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Shabbat Havurot

Shabbat looks different to different people: A casual night of take out and board games. A fancy meal served on china. An afternoon in the park—and nowhere to be until bedtime. Zooming with people all over the country for a virtual Thursday-night challah baking. An evening of chanting or meditation.

However you want to celebrate, we want to help you make it meaningful and magical.

One way we’re here to support you is with Shabbat Havurot, which are cohorts of BJ members who will meet periodically throughout the year to build relationships and celebrate Shabbat together. All you need to start one is an idea and the willingness to do a little community organizing.

If you would like to start a Shabbat Havurah, please fill out this form by July 31 and keep reading for more details.

What’s a Shabbat Havurah?
A Shabbat Havurah can be pretty much anything you want it to be—it could even be something you’re already doing!

Want to gather with other wine lovers? Play board games over snacks and beer? Create a Shabbat dinner group? Study Jewish texts on Shabbat afternoons? Sit on a bench schmoozing with other parents while your kids have fun in the playground? Host a virtual Kiddush on Zoom after BJ services?

Whatever the structure and content, all we ask is that Shabbat Havurot:

  • Build and deepen relationships by meeting at least 5 times over the course of a year, either on Shabbat or in preparation for Shabbat
  • Find a way to “Shabbatify” your gatherings (we’ve got resources to help you!)
  • Have a havurah leader (or co-leaders)

How will this work?
We will launch registration in September, giving all BJ members a chance to sign up for a Shabbat Havurah of their choosing. Havurot will be finalized by the end of October, and then the havurah leaders will work with their members to schedule gatherings and begin celebrating Shabbat together. (Based on the number of participants who sign up for each Shabbat Havurah, the nature of the havurah, or other factors, we may need to consolidate or tweak havurot.)

What’s the role of the havurah leader?
A Shabbat Havurah leader does NOT have to coordinate, host, cook, teach, or facilitate every aspect of the havurah’s activities! The leader’s job is to get the havurah off the ground, keep the wheels turning, and communicate outside of havurah meetings so people stay connected in between gatherings.

BJ will provide guidance to help you start your havurah and keep it going, pair you with a ritual guide or mentor if you want one, and offer resources and workshops.

I know people do things differently when it comes to Jewish practice. How will the havurot handle this?
We’ll ask that all havurot follow a few standard practices regarding Shabbat and kashrut observance, and will make these guidelines clear to people when they sign up for a havurah.

Can a Shabbat Havurah include people who are not BJ members?
At this time, participation is a benefit of BJ membership.

This sounds interesting but I’m not sure I’m ready to jump in. Is there someone I can talk to about this?
Absolutely. Rabbi Shuli Passow, director of community engagement at BJ, is here to answer your questions, talk through ideas, and explore what Shabbat could look like in your life.

I have an idea for a Shabbat Havurah! What do I do? And then what do I do next?
Fill out this form by July 31.

In October, we will hold an initial workshop for leaders, addressing topics such as Shabbat basics and relationships within your Shabbat Havurah and troubleshooting problems that may arise.

Save the dates:

  • A Zoom workshop will take place on Monday October 24 at 7 PM
  • An in-person workshop will take place on Tuesday October 25 at 7 PM

Once registration is complete, it’s up to you to work with your Shabbat Havurah members to determine a schedule and location for gatherings, and to organize activities. We will be checking in with all Shabbat Havurah leaders periodically to see how things are going, and of course you can reach out at any time if you have questions or need support.