The Havurah throws a party and all are invited

The Havurah throws a party and all are invited

All Islanders are invited to come celebrate with us for a grand reopening celebration.

On Sunday, August 8, from 4-7 p.m., Vashon Havurah will host a grand reopening celebration; all islanders, Jewish or not, are invited to come and celebrate with us.

The Croaker Island Band will play Klezmer and Bluegrass music, Safa and Iyyad will serve Syrian food, there will be a hostless bar with beer and wine, lawn games and more. We will also showcase our planned memory garden design and sell engraved bricks.

We have a lot to celebrate; the glimpse of light at the end of the COVID tunnel and a chance to be together in person, our freshly painted blue building, and a return to our roots as a connection-centered, lay-led congregation.

Vashon Havurah was started in 1986 by a small group of Jews who wanted to connect and celebrate together. The name “Havurah,” which means circle of friendship in Hebrew, originated from a nationwide movement that arose during the counterculture of the 1960s. The Havurah movement wanted to move away from the formal settings of synagogues run by rabbis and s set up in people’s living rooms for lay-led services.

As the group grew and evolved, a building was purchased in 2003 and a new name was chosen, Havurat Ee Shalom (Havurah of a Peaceful Island). Various visiting rabbis led us in holiday and Shabbat services, we had lively Sunday school and energetic excitement for what was possible. For a while Havurah was really flourishing.

Over the years, our congregation has shrunk. Families wanting a larger cohort for their children sent them to Hebrew school off the island and left our congregation. Differing preferences as to which rabbi suited us best caused more people to lose. Some are drawn to a more traditional and observant Jewish practice, others to a more laid-back practice, and many, if they identify at all, feel a cultural pull with little or no need for the more religious aspects. We are a small island with a Jewish congregation trying to meet the needs of a diverse and creative population.

For our Havurah to survive, we must speak to the heart of who the Jews of Vashon are. Vashonites are people who tend to think outside the box; many are artists, creative thinkers, activists, environmentalists. Many are even spiritual in ways that are not directly related to their Jewish roots; there are pagan Jews, Bu-Jews/Jew-Bus (Buddhist Jews; google it, that’s a trick!), secular Jews, and more. There are Jews by birth and Jews by choice and even gourmet Jews! There are married Jews and Jews of mixed heritage.

Vashon Havurah wants to connect with all of you. For this reason, we returned to our Havurah roots and returned to lay-led services. We will occasionally have visits from rabbis, but for the most part we will create and celebrate our services and programs together. We also reverted to our original name, Vashon Havurah (the pronunciation of the new name was too confusing).

Havurah is again we – all of us on Vashon who identify as Jewish in any way – and what we put in is what will come out of it. Come dream with us. If sitting in a row in a synagogue isn’t what moves you spiritually, come circle with us. If sitting in a building itself cuts you off from nature, let’s plan Shabbat services in a forest. If it’s the music that draws you, come attend a Shabbat service in song. If it’s food and small talk, come to our monthly Shabbat potlucks. If you want a more meditative experience, we can tap into a long history of Jewish mysticism. If you’re not interested in the services themselves, let’s start a cooking group or a Jewish reading group or a Jewish women’s group to honor the new moon. If you are interested in genealogy, come listen to the Jewish genealogist we plan to bring in to speak.

More importantly, if you have kids and want them to grow up with some sort of Jewish identity, come talk to us. We want to re-enact children’s programming in a fun and dynamic way.

At our party, we will have a table set up to chat with people about what a Vashon Jewish community can be. We look forward to welcoming you and hearing your thoughts.

Please join us from 4-7 p.m. on Sunday, August 8 for the grand celebration of the reopening of Vashon’s Havurah at 15401 Westside Hwy. SW tickets are on sale at Eventbrite.com – search for Vashon Havurah.

— Suzanne Greenberg is the president of Vashon Havurah.

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