1) What is B’Chavana?
B’Chavana is a Jewish community – we’re not really a synagogue, sort of a congregation, and something more than a Chavurah. The easiest way to describe B’Chavana is that we are a Jewish community designed to and defined by a mission: to create an involved community of Jewish worship and learning that is designed intentionally to serve the needs of its members – adult Jews seeking a fulfilling, transformational Jewish life..
2) What affiliation is B’Chavana?
We are a liberal community. B’Chavana has no denominational affiliation. Our members come from Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist backgrounds – as well as from non-religious and even non-Jewish backgrounds. Likewise, our practices and outlook draw upon these various denominations as we build a contemporary Jewish community that is diverse. That being said, B’Chavana most closely resembles Reform Judaism – we use Reform prayer books and service structures, although we are not affiliated with any Reform Movement organizations. Our rabbi, Rabbi Belgrad, was ordained by the Reform seminary (HUC-JIR) and has served for much of his life in Reform institutions. At the same time, he is now beginning his eighth year of teaching at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, affiliated with the Conservative Movement.
3) How long has this community been in existence?
We began our spiritual journey together several years ago. The first service was held in December of 2010. Since then, Rabbi Belgrad has had one-on-one meetings with 70 people. Our first formal membership began in July 2012.
4) How does B’Chavana plan and run itself?
We have a sterling group of volunteer leaders who commit significant amounts of time and love in bringing their skills, talents and experience to the shaping and running of B’Chavana. The “Va’ad” meets monthly with Rabbi Belgrad to learn, plan programs, look at big-picture issues and keep our enthusiasm running high.
5) Where are services held? Friday night and Saturday morning services are scheduled in our members’ homes. We also try to schedule 1 or 2 Saturday mornings annually in outdoor settings such as parks.
6) When are services held?
Services are held the 1st Friday night of the month and the 2nd and 4th Saturday mornings of the month. When there is a 5th Saturday night, we schedule Havdalah and a social program.
7) Does this community have programming for children?
B’Chavana does not have a formal religious school or B’nai Mitzvah program. Children are welcome but the majority of our congregation is comprised of adults. The children that do attend participate fully in the programs of the community – which serves as one avenue for their learning and Jewish growth.
8) Are nonmembers welcome to services and programs?
Yes – our services and holiday celebrations are open to everyone without cost (with the exception of High Holidays, when nonmembers are encouraged to buy tickets and to participate with us). Other programs, such as book groups, are open to everyone with a fee for nonmembers to help defray our costs. Contact Rachael Levin for further details about our learning programs. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
9) Are there social functions available that are not related to services?
Yes, in addition to celebrations for Purim, Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays, B’Chavana members have had nights at Ravinia Festival, visits to local Museums, and playing bocci at Pinstripes to name a few. In June of 2014 we traveled to Israel and are beginning to plan trips for the future.
10) Is there a dress code when attending Shabbat Services?
In keeping with Jewish tradition, we ask for relatively modest and respectful dress. At the same time, casual dress for Shabbat is the norm (khakis, golf shirts, blue jeans, skirts and dresses) and for High Holidays we suggest suits, sport coats, dresses – as well as a tallit for men and women. Dress is more casual during the summer months when the weather is warmer. We do meet outside at some of the members’ homes so comfort is important.
11) Is the community accepting of diversity?
We believe our strength is built on diversity. All participants are encouraged to voice their thoughts and needs and to offer suggestions to help make a better community. We find that our learning is especially rich because of the diversity of thoughts and backgrounds that fill our discussions.
12) What is the cost of membership?
We don’t assess dues. Rather, we ask for self-determined membership gifts. We recommend that each individual contribute $1000 as a sustaining amount to ensure that we make progress towards reaching our budget goal. We ask that those who can afford to be more generous do so. Likewise, those who cannot reach that amount contribute what they are able to afford. There is no additional cost for B’Chavana members to attend High Holiday services. High Holiday tickets are available to purchase by non-members: www.bchavana.org – click on High Holidays Schedule and Tickets.
13) Does the Rabbi (or B’Chavana) charge a fee for weddings and funerals?
While there is no charge for members, it is customary that members offer the rabbi an honorarium.
14) Is there a recommended amount for the Rabbi’s honorarium for life cycle events?
Yes. But since it is an honorarium, the custom and practice is for members to talk among themselves concerning what’s appropriate. For weddings, the Rabbi also offers pre-marriage counseling for a fee.
15) What is expected of members of B’Chavana?
While of course each member’s level of involvement is different, we are seeking committed members who are willing to share of themselves, are willing to volunteer to help others, to participate, to learn and to worship. Woody Allen once said that 90% of life is “showing up” – we’re looking for people who will do that, bringing their unique experiences, gifts and talents to our learning and celebration. A great deal of what goes on is built on the skills of our members, including music, teaching and administration.
16) What are B’Chavana services like?
First and foremost, our services are very musical. Rabbi Belgrad is an accomplished guitarist and we have a number of members who are musicians in their own right. Our Friday and Saturday services feature a mix of Hebrew and English prayers, lots of music, Torah reading, communal learning and lively discussion. It is not an unusual occasion during some of our musical sections to hear B’Chavana members singing in three-part harmony. Our joyful music is one of the most uplifting characteristics of the B’Chavana worship experience. We also feature the sharing of personal reflections and creative prayers. Our potluck Shabbat dinners and luncheons are always a highlight of each gathering.
17) As a member, are you required to host services?
Not at all – we recognize that folks have different homes and some are better able to accommodate services than others. Of course, you are absolutely welcome to host – member or not – and we would love to come to your home and fill it with the joy that is B’Chavana.
18) I like to sit back and not participate but just listen, is that an option in B’Chavana?
Of course it is an option, but we like to say that you won’t find it easy to be a wallflower in our lively group.
19) Are books provided?
We believe that part of building a Jewish life is building a Jewish library. We have a limited supply of prayer books available, so we encourage our members to purchase their own. You may purchase your own; please refer to the Resources tab of the “Mission and Membership” menu of the B’Chavana website for links.
20) Are traditional service features such as Mourner’s Kaddish and Torah readings included?
Our services are structured fairly traditionally around the six-part traditional service structure. We read the Torah/parashah at Saturday morning services. We also observe traditional customs such as prayers for the sick and Kaddish for those observing Yahrtzeit and Sheloshim.
21) What if I am already a member of another temple?
That’s ok. B’Chavana can be a great adjunct to your current synagogue. Our membership structure is set up to encourage membership of those who want to be intentional about their religious and spiritual life even if they choose to remain affiliated with their current synagogue. You may, for example, contribute less than the recommended amount so you can afford to maintain your membership at your current synagogue and be a member of B’Chavana.
22) How active can a non-member be in B’Chavana?
We have non-members who host services, attend Kallot, participate in learning programs, join us at our social gatherings and buy tickets to our High Holiday services. Initially, we encourage you to explore membership by establishing friendships and availing yourself of all that B’Chavana offers. What we usually find is that the only thing holding back active non-members is finances. These people eventually become members by contributing whatever they can afford based on their circumstances.
23) Can I join in the middle of a fiscal year?
Our Fiscal year starts on July 1 and ends on June 30th. We have people becoming members throughout the year. Contributions are voluntary so some who join in the middle of the year contribute a lesser amount and then make a full contribution at the start of the next fiscal year.
24) Is my donation tax deductable?
Yes. B’Chavana is a not for profit 501 (c) corporation.