The Chavurah System and Community

Kehillah/Community is a an essential value at Congregation Etz Chayim. We strive to create a sense of belonging to community and of responsibility for each other. In our youth learning programs, this finds experssion 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.  They 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 later become members of the Chavurah for their grade-level. An overlay of community is added for our teens as they enter Hinein, our program for students in grades 7-9, and continue with Teen Chai, our program for students in grades 10-12.
For the 2018-19 Year of Learning (5778-5779):
2nd Grade-- Chavurat Rimon (Pomegranate)
3rd Grade---Chavurat Tamar (Date Palm)
4th Grade---Chavurat T'einah  (Fig)
5th Grade---Chavurat Chitah (Wheat)
6th Grade---Chauvrat Seorah (Barley)
7th  Grade---Chavurat Gefen (Grape Vine)
8th  Grade---Chavurat Zayit (Olive)
Other Ways of Creating Kehillah
For families with very young children, our monthly 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. 
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. 
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.