Havurah

The Humanistic Jewish Havurah of Southwest Florida is a home for those who identify as Jews primarily through culture, history and family. We provide a welcoming and enriching Jewish environment with no demands for religious doctrine.

We believe Judaism is the creation of the Jewish people and that all generations are responsible for carrying it forward and adding to it. We believe that only natural forces and beings are responsible for what happens in this world; that people have the ability and the responsibility to solve human problems through striving for equality, social justice and peace. And we believe in the equality and dignity of every human being and in the power of community.

Folks in the Humanistic Jewish Havurah of Southwest Florida started out as strangers, acquaintances, friends, and now we’re family, not necessarily blood-related but common-cause-related. One of the reasons for this strong feeling is that we function within the framework of a havurah.

A havurah is a small, self-directed participatory community seeking social and spiritual kinship through study, socializing, mutual growth and celebration. It utilizes shared leadership and democratic, egalitarian decision-making. Our havurah expresses the humanist ideal of self-reliance in partnership with others.

The roots of today’s havurot stretch back to the monastic fellowships of the Essenes and the urban communities of the Pharisees in the first century B.C.E. Independent study groups, Kallot, flourished during the Babylonian diaspora. During the eighteenth century, independent brotherhoods, chavurot, developed in Europe and the United States. Little room (shtiebel) synagogues were transplanted from Eastern Europe to America during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The modern havurah movement can be described as an alternative independent, anti-establishment, member-orientated movement that grew out of a need for a support system for unaffiliated Jews living in non-Jewish areas. The current havurah movement is twofold: 1) temple- or synagogue-based and 2) independent. Temple-synagogue based havurot function within a congregation to decentralize leadership, increase participation and develop social relationships. Independent havurot function without rabbinic leadership. They develop alternative rituals and seek to meet their own religious, intellectual and ethical needs in their own way.

The Humanistic Jewish Havurah of Southwest Florida follows the independent model. We meet twice a month, plan our own meetings and activities, and create humanistic Jewish holiday celebrations. There is conversation, dialogue and a mutual respect. Everyone has a share in planning and decision-making. Of course, every group has an active nucleus that assumes more responsibility than the rest, but every member has taken an active part to make our programs, holiday celebrations and activities successful events.

At Havurah meetings, there is a feeling of sharing, caring and mutual concern, an atmosphere of kinship as warm greetings are exchanged. Everyone knows everyone else and is interested in the welfare and well-being of the mishpocheh. When we celebrate our Jewish holidays, communal unity strengthens our cohesiveness. Each member experiences an emotional as well as intellectual involvement.

Our havurah is a milieu in which Humanistic Judaism can be practiced and in which the precepts of humanism can be carried out.