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The Chavurah System and Fostering Community

Kehillah/Community is an essential value at Congregation Etz Chayim. We strive to create a sense of belonging to a community and of responsibility for each other. In our youth learning programs, this finds expression in Z'riam and Midor l'Dor, our family-oriented preschool and K/1 programs where connections develop naturally and organically as families learn and socialize together during class sessions and shabbat dinners and afternoon activities.  To foster a sense of connection and identity in grades 2-8, each grade is given a Chavurah/Group name and identity. These are based on Shivat Ha-Minim, the Seven Plant Species found in the Land of Israel that are mentioned in the Torah.  Students receive their Chavurah name when they move from our K/1 Midor L'Dor program and enter 2nd grade.  Each Chavurah has a logo associated with their Chavurah name.  Students continue with that Chavurah identity until the end of 8th Grade at which time they pass their name along to the rising 2nd Grade students. Students who join our program in future years automatically  become members of the Chavurah for their grade-level. An overlay of community is added for our teens as they enter Hineini, our program for students in grades 7-8, and continues with Teen Chai, our program for students in grades 9-12.
For the 2022-23 Year of Learning (5782-5783):
Grade 2    Chavurat Chitah (Wheat)
Grade 3    Chavurat Seorah (Barley)
Grade 4    Chavurat Gefen (Grape)
Grade 5    Chavurat Zayit (Olive)
Grade 6    Chavurat Rimon (Pomegranate)
Grade 7    Chavurat Tamar (Date Palm)
Grade 8    Chavurat T'einah (Fig)
Other Ways of Creating Kehillah
For families with very young children, our Z’raim program enables families to spend structured time together on Sunday mornings at Etz Chayim. It is a natural next step to go out to lunch together, head for the park or set up a play-date for after naptime.  As parents participate in the learning sessions, it is a wonderful opportunity to partner with the teacher and other parents and grandparents to explore how to bring our traditions and values to our youngest students.
Our Midor l’Dor program provides regular time for parents to connect with each other and begin to craft friendships that will hopefully span many years. Midor includes three communal dinners where families have a chance to relax and enjoy Shabbat together. Typically, one of these dinners will take place at Etz Chayim and the others will be in the homes of participants. Many parents remark on the strong sense of belonging and connection to each other that is forged in the Midor program and carries forward through Bar/t Mitzvah and beyond. 
Mishpacha Days bring parents and students together on Sunday mornings for grade and curriculum-specific learning. Often, parents will have a chance to learn together and then join their children for further family exploration of the topic. Shorashim grades each have two Mishpacha Days spaced throughout the year. Parents help to organize the snack for these programs.
Student-Led Services on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings are additional opportunities for parents and families to create community as they coordinate the Oneg for after the service.
Our Sunday morning Opening Circle from 9:30-10:00 is for parents and children. Students and teachers head off to their learning environments for the morning. Parents often linger in the Beyt K'nesset or Library or Lobby (or parking lot) to chat as well.
Parents are also encouraged to be active members of the EPA, the Etz Parent Association.  The EPA organizes social events and holiday celebrations for the families such as the Sukkot Dinner or Latke and Taco Dinner. Many parents also volunteer at the Purim ETZtravaganza. 
During the fall of 7th grade, families who will be celebrating Bar and Bat Mitzvah at Etz Chayim in the following calendar year,  participate in the Bar/t Mitzvah Family Class. Throughout the Bar/t Mitzvah year, families find many opportunities to connect with each other as they learn together, help at the Oneg Shabbat after each Bar/t Mitzvah and support each other in various ways.
For our middle school and high school students, the opportunity to share meals together keeps strong connections to each other and to the broader Etz Chayim community.
At times of need and in celebration,  our Etz Chayim community becomes one extended family. Our students learn the meaning of the expression kol yisrael arevim zeh lazeh/all Jews are responsible for each other by observing and participating in lifecycle events such as welcoming and naming new babies, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, funerals and shiva minyans.
Sun, February 5 2023 14 Shevat 5783