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A Statement of the Havurah

CLICK HERE to access the on-line HAVURAH application. 

A Havurah is a group of members of VBS who join together in each other's homes to celebrate their existence as Jews.  The Havurah seeks to translate into our lives the culture, ethics and joy of Judaism. Each Havurah develops its own style, its own way towards this end.  We have many  functioning Havurot, each of them unique, all of them united by similar purposes.  We are always in the process of forming new Havurot, and also integrating new members into existing Havurot.  We invite you to fill out the on-line application (referenced above), and we will do our best to match you with members with similar interests. 

The comments and suggestions that follow, flow from the personal observations of the activities of some of our Havurot by Rabbi Harold Schulweis (z"L), who began what became the Havurah movement throughout the Jewish community at VBS over 40 years ago.  


Valley Beth Shalom is a large community. Being part of a Havurah is a wonderful way to feel the warmth and support of a close-knit community. Membership in a havurah serves to make a large congregation more intimate and personal, adding a sense of warmth within the VBS community at large.

The Havurah experiences the joy of belonging. We enter into each other's homes. We break bread together. The anonymity of which threatens our lives is overcome. We see in each other ourselves. Moreover, the Havurah as it matures will inevitably expand its sphere of influence. It will affect the form and content of the Synagogue program itself. For to participate at a Synagogue service or an adult education program as members of a Havurah is to come with a special awareness and sensitivity born of having experienced a more intense communal life. Thus the Temple becomes a Havurah of Havurot--a community of communities, a family of families. The Temple must facilitate the interchange of ideas and the interaction between the Havurot.


The Havurah idea is new in our contemporary society. It will have its moments of frustration as well as its moments of exhilaration. We must learn to look at the wholeness of the other. We must learn how to celebrate life without the usual utilitarian motivations so pronounced in our industrial society.

The Havurah brings us together and brings out the best in us. But we must be patient with each other and with ourselves. It takes time for a group to get to know each other beyond the superficial amenities of acquaintanceship. It takes time to learn to relax with one another, to admit one's limitations before each other, to recognize our frailties. But with understanding of our civilizational heritage, our egos will grow less fragile, our meeting less remote. Above all, the love of our people will inform our relationships with one another.

In four decades in the Rabbinate I have found no way more promising for Jewish renewal than that of Havurah. Our efforts are towards having each Synagogue member a part of such a sub community. It has proven to be a transforming experience.

Harold M. Schulweis
Editor's note: The above was written by Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis (z"L) in 1971 when there were twelve havurot.

Sun, April 18 2021 6 Iyyar 5781