In recent 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. Many of this year’s havurot are centered around the shemita theme, while others are organized around other topics. See below for the list of havurot and their descriptions.
Please fill out this form to tell us about yourself and your interest in a havurah. Because space is limited, we may not be able to match everyone who expresses interest at this time. The deadline to express interest is Monday, January 10, 2022. Havurot will begin meeting later in the winter.
Reparations for African Americans as a Pathway to Restorative Justice (virtual)
Group Leader: Elaine Klein
Description: In light of the Reparations Act anticipated for congressional debate shortly, the ACLU has put forth the following statement: “Reparations are not a symbolic act—they are a real and necessary demand for justice…” In this havurah, we shall explore the purposes of reparations, its goals and models, along with examination of its implementation and outcomes in the past and present. Our research will include a study of the upcoming Reparations Act (HR40), readings and videos from selections in the literature and media, potential interviews with some groups around the country that have instituted reparations, and discussion with African American friends and neighbors about the issue. Summarizing our findings, we will draw preliminary conclusions about the potential role of the Jewish community in a reparations initiative. This group will meet Monday evenings, every other week (exact time TBD), and is intended for BJ members who have had some experience in racial justice work, and who are interested in exploring the role of reparations in furthering this work. (A co-leader is needed, so if you would be willing to fill that role, please let us know).
Imagining The World We Can Shape Together (in person and virtual)
Group Leader: Lois Segel
Description: This havurah will offer older & younger members a pathway to come together for study & action around issues of climate change and environmental responsibility, from a Jewish perspective and based on Jewish values. We will learn from older & younger angles, prompts & perspectives, from an op-ed, news clips & artifacts. Some of these include but are not limited to Torah sources, Jewish Youth Climate Movement, BJ’s Teen Tzedek Committee, Take Action Jewish Environmental Organization, Take Action: NYC Conservancy, etc. This group will meet once a month.
Psalms Reimagined for Shemita 5782 (in person and virtual)
Group Leader: Sonia Orenstein
Description: This havurah will provide some time and space for a delving into our beloved, reliable psalms to probe for more meaning, given our shemita year 5782, the context of our present-day Judaism, and the world around us. Each of us will bring our unique perspectives to create new understandings, both individually and collectively. Some of us might be prompted to write our own psalms in honor of this commitment to clear the slate of the perfunctory and find deeper religious and spiritual connection with our lives during this shemita year. This group will meet monthly.
Tikkun Olam Today (in person if safe to do so)
Group Leader:Yael Sharon
Description: The self-help section of bookstores is increasingly becoming more expansive & popular. But a community-help section doesn’t even exist yet. Our havurah prioritizes both change and community. Together, we will explore how our behavior impacts ourselves and the world around us. As an accountability group, we will integrate tikkun olam (repair the world) into each day by practicing tikkun middot (repair our character). This group is for members of BJ’s Aviv (20s/30s/40s community) and will meet bi-monthly.
Seeing the World Through Different Eyes: An Intergenerational Social Justice Conversation (virtual)
Group Leader: Michael Leopold & Linda Thal
Description: The world as we have known it has fallen apart, so how do we see the world now? How have the recent years changed our perspectives? This group will work on discussing and answering these questions, looking at present issues through an intergenerational lens. We will seek to answer the questions of what can we learn from each other in different generations and where do we need to put our energy in order to move forward together towards a better world? This group will meet monthly.
Shemita: Striving to See World, Self and Others Differently (virtual only)
Group Leader: Mary Jane Suzman
Description: This havurah will ponder two interacting themes: The first theme is the extra soul we are said to receive on Shabbat, the extra Shabbat awareness, extra Shabbat mindfulness. What would this mean for the possibilities of our relationship with Creation?
The second theme will explore images and notions of divine light, beginning with the “Let there be light” of creation, and moving through rabbinic (talmudic) texts, Zohar and other Jewish mystical texts, and texts and stories from the early Hasidic masters to modern times. We will use these sources to consider how to see those divine sparks in all existence—world, self and other people. This group will meet every other week.
Downtown Havurah (virtual)
Group Leader: Marcy Einhorn
Description: Downtown members face an extra hurdle for participating in B’nai Jeshurun so we started a havurah that helps us overcome that hurdle and stay connected to the BJ community we love. Pre-pandemic, we gathered for monthly Shabbat dinners in members’ homes. More recently, we gathered on Zoom to keep safe and keep together. When the protocols allowed, we met in restaurants during the summer and fall. We’ll continue to meet regularly in a way that keeps us all safe. This group meets monthly.
Hebrew Speaking Havurah (in person)
Group Leader: Nili Gitig
Description: The Hebrew Speaking Havurah continues! Each session, we discuss a different topic, with a different member leading. Meetings will be in-person (if in an enclosed space, masks will be required). This group meets the first Sunday of each month.
Intergenerational LGBTQIA+ (virtual)
Group Leader: Linda Golding
Description: This is an affinity space for BJ members who identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community to come together, learn, and connect across the age spectrum. We will look at a few Jewish texts together through an LGBTQIA+ lens, as well as explore questions that allow us to share the unique experiences of our age group with younger and older LGBTQIA+ individuals at BJ. This group will meet every six weeks.
Mindful Prayer Havurah (virtual)
Group Leader: Jonathan Silver
Description: We invite you to join this havurah, led by Jonathan Silver, as we search for deeper kavannah (intention) in our prayers, ritual practice, and weekly Torah portion. We will come together each week for a combination of singing, teaching, and a 20-minute meditation. This havurah is open to all BJ members—no previous meditation experience is required. This group meets weekly.
Music Havurah (virtual)
Group Leader: Marcy Einhorn
Description: Everyone loves BJ’s music, including BJ members who are amateur musicians. During the pandemic a group of us started playing on zoom (less than ideal of course) as a way to play the melodies we hold dear and get to know our fellow members who are also musicians. Thank you to Dan Nadel for making all the music we love available to us in printed form. We look forward to playing together live as the pandemic protocols allow. Any talent level and all instruments or vocal abilities welcomed! This group meets every two-three weeks.
Thriving Solo (virtual)
Group Leader: Ellen Carni
Description: This havurah is for women approximately 60–80 years old who are on their own—either never married, divorced, or widowed, without kids or who do not want to burden their kids. We aim to assist each other through difficult times while celebrating the good times. Our aim is to make these years of our lives positive. While we have addressed issues such as wills, health care proxies and adult family conflicts, we are primarily a social group. There is room in this havurah for a couple of new members.
This group meets on the third Friday of the month from 5:00-6:00PM, ending in time to watch the BJ Shabbat service.
Washington Heights Havurah (in person, if safe, and virtual)
Group Leader: Mandy Braun
Description: This havurah is intended for BJ members living in Washington Heights. Together we will have the opportunity to discuss the parashah (weekly Torah portion), discuss current Jewish events, enjoy the occasional Shabbat together, and create a cohort and community of fellow BJ members in Washington Heights. This group will meet every other month.
BJ Walkers (in person, outside)
Group Leader: Ilene Richman
Description: Explore the history and architecture of Jewish New York. Each walk will start from a different site (reachable by subway) and explore the Jewish-related history and architecture of the area for 1- 2 hours. Suitable for all those who are able to walk at a moderate to leisurely pace for 1-3 miles. Examples of walks include:
Battery Park and environs. Enjoy the views and learn about the various immigrant and war memorials in the Park. Walk ends at the Museum of Jewish Heritage with discussion of its architecture.
The Financial District. Explore the sites of BJ’s first synagogue building and the first Jewish cemetery in NYC
This group will meet one Sunday morning a month.