Apparently I wasn’t the only one fed up after the High Holidays, because I received a nice “feelout” email a couple of weeks ago from Dan Chapman, who took it upon himself to invite anyone who wanted to come to a Shabbat gathering at his home to discuss the possible formation of a Savannah chavurah.
Helpfully, Dan also sent out the the Wikipedia entry for chavurah, defined as:
a small group of like-minded Jews who assemble for the purposes of facilitating Shabbat and holiday prayer services, sharing communal experiences such as lifecycle events, and Jewish learning. Chavurot usually provide autonomous alternatives to established Jewish institutions and Jewish denominations.
DIY Judaism, peeps. Dig it.
Friday evening marked the first meeting, and no one plotzed. The first we thing we did after Shabbat prayers and noshing is go around the room and talk a little about what we’re looking for in this “alternative Jewish experience”; some talked about social gatherings, some want activities for their kids, a few want Torah study and learning, me and Wendy Cohen want to rock some hippie Shekinah worship and at least one person wanted absolutely no religion at all.
It was quite excellent to establish right away that there really is no such thing as a group of like-minded Jews, so we all agreed to disagree about practically everything and go from there.
Here are a few photos I snapped on the iPhone; why the clever captions I wrote for them aren’t appearing is a question only the gnomes living inside this magic box can answer. As you can see, it was a happy, relaxed group of folks aged seven months to 70 and an AWESOME food spread, which is obviously a key piece to any successful Jewish gathering.
Next up for the Savannah Tribe: A beachside Havdalah dance party in November hosted by the Yentas! Email for details.
“me and Wendy Cohen want to rock some hippie Shekinah worship”
You betcha. I’m OOT this Friday but am open to feeling the Shekinah next Friday with music, dancing, singing, drinking & praying.
I’m OOT this Friday too – at the Women’s herbal conference! doesn’t get more Shekinah than that 🙂
I am a little confused about the Chevurah thing. Don’t get me wrong, big thanks to everyone and especially the hosts. It was great to be with and meet new Jews. However “Ma Nishtana.” I mean, how was this night different than any other night? I know lots of Jews. I talk to them, all the time. I am always happy to hang out and play with others, but under the auspices of doing something Jewish, I want more Jewdaism and less hanging out. It is hard to get me excited about doing yet another Jewish thing cause it is dominating my calender right now. Coaching JEA Soccer, Hebrew school, Shalom School, Sabbath, The Holidays, Senior lunch with mom at the JEA. The list goes on literally. If we are gonna be Jews all the time, then I want to do some Old school biblical Jewish stuff. Pray, sing, dance, discuss. Not just “eat, shoots and take and hour to leave.”
The JEA is what is lacking in some people’s lives. A place to meet and socialize with Jews of every generation. Every Savannah Jew should be a member Period! I don’t understand how Mickve Israel’s board members can not be members. That’s an embarrassment. How the Jews here do not just join already and use its wonderful facilities and services is beyond me. Even if you never go it is there for you, so be there for it. The JEA is not perfect, but neither are we, so join and make it less perfect.
But what about the Judaism part? We talked briefly about that element and I feel everyone was a little reticent to say what they really wanted to do. Not just what they thought. I heard honesty about agnostic beliefs (paradox?)and I heard a refreshing admission of being satisfied with Synagogue life. I heard about social action, about feeling otherness in our community defined by its otherness. But no clear commitments about why we are getting together. Before we host, can we agree to do something specific so I don’t cook, clean and spend an hour saying good bye without doing something uniquely Jewish that night.
It was a great night, I just don’t want to repeat it in a different location. I still want something more. A bite from the apple of knowledge. I want Dan Skidmore-Hess to teach me something about Jews then and now. I’ll dance, learn a song and sing it loud, read a Torah passage and discuss it, but my calender for doing Jewish social gatherings is almost booked for the next 10 yrs.
So here is my challenge to the group. To Us. I want to do a Havdalla service and involve the kids and us. I want us to be silent together. To hear the ocean as if from G-d’s mouth to our ears. I want to broadcast less and tune in more. A Jewish meditation. Agnostics and believers. New and old friends. You get the point.
Yenta, The Chavurah environment totally rocks! I’m a member of Chavurat Hamidbar,The Fellowship of the Desert, and I love it. Much more interactive Jewish experience than the average synagogue. And as for your comment about Jewish gatherings and food, our nickname is Chavurat Haparperet, The Fellowship of the Dessert.
We recently left Savannah for Boulder, CO. One of the many reasons we left Savannah was the complete lack of a Jewish scene – under 75 that is. Not a place for young Jewish families. Boulder on the other hand has everything from hippie renewal to Chabad. The principal of my son’s elementary school sent out a Happy New Year email to all the parents on Rosh HaShanah. I’m sure Country Day does that right?
intruiging article.. I like your take on this subject. Although there are a couple points I oppose on I think you did a good job purposing your thought. GJ.