A key part of the Hav is the community and the strong connections built within it. Since COVID, I’ve felt a struggle to build strong connections with anybody, especially as a disabled person with a respiratory illness. I was lucky enough to find the Hav well before the pandemic, but I only became a full member in the last year. I realized that while I know a good number of the people who go to davening on Saturday mornings, there’s lots of Hav folks who I just haven’t overlapped much with. We’re also moving into winter, when Hav services are split between in-person and Zoom participation, and it feels harder to maintain organic connections when half of the participants are behind a screen and the other half aren’t.
We were discussing this issue in a meeting of the Membership committee, and I realized that I wanted to help solve it. The solution had to be on Zoom, so all the Zoom-only people could make it. It couldn’t be Shabbos related, so that shomer Shabbos people could attend. I didn’t want to make it something tightly focused on a specific topic, because then we’d learn more about the topic than one another. I also wanted to create the opportunity for small groups to break off, the way that schmoozing happens naturally after services, rather than maintaining one large conversation. I wound up creating an agenda that balanced all of these needs, seemed fun, and was adaptable whether we got 3 people or 30.
The meeting started well! We had about 25 attendees; some who had been going to the Hav for several decades, someone whose first Hav event had been services the day before, and everything in between. We went around and did quick introductions, but then as is always the way, we had some tech issues! My plan for breakout groups was foiled by not having enabled them beforehand. Thankfully, while I was flustered, somebody (Bev?) recommended we all just do one of the activities together, and do the breakouts another time.
The activity we did was “show us an object that represents something you’re proud of, or has a good story behind it.” I didn’t have a strong vision for what that might mean, and I’m glad I left it open. We saw family photos, kids’ art, ketubot, family heirlooms, important books, fiber crafts (including a huge quilt!), and a crested gecko. I feel like I learned a lot about everyone who shared - both the people I’ve spoken with a lot, and the people I’d never met. I certainly came away feeling like I’d have something to chat about with everyone who attended, and I hope everyone else did as well.
SInce the last one was a success, we’re doing it again. Join us on Saturday, 12/9 at 6 pm for another super cool and fun community building hour! Expect it to last about an hour. It’ll be on a differen Zoom link than usual - please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the Zoom link.
This time we will have a (loose) Hanukkah theme. We’ll start with lighting Hanukkah candles and doing introductions, and then move into a series of breakout groups to facilitate smaller conversations, which will probably follow the intended format for the last meeting.
If you attended the last one and have feedback, or if anyone has ideas about the future of these community-building sessions, please let me know at email@example.com