Affinity Groups & Havurot

Affinity groups and havurot (small groups) are a great way to find your people at BJ. Some groups are organized around life stage and age, while others are based on shared interests. Have an idea for a group you’d like to lead? Contact Rabbi Shuli Passow.

Havurot

Havurot are a wonderful way to connect and build relationships. Havurot are cohorts of BJ members who meet periodically throughout the year to create community together in an intimate setting based on shared interests or demographics.

Below is the list of havurot currently offered. Registration is now closed, but some of the groups are still accepting new members throughout the year. Contact Rabbi Shuli Passow for more information, or if you have an idea for a havurah that you’d like to lead!

BJ Bikers

Love to bike? Want to explore local places of interest with other BJ bikers? This havurah will meet several times throughout the year on Sunday mornings for a bike ride. Please note that while the riding is not intensive, riders must be comfortable navigating city streets and traffic.

Group Leader: Lester Schwalb

Location: Rides will take place within the five boroughs and other local routes; location, length and duration of the bike rides will be determined by the group.

Blinded By The White

This havurah has two aims; the first is to enable people who identify as white to have an honest discussion of whiteness as a racial identity. Using Robin DiAngelo’s book, White Fragility, we will explore our status as whites living in a context of racial inequality, and investigate the ways in which our white identity has remained largely invisible to us despite its role as a key factor shaping our lives. The second aim of the group is to better understand the history of racial inequality in the US. We will examine how specific policies (e.g. the Veteran’s Bill, Social Security) have sustained inequality between the races into the 21st century. Writings by Ta-Nehisi Coates and others will inform this part of our group discussion.

Group Leaders: Debra Kalmuss and Betty Jane Jacobs

Location: Rotating in havurah members’ homes

*This havurah is offered as part of ‘Race and Us,’ BJ’s year long initiative exploring race in Jewish identity, Jewish community, and American society

Committed Couples Without Children

The goal of this havurah is to provide a welcoming group for couples who don’t have children. We will get together and explore not only religious but also life issues. This group is geared towards couples ages 50+ from any background, belief and lifestyle.

Group Leaders: Heidi Cohen and Larry Aronson

Location: Upper West Side locations

Downtown Shabbat Havurah

This havurah will meet quarterly on Friday nights for Shabbat dinner and celebration. It is geared towards BJ members who live in downtown Manhattan, though Brooklynites, or others who have a hard time getting to the Upper West Side, are also welcome to join. All ages are welcome.

Group Leader: Marcy Einhorn

Location: Downtown Manhattan, Rotating in Members’ Homes

Exploring Our White Privilege

This havurah will explore the privileges that white people experience in this country, and designed for members of the BJ community who are white (either identify themselves to be white, or appear to be white and therefore are seen as white by others). We will deepen our understanding of our racial privilege by drawing upon various sources to educate us and to stimulate our discussions. The havurah will begin by reading selections from “White Fragility” and “Waking up White.” We will find a mid-day time to meet, biweekly, perhaps over lunch.

Group Leader: Marvin Israelow

Location: Upper West Side

*This havurah is offered as part of ‘Race and Us,’ BJ’s year long initiative exploring race in Jewish identity, Jewish community, and American society

Exploring Race through the Arts

In line with BJ’s anti-racism work, this havurah will explore the issue of race through arts and culture. By engaging with various performing arts, visual arts, cultural locations, and readings, we can interact with stories concerning race on a visceral, emotional level, and bring that into other social justice work. We intend to meet 6 times during the year to attend and/or discuss these works.

Group Leaders: Abby Katz and Ted Berger

Location: Various, throughout New York City, depending on which cultural outings we choose. Group discussions will be held in havurah members’ apartments or other mutually agreed upon locations.

*This havurah is offered as part of ‘Race and Us,’ BJ’s year long initiative exploring race in Jewish identity, Jewish community, and American society

The “Heights” Shabbat Havurah

This is a neighborhood-based havurah to bring the BJ “Heights” community together. We will celebrate Shabbat ​on Fridays and lead each other in prayer. This havurah will meet ​every other month on Friday nights. All ages welcome.

Group Leader: Mandy Braun

Location: Washington Heights, rotating in members’ homes ​and/or community rooms

Israeli Book Club

This havurah uses contemporary Israeli literature to provide an intimate encounter with Israeli society, culture, and politics. At each of the monthly meetings, the havurah leaders will facilitate a discussion of a different book (all books selected will be available in translation into English). Meeting schedule TBD by the havurah members once the group is formed.

Group Leaders: Carole Bailin and Jennifer Sylvor

Location: Rotating in havurah members’ homes

Keep the Kugel “Koming”

Kugel, a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish food, makes Shabbat and holiday meals memorable. Let’s explore treasured family recipes, and recipes from other sources, together over lunch. We’ll meet every 4-6 weeks, on either Sundays or weekdays, depending on the schedules of the participants. Exact dates TBD by the havurah members once the group is formed.

Group Leader: Shirley Feder

Location: Rotating in havurah members’ homes

Mindfulness Prayer

Many of us find meaning in the wonderful music here at BJ. But it can be a challenge to discover the meaning in the prayers or observances. This havurah, through the practice of meditation, will allow us to search for kavannah (intention) in our prayer lives, focusing on one prayer each time we meet. This havurah will meet monthly, on Wednesdays at 5:30 pm. All adults with an interest in mindfulness meditation are welcome.

Group Leader: Jonathan Silver

Location: Upper West Side

Parenting and Grandparenting in Multi-Racial Families

Those of us who are parents or grandparents in multi-racial families often have unique questions and challenges–as well as experiences that are uniquely rewarding and help us grow. This havurah will provide a space for parents and grandparents who are part of multi-racial families to connect, share insights, and learn from one anothers’ experiences. This havurah is for adults of all racial identities.

Group Leader: Dale Bernstein

Location: Harlem and other neighborhoods, rotating in havurah members’ homes.

*This havurah is offered as part of ‘Race and Us,’ BJ’s year long initiative exploring race in Jewish identity, Jewish community, and American society

Racial Justice Study Havurah

This havurah will provide an opportunity to dig deeper into BJ’s yearlong initiative about race and inclusion within Jewish community. Each month, we will use an article from the New York Times’ 1619 Project to spark a discussion about race in America, the Jewish experience as a marginalized group, and the marginalization of groups within the Jewish community. We will also explore discussions of diversity and inclusion within Jewish texts as well as contemporary first hand narratives. This havurah is open to everyone regardless of experience discussing race.

Group Leaders: Ryan Brenner and Ira Wolfman

Location: Upper West Side, rotating in members’ homes

*This havurah is offered as part of ‘Race and Us,’ BJ’s year long initiative exploring race in Jewish identity, Jewish community, and American society

Riverdale Havurah

This is a neighborhood-based havurah to bring together BJ members who live in Riverdale. We will celebrate Shabbat ​together, or get together other times for study and prayer. This havurah will meet monthly or every other month. All ages welcome.

Group Leader: Les Judd

Location: Riverdale, rotating in members’ homes ​and/or community rooms

Shabbat Together

We are a group of people — ages 60 and over– with a wide range of interests, experience and Jewish observance who want to experience shabbat as a community. We meet the third Friday of the month after services for Shabbat dinner and conversation about a topic of Jewish interest. (Service attendance is not a requirement for participating). We each contribute a set amount for the host to either prepare or order the meal (including wine and challah), and also contribute by hosting and/or selecting the conversation topic.

Group Leader: Leslie Verter

Location: Rotating in havurah members’ homes

Single Moms Havurah

Are you a single mom by choice? Join others in this havurah to socialize, share single-parenting triumphs and tribulations, and connect at BJ events while our kiddos play together. Havurah members will determine when and how often to meet, and may organize our own gatherings, as well as attending local events as a group.

Group Leader: Toby Baldinger

Location: Upper West Side

Soaring Words Monthly Havurah

This havurah will partner with Soaring Words, a not for profit started by BJ member Lisa Buksbaum that helps ill children and their families take an active role in self-healing. During monthly gatherings, havurah members will participate in a service project that supports children in local schools or hospitals. All ages welcome.

Group Leader: Lisa Buksbaum

Location: Manhattan, rotating in members’ homes and/or community rooms

Soaring Words Weekly Havurah

This havurah will partner with Soaring Words, a not for profit started by BJ member Lisa Buksbaum that helps ill children and their families take an active role in self-healing. Havurah members will make weekly visits together to a local school or hospital. Visits are during the weekday, making this an ideal havurah for people who have flexible schedules, are retired, or do not have commitments during the workday.

Group Leader: Lisa Buksbaum

Location: Manhattan, exact location TBD depending on where the need is

Wake Up Your Senses with a Shabbat Nature Connection

This havurah will meet monthly on Shabbat afternoons for guided nature walks led by certified Forest Therapy guide Nancy Kopans. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote “our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.” We can awaken this perspective through gentle, sensory-focused immersion in nature right here in our city. This havurah also offers an opportunity to build community with other BJ members. Walks conclude with a tea ceremony. All are welcome. Specific walks can be tailored to families with children under 13 and individuals with mobility constraints.

Group Leaders: Nancy Kopans and Toni Siegel

Location: Central Park (Exact Location Varies Each Time)

What Does Judaism Have to Say?

An opportunity to explore, discuss, and debate everyday issues in small groups using ancient Jewish texts and modern source materials from the Limmud Havruta series. Possible topics include money, food, time, and more. This havurah is geared toward Boomers and Gen Xers and will meet monthly on Shabbat afternoons.

Group Leader: Karen Radkowsky

Location: Upper West Side, Rotating in Members’ Homes

Young Families Brunchers

This havurah will bring families with young children together to build connections. Attending a Shabbat dinner can be tough for families who have children with early bedtimes, so we will nosh over Sunday breakfast or brunch instead! This havurah will meet monthly on Sunday mornings/early afternoons.

Group Leader: Rebecca Schofield-Cohen

Location: Upper West Side