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BJ Shemita Havurot

Community, Caring, & Belonging
Learning, Growth, & Families

Over the course of this Shemita year, we are asking ourselves urgent questions: how will we create a Shemita mindset for ourselves? What are we willing to let go of? How much is enough? How might this be a year of interruption and release to bring the transformation we so desire?

With these questions in mind, we invite you to consider becoming a Shemita Havruah leader. The Shemita themes of release, rest, renewal, and rejuvenation look different for everyone, and we hope to offer havurot this year that showcases those differences in expression, meaning, and modalities. Through partnerships with several Jewish organizations, we have a bank of rich resources for havurot to study together. These materials include Jewish texts about shemita; learning modules about ecology and environmental stewardship; and resources for Shemita-inspired spiritual reflection and growth.

Maybe you have a different idea for a havurah that could relate to the Shemita theme, like a group that goes on Shabbat walks or does yoga together. Or a group that explores environmental stewardship by cooking vegan recipes together over Zoom. Or a group for creative writing or artistic expression. Shemita is a broad theme so be in touch if you have a seed of an idea that you’d like to explore!

Below is some additional information about these havurot. If you would like to create one, or if you think you might be interested in doing so, please fill out this form by November 19, 2021 and keep reading for more details.

What Are Havurot?

Over the past few years, BJ members have been building community through havurot, small groups that are self-organized, based on shared interests or demographics. Through havurot, our members come together in intimate settings with one another to deepen relationships, learn, and create community together. Nearly 250 BJ members have met new people, learned new things, and found new ways to nourish their Jewish lives through these small groups. All you need to start one is a passion for building relationships, and a willingness to do a little community organizing.

As noted above, this year havurot will be centered around our larger theme of Shemita, the sabbatical year.

How will this work?

Once we launch registration, all BJ members will have a chance to sign up for a Shemita Havurah of their choosing. We will finalize the havurot in December, and then havurah leaders will work with their members to schedule gatherings and begin building community together! (Based on the number of participants who sign up for each havurah, the nature of the havurah, or other factors, we may need to consolidate or tweak havurot).

We ask that Shemita Havurot build and deepen relationships among their members by meeting at least five times between January-June, 2022. The meetings can be virtual or in-person or a combination.

On Thursday, January 6, 2022,  at 7:00PM, we will hold an initial gathering for leaders, addressing topics such as foundations of community building and group dynamics, building relationships within your havurah, and troubleshooting problems that may arise. We will also provide trainings on specific Shemita curricula or study materials, based on interest.

What’s the role of the havurah leader?

The havurah leader does not have to host, cook, teach, organize, 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 between gatherings.

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

What about COVID-19?

We recognize that safety and health protocols are changing all the time. When it is time to launch the havurot, we will work with you and support you in making your gatherings safe and in line with BJ’s COVID-19 policies.

I know people do things differently when it comes to Jewish practice. How will the havurot handle this?

If the havurah is eating together or meeting on Shabbat, we’ll ask that all havurot follow a few standard BJ practices regarding Shabbat and kashrut observance. We will make these guidelines clear to people when they sign up for a havurah.

Can a Shemita Havurah include people who are not BJ members?

A primary goal of this initiative is to help foster relationships within the BJ community; since space is limited in these groups, participation in the havurah is a benefit of BJ membership. If you know folks who would be interested in your havurah but are not yet members of BJ, we would be happy to explore membership possibilities with those people and welcome them into the larger BJ community!

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, and Jade Groobman, Community Engagement Program Associate, are here to answer your questions, talk through ideas, find ways to incorporate Shemita, and explore what this adventure in community building could look like in your life. Get in touch via the links below.

I have an idea for a Shemita Havurah! What do I do? And then what do I do next?

Fill out this form by November 19, 2021. In December, BJ members will have a chance to sign up for a Shemita Havurah of their choosing, and then we will finalize the havurot. Once registration is complete, it’s up to you to work with your havurah members to determine a schedule and location for gatherings and to organize activities. We will be checking in with all  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. 

On Thursday January 6, 2022,  at 7:00 PM, we will hold an initial gathering for leaders, addressing topics such as foundations of community building and group dynamics, building relationships within your havurah, and troubleshooting problems that may arise. We will also provide trainings on specific Shemita curricula or study materials, based on interest.

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