Family Learning Model: Chavurah

Update (June 2017): Community Synagogue of Rye (CSR), Rye, NY

Model Description | Update 2017

Current Status:

The Chavurah model has evolved since it was initially launched. One change is the family learning component. The Chavurah teachers were challenged by poor attendance for family learning experiences. In addition, it became apparent that there was a need for Chavurah participants to connect with the synagogue and with other students on the traditional learning track. In response, CSR designed and implemented I-Select.

I-Select offers:

  • A variety of choice-based family experiences, offered several times a year which are open to ALL religious school families in 5th and 6th grades.

  • These experiences are offered at various locations, on different days and at different times, in order to accommodate a wide range of schedules.

  • The parents and students of BOTH tracks (Chavurah and the more traditional 2 day a week model) must participate several times a year in a family experience, but they now have 4-5 choices offered for each concept during the school year.

For example, there are several different experiences for families to choose from for Tikkun Olam.

Reflections of the Educator:

The educator described a number of factors that contribute to the success of Chavurah. This model is a one day a week program which is engaging and interactive and offers a series of family engagement activities that are choice-based. The flexibility of being able to choose from activities that are offered at different days and times is greatly appreciated by families and allows for a higher rate of participation.

A greater percentage of Chavurah participants, compared to those in the 2 day track, continue on in CSR’s post bar and bat mitzvah program. The impact of community building is evident even when learners first enter Chavurah. For example, when learners come for CSR’s grade-wide Shabbat dinners, the Chavurah participants always sit together. They have formed a community, and they feel comfortable and are happy to be in synagogue. In addition, they want to continue after 7th grade and they even want to be madrichim in the CSR high school.

The educator noted that it is important to create the groups carefully. Geographic proximity matters because groups go from home to home. Selecting the right group leader is also an important element. The community building and intimacy created by this model are indeed special and, therefore, paying attention to the composition of the group matters.