Forming a Community Circle
Part of the vision of BHA is that "there are no 'consumers' of Jewish life, only 'producers.' There are no bystanders."
It is wonderful that you are interested in stepping into a leadership role in our community!
An important decision will be whether you are interested in creating a covenant circle or a gathering circle.
The essential difference is that gathering circles are always open to all, and covenant circles draw up a covenant which define the expectations of the circles committed and are open to a limited number of people who have committed to the covenant. Gathering circles are more casual, while covenant circles allow for deeper relationships of trust. Some more distinctions between the types of circles are:
Participation: this is probably the biggest distinction between the two types of circles.
- Gathering circles are open to all who wish to participate and, if relevant, fit the appropriate criteria, such as gender, stage of life, etc.
- Covenant circles have an opening meeting, which is open to everyone and then a "covenanting meeting" in which people decide whether they are able to make a commitment to this circle. After that covenanting meeting, the circle is closed to new members, and those who have covenanted are expected to participate in every meeting.
Outreach: One of the responsibilities of the circle leader will be to find participants.
- Gathering circles will require ongoing outreach on the part of the leader so that the general public is aware of the opportunities the circle offers.
- Covenant circles will only require outreach until the covenanting meeting, after which the composition of the circle is set.
Support: You, the leader of the circle, will be able to draw on the clergy and staff for support.
- Gathering circles will receive ongoing support from our administrative assistant to ensure the circle's events are on the BHA calendar, newsletter, etc. Rabbi Brent or Cantor Ellen will be available for informal check-in's, and further support as needed.
- Covenant circles: Leaders of covenant circles will be in a covenant circle themselves with Rabbi Brent to get support from him in and from other circle leaders with regards to pastoral care, process, etc.
Pioneers: As a way of ensuring the viability of these circles, leaders will need to find "pioneers" who are interested enough to make a small commitment to the circle. If there are not enough people interested in making that commitment, it might be a good sign that the circle is not viable.
- For gathering circles, leaders will need to find three "pioneers," who commit to coming to the first three gatherings.
- For covenant circles, leaders will need to find three "pioneers" who commit to taking part through the covenanting meeting.
Service: We are, of course, part of larger communities. All circles will be expected to organize people, energy and/or funds to serve our larger communities. Examples of service might include organizing the women's Seder, the big spring blood drive, raising money for a particular need at BHA, staffing Lev Maleh shifts for a month. In the broader community, examples of service might include staffing one of our community food programs for a month, organizing a day of trail cleanup and maintenance, or organizing a joint program with other houses of worship, etc.
- Gathering circles will be expected to organize one annual service to either the BHA community or the broader Beacon/mid Hudson community.
- Covenant circles will be expected to organize two annual services – one for the BHA community and one for the broader Beacon/mid Hudson community.