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What is the Havurah Initiative?

Havurah: An Experiment in Jewish Gathering” is an initiative hosted by Congregation B’nai Israel that supports the development of homegrown, peer-led, Jewish gatherings. The goal of this initiative is to provide a platform for people to fill in gaps they experience in current Jewish programming and offerings by providing the structure and support for gathering and forming mini-communities that foster deep, caring, supportive relationships. 

There are many ways for us to gather with others to find meaning at the intersection of our Jewish identities – as parents, young adults, spiritual seekers, outdoor enthusiasts, bakers, and more. Each of our havurot are organized around different themes of their own choosing and meet on an ongoing basis. We welcome your ideas for starting new groups based on your interests.

Our havurot have a minimum of 7 members, meet 9 times per year or more, have a Jewish focus, and share leadership among its members. These are intended to be small groups of committed members who meet regularly. Each Havurah has a connector who coordinates the logistics of the group and is responsible for reporting. This initiative is funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation which provides a stipend to connectors for the first two years and program funds to all Havurot for the first five years. 

Want to learn more about the Havurah Initiative? 
Read more at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and watch a short video.

Join a Havurah

Interested in joining a Havurah?

Fill out this Interest Form  

Current Havurot that are open to new members. 
For more information, reach out directly to the people listed below.

Men’s Group Havurah, Owen Mitz,

For men who are retired or are about to retire. This group will be made up of seven members who meet monthly to share life's ups and downs, build relationships and support each other in a confidential setting. 

The Shoah (Holocaust) Community Education Havurah, Alan Berkenwald,

This group welcomes members to discuss the meaning of the Holocaust in their lives, and who are potentially interested in educating the larger community through speakers, field trips, events, and collaboration with schools.  

Life Legacy Writing Havurah, Judith Breier,

Women ages 50+ are invited to join this havurah to write stories and reflections from their lives to share with loved ones. This group will meet monthly on Sundays. We will use a book by Rachel Freed as a resource and guide so that all members of the group can lead writing prompts and discussions. 

Visual Artists Havurah, Jennifer Lotstein,

This group welcomes 10-12 artists to share work and support each other, to discuss spiritual growth through art, to study Jewish artists, and to take field trips to galleries and museums. This group will meet monthly on the last Friday of the month from 3:00-5:30 pm.

Veg Pod Havurah, Elly Alexander,

Adults interested in learning more about plant-based eating are invited to join this havurah. The meals we share will be vegan, but the group is open to anyone interested in learning about compassionate cooking especially for Jewish holiday celebrations. This group is for veg-oriented people who want to connect for fun and friendship, enjoy delicious vegan food, share recipes, and discuss topics related to compassionate eating and taking care of the earth. We will gather monthly on Sunday evenings. 

Hilltown Havurah, Marla Brodsky,

All hilltown adults and friends are invited to join a monthly outdoor gathering on Saturday evenings for havdalah, bonfire, discussion, food and drinks.

Caregivers Havurah: Naomi Tannen,

A group of people who take care of loved ones who are ill or differently abled to connect through the challenges and sweetness of being a caregiver. 1-2 openings available. 

Hearing Our Voices, Knowing Our Stories, Tiertza -Leah Schwartz,

Interested in learning about the stories of women in Jewish texts? Wondering what their relevance is to us today? Join for a monthly discussion of Jewish women in text. We'll read, learn, and explore the stories of these powerful ancestors.

Healing Circle Havurah, Bonnie Diamond,

The Healing Circle Havurah is a spiritual support group for people living with illness. It is based on the belief that illness can deepen our spiritual journeys, and provide an opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves, with the sacred, and with those that we care about. The group fosters ways to listen to our inner wisdom and provides a safe space to cultivate kindness, patience and love. Monthly meetings are held on Sundays at 4:00, in person at CBI. 

Mah Jongg Havurah, Beverly Blatt,

The Mah Jongg havurah  brings players together for playing, conversation, and learning, including exploring the history of Jewish women playing Mah Jongg. All levels are welcome including those new to the game who can learn from experienced players in the group. 

The Ohel Minyan, Sara Farber,

The mission of the Ohel Minyan Havurah is to nurture and sustain a halakhically traditional, egalitarian, multi-generational Jewish community in Northampton, MA. We are a community built around our love of communal prayer and a desire to help one another through life stages, challenges, losses, and celebrations. We meet daily for morning minyan in the backyards of the minyan coordinators. Everyone is welcome. Sign up here to let us know you will be coming to minyan. Visit our website for details. Join us for the monthly Rosh Hodesh Minyan at CBI also! 

List of CBI havurot that have reached capacity and are currently closed:

Israeli Politics and Culture, Rivka Cooper,

This havurah engages its members in discussions about the politics and culture of Israel using articles from sources such as Haaretz, The Times of Israel, etc. to find interesting pieces about topics facing modern Israelis. We also discuss how these issues affect American Jews. This havurah is committed to being a safe place for everyone to share their opinions. Each month a different member will choose an article and prepare several questions for the havurah discussion.

Shabbat Dinner Havurah, Bonnie Diamond and Dan Price

South Street Neighborhood Havurah, Amy Meltzer

Havurah hosted at the Jewish Community of Amherst and open to the CBI community:

The Music Lovers’ Havurah, Rivka Cooper,

This havurah will bring together music lovers to learn about music with which they are not yet familiar, and have the opportunity to share music pieces/songs which they love. During each meeting, a member will choose a song or piece/movement of their choice, we will listen to it several times (time permitting), and the havurah will discuss various aspects of the music: its history, artist/songwriter(s), meaning, and genre. At the end of each meeting, one member will share a Jewish song: klezmer, traditional, or anything in between so we can increase our knowledge of Jewish music, as well.

The Modern Great Jewish Thinkers Havurah reads and discusses works which focus on Jewish philosophy, culture, faith, and other aspects of Jewish thought. Each month, a different member of the havurah chooses a short work by a modern Jewish thinker, and prepares several questions for the group to ponder. We meet either in-person or via Zoom, depending on the wishes of the havurah members. For more information, please contact Rivka Cooper at

Start a New Havurah

Want to start your own Havurah or have ideas for new groups?

We are currently accepting applications for new Havurot.  Each Havurah needs to have a "Havurah connector" who serves as a lead organizer.  While the Havurot are intended to be non-hierarchical and peer-led, the coordinator plays a critical role in helping to recruit, market and administer the group.  The coordinators are paid a $1000 stipend for their work. Rolling deadline for applying, one year commitment to the project.

To learn more and to apply to start a Havurah, click here



Sun, May 28 2023 8 Sivan 5783