North Suburban Synagogue Beth El
Havurah Guide

Havurah Guide

How often and where does your Havurah meet?

Each havurah determines its own schedule and program. Most havurot meet once a month, at a set time each month (i.e. first Monday evening, third Sunday brunch). However yours can do things differently. Generally the meeting moves from home to home or to a specific venue that reflects the program (ex. theatre for a play, etc.) However, a Havurah may use the synagogue, a café or any other location that people feel comfortable using.

How many families/individuals form a Havurah?

There is no set amount. But fewer than seven members usually does not work well. Nor does a group of more than thirty.

How do we develop Community?

Community is not formed as a rule in the first or second meeting. But after five or six sessions, if the sharing has been open, the havurah becomes a caring community.

Unlike the usual Jewish study program, which is academically oriented, Havurah programming is utterly dependent upon the interactions between individuals. Individuals in havurot that have formed primarily for study begin to celebrate together, to share concerns and become more than  students in common, but true friends. Havurot that have been together for years often share together the life cycle events of members – marriages, births, bar/bat mitzvah, anniversaries, and deaths.

First meetings

We have found that first “planning” meetings that work the best happen once a year in late August or Early September. Make sure everyone brings their calendars with them to the meeting so that dates for the year can be set.

Key things need to be discussed and decided. How often do you want to meet? What will be this Havurah’s priorities? Will you be purely a social Havurah, educational Havurah, religious Havurah, Social Action Havurah, or a combination? A good system can often be that each member chooses a month during which they choose and run the program. Also make sure at this meeting to confirm everyone’s contact information in case it may have changed.

Is a Havurah forever?

Havurot will frequently change direction with maturation. A havurah that began with a study goal may decide to move in a different direction. Such a change may not meet the needs of some of the individual members, who might then chose to leave the Havurah. This can be natural and OK. Havurot do in fact lose members and/or add members regularly, as people’s life circumstances change. Please decide on a procedure to accept new members so if this situation arises it does not cause conflict.

If the Rabbi doesn’t come, how do we learn?

While periodically the clergy at Beth El can be engaged to run a program or lead a study, the vast majority of the time the responsibility for the program lies with the Havurah members. Other guest speakers can be invited as well on any topic and the Havurah chairs, the membership VP and the clergy can help identify quality people. NSS Beth El staff can also provide Havurot with reference information in addition to the plethora of resources that are available on many Jewish subjects on line and in the greater community. Our library is also available for additional sources
of information that might be required.

What if I don’t Like Everyone in My Havurah?

In any group of that size, there may very well be one or two people you can’t seem to get to know. The best advice is to stick with it! You’ll be surprised what can happen over time. Some of the Havurot at NSS Beth El have been together for over 20 years! If it’s just not working out though, you can speak to a Havurah and Membership committee member about your options.

How are New Members Added to a Havurah?

If your Havurah is in need of new members, call NSS Beth El; you will be directed to the committee chairperson who will assist you. You may also personally invite any NSS Beth El member to be part of your group. Kindly inform the Havurah and Membership committee chairperson of any changes in your Havurah.

Ten Favorite Havurah Tips

  1. Decide what you want to do and what your general goals are. They will be based on a combination of social activities, Jewish issues, holiday celebrations, etc.
  2. Try and reach a consensus that satisfies the majority of people. This requires patience and “give and take.”
  3. Plan a schedule with dates, locations and programs in advance-at least six months, and preferably a year.
  4. Send out a copy of the entire schedule to each member and then send out monthly reminders via mail or email ten days to two weeks before each meeting with RSVP requested.
  5. Fulfill your commitment to each other by doing your share.
  6. Attend regularly; make it a priority. Work together to make the meetings something you look forward to.
  7. TALK things over if there are conflicts, but be sensitive to the feelings of others.
  8. Be sure to be represented at any Havurah meetings at the synagogue.
  9. Recognize the dynamics of your own Havurah and be realistic about what you do. Some groups will become real extended families; others will develop some close friendships within the group but share a common bond with everyone, enjoying a variety of experiences together. Others will be united in their dedication to Judaic study. Don’t compare yourselves but strive for the elements which make your Havurah special to you… with the following exception: What everyone in each Havurah should have in common is a desire to strengthen your Jewish ties and those of your family, to enrich yourself Jewishly, to reach out to other synagogue members, and to enjoy!
  10. Remind your Havurah of coming events of interest at the Synagogue and in the Jewish community. Check the Jewish press for details. Some of the events may prove to be great activities for the entire Havurah to attend together!