What function does a chavurah serve within a Reform congregation? Is it to permit those who are so inclined to come together to participate in Jewish rituals with, perhaps, more intensity than is the minhag of the congregation? Harvey 175 units (more or less)
The Continental Bank of Chicago (z"l) used to advertise itself as "the big bank with the little bank inside." So too our variegated congregations can make membership more personal by marketing to the niches, and by recognizing the benefit of different strokes for different folks.
In the trade association world, chavurot are often called SIGs (Special Interest Groups) or affinity groups. While in many congregations, chavurot bring families together for holiday observance, etc.; you might also have a chavurah where the affinity is a common study interest, or a common social denominator (empty nesters, for example).
From a standpoint of zero experience, and keeping in mind that the root of chavurah is chaver, "friend," a key ingredient is the social. In many instances, I'd expect the group to be member-driven rather than staff-driven.
I don't see any reason to expect a functional difference in chavurot based on religious stream--and in fact, a chavurah can be a way to build a bridge with a congregation of another stream.
Larry 1200 member units
Our Chavurah Aleph-Bet at [our congregation] has nothing to do with "Jewish rituals." It was started by a previous rabbi as a way to bring newer members into the congregation, and manifests itself as a series of five or six evenings a year on Judaism-related topics. Subsequent rabbis had little interest in running things, but have served as a resource. It has been a struggle for participants to keep it going as a lay-led activity, but we have twelve to fourteen active participants and an open-door policy.
This year's topics are Classical vs. Mainstream in Reform Judaism, Jewish Healing, Jewish Urban Legends, Cutting-Edge Reform Responsa, Kabbalah and Contemporary Culture.
Edward 490 Households
Dec 2004 Digest #1121
Please clarify/expand my concept of chavurah. In our neck of the woods, synagogues have sponsored study groups, alternative types of services, a women's minyan, etc. But hereabouts, a chavurah is something any group of like-minded people form on their own, unaffiliated with any existing religious institution. I have always marveled that people would feel so strongly about some aspect of Judaism that they would go to the extent of forming a chavurah. Marian
Dec 2004 Digest #1121
I think in many places, both definitions [given by Marian] are correct. In some of the larger congregations, chavurot are formed around interests or other defining criteria to foster the sense of belonging.