Membership Info

Havurah Initiative

Committees – Volunteer Opportunities

Membership Info

Havurah Initiative

Committees – Volunteer Opportunities

Membership Information

Each year we make a budget to meet expenses. We look at how many members we have and estimate what we expect them to contribute to cover our costs. (Kesher fees for our religious school are extra. Kesher tuition pays for approximately half of the costs of running the program).

A Note from the Rabbi

The truth is, you can “get” many things the JCA has to offer – rich and meaningful services on Shabbat and holidays, opportunities for education and social action, a warm sense of community as soon as you enter the building – without being a member.

However, membership in a community like the JCA is not about “getting”. It’s about sustaining. Even more so, it’s about creating. Together we create a vibrant Jewish present that gives us the potential to hope for the future. We support gifted and passionate professionals and dedicated lay leaders.

In order to maintain this beloved community, each of us is asked to pay our fair share in dues. I invite you to respond to this invitation now in the spirit of creating, sustaining, nourishing, and giving.

— Rabbi Ben Weiner

Sustaining Partnership

On average, we estimate that to run the full slate of programs, services, and other activities that make the JCA a vibrant and welcoming community, it costs approximately $200/household/month.  However, our community encompasses people from a large variety of financial situations, and therefore we have a fair share system.  We ask that you consider your household’s financial capacity to become a sustaining partner in the work of creating community at the JCA.  The income brackets listed in the dues form are guidelines for you to consider.

A Note on Discounts: In prior years we offered a discount for members who were also members at another synagogue. Rather than offer a specific discount on your dues income tier, we ask that you simply think about a contribution amount that is meaningful to you and within your means; taking into account your personal circumstances such as membership at other synagogues and select your partnership tier accordingly.

Havurah Initiative

What is the Havurah Initiative?

Havurah: An Experiment in Jewish Gathering” is an initiative funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, and hosted by the JCA, which provides support to individuals and families who are interested in gathering and building Jewish community with others. We want to support you in developing homegrown, peer-led, Jewish gatherings. The goal of this initiative is to provide a platform for people to fill in gaps they experience in current Jewish programming and offerings.

The History

Throughout Jewish history, Jews have formed intentional communities called “havurot.”  While the word “havurot” has meant different things to different people over time and today, it generally connotes a relatively small group of people who see themselves as connected and committed to each other in some meaningful way.  Members of havurot often gather together to celebrate Shabbat, holidays, and key moments in the Jewish life cycle.

In the zeitgeist (spirit or mood of the time) of 1960’s America, a Havurah movement emerged that served as a countercultural phenomenon in relation to the organized Jewish community of their day. Going against the grain of organized synagogue communities, havurot were typically organized without formal hierarchy, honoring all people as lay leaders and having no central rabbi. They created communities around shared values and sought to live and explore their Jewish lives together.

There are many ways for us to gather with others to find meaning at the intersection of our Jewish identities – as parents, young adults, spiritual seekers, members of the queer community, etc. Each of our havurot will be organized around different themes, such as: Young Adults, Jewish Mindfulness and Meditation, Rosh Hodesh (New Moon Ritual), Interfaith/Blended Families, Young Families, LGBT Folks.

What is a Havurah?

A havurah is an intimate community where deep, caring, supportive relationships are fostered between the members of the group as they share and explore a Jewish focus of their own choosing. The group sets its own agenda, is peer-led, and meets on an ongoing basis.

A havurah must:

  • Have a minimum of seven people
  • Meet nine times a year or more
  • Have a Jewish focus
  • Share leadership among its members
  • Have a Connector whose role is to serve as the liaison to the JCA Havurah Coordinator

Roll of the Connector

  • Gather people together on a shared Jewish interest to form a havurah
  • Serve as the liaison to the JCA
  • Establish regular contact with the JCA Havurah Initiative staff
  • Attend HI hosted gatherings with other Connectors
  • Submit reports to the JCA havurah coordinator by the due date regarding the status of the havurah
  • Eligible for a yearly stipend of $1000 

Join an Existing Havurah

These Havurot are open to new members:

The Modern Great Jewish Thinkers Havurah meets monthly (either in-person or on Zoom) to discuss well-known Jewish writers from the modern era. Each month on a Sunday at 2:00 pm, a different havurah member chooses a writer and we read their articles, excerpts from their books or, sometimes, whole books. Among the writers we have read so far are Viktor Frankl, Jonathan Sacks, and Adin Steinsaltz. If you are interested in joining our havurah, please contact Rivka Cooper at

The Yiddish Leyenkrayz (reading circle) Havurah meets monthly, usually on the first Thursday of the month from12:30 pm to 2:30 pm, both in person at the JCA and on Zoom. We gather together to speak mameloshn (mother’s tongue) and to share treasures of Yiddish literature. We begin with a shmues (conversation) in Yiddish and go on taking turns reading from a chosen Yiddish text. In the past we have read a novel by Sholem Aleykhem and a memoir by Bella Chagall. Currently, we are reading poetry and prose by various writers in an anthology called Di Goldene Pave edited by Sheva Zucker.

While it is necessary to have a basic ability to read Yiddish with Hebrew letters to participate in the reading, and to have some ability to speak the language, the members of the group range from advanced beginners to native speakers. Members, sometimes with dictionaries in hand help each other read difficult passages and find the Yiddish words they need to express themselves. The participants have improved their reading and speaking skills over time. Although English is spoken occasionally when necessary to be sure everyone understands important information, we try to conduct our meetings as completely as possible in Yiddish. Newcomers are welcome.

Mah Jongg Havurah is open to all adults who want to play Mah Jongg. We meet almost every Sunday afternoon at JCA. If people don’t know how to play, we set up separate sessions for them to learn. Participants range in ability from beginner to advanced. Contact Susan Marcus at for more information.

Hikers Havurah is a group of thirty that share their love of hiking throughout the Valley. That was the common bond that initially brought us together. What we have learned in our trail time together, however, is that we have a lot more in common with each other than just our respective passions for the outdoors. We’re not breaking any hiking records. Some of us prefer steep, others a stroll, but we all enjoy our time together experiencing nature Jewishly. We hike through the four seasons mostly, but not exclusively, weekend mornings. We have done post hike pizza together on the Amherst Common and with Covid easing we even had an indoor brunch unconnected to any hike. It’s been fun! Check us out!  Please contact Arthur Green for more information.

Have an Idea for a New Havurah?

If you have an idea for a havurah theme (even if you don’t want to take on a leadership role), please contact JCA Havurah Coordinator Marian Parker at

Committees – Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers are the lifeblood and the nefesh (soul) of our community

Provide a meal to a home-bound member, serve on a committee, chant Torah, organize a fundraiser, make latkes for the Hanukkah party and blintzes for Shavuot, help with youth and family education, offer a workshop, lead Torah study, help in the garden… the possibilities are endless, as is the joy from being an active part of the JCA community!

Todah rabah, thank you so much to our members who already volunteer. There are too many to list here but you are all appreciated! If you are interested in joining a committee, volunteering for a group or event, or would like more information, please get in touch with the contact listed below.

Adult Education

The Adult Education Committee develops programs each semester that allow members of the JCA and the broader community to engage with Jewish learning. Our courses and lectures draw from Jewish history, philosophy, spiritual and liturgical practice, arts and culture, Hebrew language, and other areas. To accomplish this, we work closely with our rabbi to develop a balanced and rich program. From time to time, we also seek direct input from JCA members. The Pioneer Valley is fortunate to have many accomplished and skilled teachers, and our community benefits. As for the tangible tasks of our work, in addition to developing curriculum, we provide logistical support to our instructors, coordinate with our office staff and administrative director, and develop publicity materials to alert the community. If you’d like to be part of our wonderful team, let us know. There’s always room for one more! ContactAaron Berman David Glassberg at

For more information and registration

Building and Grounds

The Building and Grounds Committee supervises the care, maintenance and repair of the building, capital equipment, furnishings and grounds belonging to the JCA. It reviews their condition and makes recommendations to the board regarding priorities for long-term maintenance and capital improvements. Contact: Jeff Roth-Howe at


The JCA has a cemetery that includes a green burial section in a beautiful site in Shutesbury. The Cemetery Committee is responsible for its upkeep and maintenance, sells plots to members and non-members, maintains cemetery records, and serves as the liaison between the bereaved family, the funeral director and excavator. The committee manages the cemetery with the guidance of the rabbi and in collaboration with the Administrative Director. It maintains cemetery rules that have been approved by the board. Contact: Sam Gladstone at

Chesed (Loving Kindness)

The Chesed Committee offers support during times of need. Chesed, loving-kindness, is extended to community members facing challenges such as illness, hospitalization, loss of a loved one, or isolation. When the JCA office or rabbi is informed of a need, the Chesed Committee will be notified and can help coordinate services including meals, transportation, visits, and assistance with shiva. Chesed keeps an ongoing list of volunteers from our community who can provide the services needed. Leadership of the committee is rotated monthly and new members and volunteers are always welcome. Contact:

Chevra Kadisha (Sacred Society)

The Chevra Kadisha performs the mitzvah of ritually washing, dressing and preparing the body for burial according to Jewish custom. The members of the Chevra Kadisha make a long term commitment to the holy Society, engage in educating themselves about the Jewish approach to death and are available to share their knowledge with the wider JCA community. Contact: Robin Diamond or Susan Zarchin at

Finance and Development

The Finance and Endowment Committee has responsibility for providing oversight of the financial status of the JCA, including analysis of short and long-term assets and liabilities, and making recommendations to address potential financial challenges for the community. The committee works collaboratively with the treasurer and administrative director on the analysis and vetting of a proposed annual budget for consideration by the full board. The committee is also responsible for stimulating the inflow of funds to support the operation of the JCA, including coordinating and supporting all fundraising efforts, such as annual giving and special appeals. This is done in the context of community building and Jewish spiritual values which nurtures and sustains a “culture of giving” at the JCA.  Contact: Tom Porter at


The Membership Committee is charged with creating a welcoming atmosphere for new members and for developing programs for the orientation, integration, engagement and retention of all members. It sponsors gatherings at which new and current members can meet informally, produces informational material about the JCA, answers inquiries from new and potential members, and identifies volunteer opportunities for all members based on their identified interest and skills. Contact: Susan Marcus at


The Jewish Community of Amherst is committed to universal access and equal participation to spiritual and cultural life, regardless of a person’s visible or invisible disability, physical or mental health concerns, and chronic illness. We celebrate that all are made b’tzelem Elohim, in G-d’s image, (Genesis 1:26), and we honor the divine in ourselves and others when we remove the stumbling blocks (Leviticus 19:14) that marginalize disabled members of the community.  For more details see our non-exclusion committee web page.

Religious Life

The Religious Life Committee works to inspire and uplift the shared spiritual life of our diverse and multigenerational Jewish community.  Working in partnership with the Rabbi and the Executive Director, it facilitates celebrations of Shabbat, Festivals, and other aspects of the Jewish holiday calendar; cultivates meaningful experiences of Jewish prayer; supports life cycle events; and engages the community in opportunities for deepening ritual skills, such as Torah reading and service leadership.  It also considers and proposes policies related to services, kashrut, and other practical religious matters, subject to review by the Board of Directors, and performs such other duties as may be assigned to it by the President or the Board. Contact: Aaron Bousel or Yossi Charette at

Shomerim (Guardians)

Shomerim are watchers or guardians of the soul. Jewish tradition requires that the deceased (met) not be left alone prior to burial. Shomerim sit at the funeral home in close proximity to the deceased, reading psalms which comfort the soul (neshamah) of the departed. This mitzvah is considered an act of pure kindness because it is carried out without expecting anything in return. Contact: Hadar Grabel or Libby Arny at

Tikkun Olam (Repair The World)

The Tikkun Olam Committee always welcomes new and returning members. Our main goal is to contribute to social justice both locally and beyond. To that end, we create or participate in initiatives that help create a more just world. Some of our efforts are annual, others we choose based on current events and interests among our committee members. One subcommittee, the Tzedek Initiative, is dedicated to racial justice, police and prison reform, refugee and immigrant justice and more. Another subcommittee, the Green Team, in context with our Jewish values, addresses climate change by working towards a zero-energy building, educating our community, and being part of political efforts to end climate change. Contact: Judith Souweine or Amy Rothenberg at

For more information and to get involved

Visual Arts

This committee selects, hangs, and publicizes the art in the JCA Hall Gallery and presents four exhibits a year. Contact: Carol Kaminsky or Janet Winston at

World Jewish Concerns

The committee provides a link between the JCA and the broader world Jewish community, with a focus on Israel. It brings to the attention of our members current issues of political, social and cultural significance to Jews by marking significant dates commemorating the Holocaust and Israel Independence Day.  Contact: Karen Loeb at

Youth and Family Education

The Youth and Family Education Committee, under the guidance of our senior educators and with the approval of the board, establishes policy and reviews the programs for young children, families, teens, and camp. It develops, supports and monitors progress toward the JCA’s long-term education goals. It works closely with, and coordinates communication among, the leaders and staff of our integrated educational program. Contact: Bri Maier at