurah

While the records are a bit scarce, between 7 and 10 havurot were formed that year. Over the years some dissolved due to relocations, some due to loss of interest, some perhaps to the challenge of developing programming for havurot meetings. But one, the “Second Wave” havurah has survived and is still going strong after 14 years.

Our group of five couples chose the name Second Wave to reflect the ages of the members; all in the generation just after the founders of our temple. In the early years we met 6 times a year (that was before some of the group started wintering in Florida). These past few years we have been meeting 3 to 4 times a year using the same set of operating rules. Each family takes a turn at hosting, which includes finding an agreeable date, selecting and planning a program and of course setting a sumptuous table for breakfast; we usually meet on Sunday morning.

We begin by checking in around the table with personal and family updates, our celebrations and our tsouris (troubles) as well, while sharing our meal. We know each other’s stories so well that if an update excludes a family member someone will surely ask about them.

The programming begins after the meal and ranges from presentations by members, book discussions, films, field trips to guest speakers. Topics have included a study session on Kabbalah, the Jew and Environmentalism and Jewish genealogy.

A sample listing of our many past programs is below.

  • Kaballah, Dr. Jacob Meskin                       
  • The crisis in Darfur - Sifa Nsengimana
  • Jewish Trivial Pursuit
  • Humanistic Judaism, Rabbi Sherwin Wine video/speech
  • Volunteer opportunity with Adults with Disabilities @ Jewish Family & Children’s Services,
  • A Survey of Jewish Songwriters, Frank King
  • National Yiddish Book Center visit, Amherst
  • “Genesis to Genetics” lecture, Jon Entine & Yaniv Erlich,
  • Separation of Church and State - Rabbi Perkins
  • Jewish Genealogy, Jay & Daphne Sage
  • Discussion: ‘Conversion of the Jews” story, Philip Roth
  • Jews and Environmentalism
  • Living in Israel - Rabbi Daniel Gordis
  • What is Prayer? - Rabbi Perkins
  • Museum of Fine Arts lecture on Judaica exhibits 

Second Wave is proud of our longevity and the fact that we are still going strong. We would be happy to share any helpful information with those considering beginning a havurah. Our members are:  Helene & Harvey Greenberg, Claudia & Alan Greenfield, Rosie & Frank King, Ellen & David Moskowitz, and Leslie & Howard Needleman.

Tuesday, May 24 2022 23 Iyyar 5782