My wife and I are thinking about starting a monthly gathering that would meet to engage in informal Jewish study and worship here in the OKC Metro. The group would be interfaith in nature (with all being welcome to share of their understandings of the divine) but with the focus being on Jewish faith practices such as celebrating Shabbat (Sabbath) and holidays, as well as learning more about Jewish history and culture, all in the context of an informal, family-friendly home gathering.
This gathering would be modeled after the Jewish Chavurah movement (Hebrew: חבורה) which means “fellowship” or “friendship”) which sprung up during the 1960’s as an alternative to traditional synagogue services. Chavurot (plural of Chavorah) are traditionally lay-led and egalitarian in nature… or to say it another way, everyone is a participant and leadership is shared.
This is a lively and rich movement. It includes small fellowship groups that are sponsored by a larger synaoguge, but also include many independent Chavurot such as the Longmont, CO Shabbat Group, NefeshSoul in Phoenix, Tikkun Olam Chavorah in Germantown, PA and HaMakom Shalom in Germantown, MD
There is a lot more that could be said about this movement (actually I will provide two more links: Joys of Chavurah (AKA The Jewish Party thing) from Interfaithfamily.com and the National Havurah Committee Resources page for those who want to learn more), but maybe it is best to just say that it is time to try it out and see for ourselves what this kind of informal community would be like instead of just reading about it.
So, the community might start with some of these activities…
1. Shabbat suppers – The group would gather for dinner at one of our homes. We would light the candles and say the shabbat prayers together, and then eat a long lazy meal together (with of course wine and challah bread) while sharing about lives and the ways we attempt to connect with God in the context of our lives.
2. Torah Study – We might meet to read and discuss the Torah portion of the week.
3. Hebrew Study – This would not be learning to read and speak Hebrew fluently, but rather a kind of introduction to Hebrew, a “Hebrew for the rest of us” (quoting from a book title of the same name) in which I would teach participants how to recognize the Hebrew characters and vowel markings, how to pronounce Hebrew, and some of the basics of Hebrew grammar, so that participants could use some of the standard Hebrew language tools to study the Hebrew scriptures.
4. Service – We might choose together to do a service project of some kind together.
5. Holiday gatherings – There are so many wonderful Jewish holidays we can observe together in an informal way. Sukhot (the feast of booths) and Purim would be both very fun holidays to do together.
As far as who can participate, the meetings would be open to anyone who is interested in learning or engaging with Jewish practices. Certainly participants are welcome to discuss connections between Jewish practices and their own beliefs in appropriate ways, but this would not be an appropriate occasion for seeking converts.
And of course this group would be focused on Jewish practices, but is not intended to require any kind of doctrinal conformity. I expect (and hope) that we will have participants come with a variety of theological beliefs (including those who are agnostic).
Anyway that is my not-so-short explanation of what we have in mind. I’m now curious who might be interested in joining us on a trial basis, maybe starting with a Friday night supper sometime in May or June. If you are interested in participating, please email or text me (405-494-0562). Also please let me know what things you would be most interested in (shabbat meals, holiday celebrations, study, etc.).