Chavurah

Chavurah or Havurah (Plural: Chavurot) meaning fellowship or friends has come to mean a small, often informal, group of people who meet together regularly to celebrate rituals and holidays, organize discussions, and/or pray with a group of like-minded individuals.

Mayan Or – informal group has been meeting in its current iteration since 2007. Participants are generally in their 30s and 40s – singles, couples, and a few families. We meet on average one time per month often around Jewish holidays and Shabbat. Some of our participants are members at Nevei Kodesh, and if we go to services or have Torah study, it is with this congregation. Annual events include 2nd day Rosh Hashanah hike, Tu B’shevat retreat, and Shabbat dinners. Governance lies within participants. The schedule and major decisions are determined at open business meetings two times a year. We communicate information and events through a google group. No formal membership required. For more information, please contact Amy Atkins or Tracy Shulsinger.
 
Tribe 13: A gay/bi/lesbian/trans havurah. Contact: Zhenya Gallon
 
Har HaShem has a number of active Chaverot through their congregation. Learn more here.
How to Start a Chavurah from the National Havurah Committee
 
Chavurah Resource Guide Havurah.org has created a wonderful resource guide for people looking to start a chavurah. They have pages on finances, governance, sample programs and more.
 
The Havurah of South Florida published a PDF guide in 1990 that is still relevant today and includes sections on Community, Study, Celebration, Prayer and Social Action as well as an appendix sample calendar of events.
 
Other Tips and Suggestions
Start your havurah with shared governance. If there is only one person willing to do the work of organizing, this could lead to burn out on the part of the leader and possibly a short-lived havurah. Successful havurot have 3-5 people sharing the responsibility of coordinating the group. The more people you can involve, the more successful you will be, so consider forming committees and having a different host/point person for each event.
 
Create policies as needed, yet try to avoid creating policies or by-laws for their own sake. The more informal and less bureaucratic you can be, the easier it is for people to get involved. It may be nice to have stated norms around start time, children, guests, level of observance, food (vegetarian, kosher etc.) so that a prospective member will know if it is a good fit.
 
If someone has a great idea, ask them to own it and run with it. Often there is a lot of energy, excitement, and “let’s do this” at the first few meetings, but if no one is willing to follow through, the excitement fades. If an idea generator owns the idea and puts it on the calendar, that energy and enthusiasm can infuse the entire group.
 
Set expectations. The most successful chavurot, as mentioned before, are those that have more people involved. Share expectations with everyone at the beginning and as new people arrive so that expectations are the norm. This could be putting in a sum of money to purchase supplies for the group (set of dishes, prayer books, ritual objects, space rental etc) or that everyone needs to contribute to the set up, facilitation, or clean up of an event in addition to a pot luck item.
 
Open vs. closed – there are pros and cons to leaving your chavurah open (anyone can join at any time) or closed (membership in the chavurah is limited to a particular group of people). There are also middle grounds on membership where you bring on new members only at certain times of the year at certain events.
History of Chavurot from My Jewish Learning