WEST HARTFORD — Jewish individuals and families in Greater Hartford who want to build friendships around a shared interest now have additional support to do so, thanks to the Greater Hartford Havurah Initiative, a recently launched partnership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

A havurah (pronounced ha-voo-RAH) is a small social group that comes together to explore a shared interest through a Jewish lens. Havurot (plural) can be established independently or affiliated with a synagogue or another local group.

“Havurot are a great way to meet others who share your values and interests,” said Jennifer Schwartzman, Federation’s director of Community Connections. “You can start a havurah for young families, empty nesters or singles, or around a hobby like hiking or quilting.”

Sarah Kruger runs the Farmington Valley Interfaith Families Havurah. This group held its first event on August 4 — a day at the lake with activities and stories focused on the theme of Jewish environmentalism. The next gathering, at the end of September, will celebrate Rosh Hashanah with apple picking and honey tasting. “It’s so wonderfully natural and enriching to connect with and learn from families who share similar values,” Kruger said.

Rebecca Chaimovitch coordinates an East of the River havurah for mothers of children who recently celebrated a bar or bat mitzvah.

“The months leading up to a bar or bat mitzvah tend to be hectic; it’s similar to planning a wedding,” noted Chaimovitch. “So it made sense for our havurah to focus on self-care and wellness. We celebrate havdalah (a brief ritual marking the end of Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath) with wine and candle lighting and share our joys and challenges.”

At the beginning of the summer, the group met at a salt cave in West Hartford; the next event will take place this month at Wickham Park in Manchester. “Non-Jewish moms of Jewish teens are welcome to join us,” added Chaimovitch.

Two other havurot are currently in the process of forming: one for Jewish religious school teachers and one for young Jewish professionals. Funding is also available to start additional groups. To learn more about existing havurot or to apply for funding to start your own, contact Jennifer Schwartzman at jschwartzman@jewishhartford.org or call 860-727-6117.

Connecticut Media Group