“I guess it started when I asked everyone to go to dinner,” says Suzanne Silverstein, likening it to a first date that led further. “A few years in, Dorrie brought up the idea of including our families and forming a chavurah.”
Conceived in the 1960s as a counter-cultural movement looking for a new model of Jewish worship and study, the word “chavurah” has come to mean a group that meets periodically to enrich their lives in a Jewish way. “We think of ourselves as a community within a community,” explains Dorrie Rosenstein.
“I was so touched to be included,” remembers Kim Kittay. “The community you get at your synagogue is different than any other one you’ll have in your life. It’s special and meaningful.” Her husband Leo adds: “It’s the glue that has kept us at Stephen Wise.”
They launched the concept to their families with a “kickoff” Shabbat dinner, where they introduced the chavurah concept. Then they attempted to get together every few months, with each family taking turns to organize a different Jewish (or not-so-Jewish) activity: krav maga; volunteering at our homeless shelter; learning CPR; seeing “Fiddler on The Roof”; and, of course, celebrating their children’s b’nai mitzvah.
“Getting together became more difficult as our kids got older,” admits Melissa Glassman. Debra adds: “But even if they don’t see each other that often, it’s like they’re cousins. There are probably cohorts at the synagogue who are getting together anyway and would make natural chavurot — like ECC and Religious School families, newcomers to the synagogue, or people with children at college.”
“Dorrie and Suzanne really made it happen; you need someone like that,” says Debra.” Suzanne agrees, “We run this group,” adding: “Our husbands are all involved in the synagogue in their own ways.” In fact, Suzanne’s husband, Steve Silverstein, is our synagogue’s newest president.
“Starting a chavurah of your own,” Suzanne says, “is a great way to grow with the synagogue.”
Photo: The Appelbaum, Glassman, Kittay, Rosenstein and Silverstein families celebrating Micah Kittay’s bar mitzvah together as a chavurah. (Photo credit: MAGGIE MARGUERITE STUDIO)