By Laura Porter
What better way to make new friends than over a glass of wine — or two?
Chaverim, the Federation’s new program for adults ages 40’s-60’s in Central Massachusetts, celebrated its inaugural event at Broken Creek Vineyard in Shrewsbury on Sept. 17th.
The Saturday evening wine tasting was an ideal first occasion in a local setting.
“It was a way to be somewhere in our community in a place that was intimate enough so that people could actually talk and break the ice,” says Mindy Hall, Outreach director at the Jewish Federation of Central Mass.
Chaverim reflects a new approach to building community in the area. The group’s goal is to provide a social outlet where people with different connections to and within the Jewish community can meet and develop friendships.
Initiated by Federation President Toby Richmond and Mindy Hall, the new program evolved from a very casual focus group brunch held last March in Westborough. Twenty-five people of different backgrounds attended.
Hall notes, “There were couples and singles; newcomers and “oldcomers”; those who had been involved with our Federation and the Jewish community, those who had never been involved with our Jewish community; members of temples, non-members of temples; people who were no longer members of temples or who won’t be joining a temple. It was the whole spectrum.”
The conversation, intended to gauge interest and elicit ideas, revealed a general desire for opportunities to connect socially rather than in a religious setting.
People were also interested in meeting people out of their own context, stretching “beyond the familiar sphere of what they had already known” into the larger Jewish community in Central Massachusetts, says Hall.
As an initial foray, last May Chaverim co-sponsored the two-day visit of two Israeli chefs from the Afula/Gilboa region to Worcester with YAD, or the Young Adult Division of Federation.
The audience for the chefs’ cooking workshop, featuring modern Israeli street food, included a full complement of people from both groups.
“There were people there from their 20s to their 60s,” says Hall. “We were branding Chaverim, making it clear that everyone in the community was welcome. Sometimes people think [Federation’s community-oriented programming] is just for the younger or the older folks. We’re trying to take away the borders.”
A group of Chaverim Planning Ambassadors helps to plan, organize and run events. They are Lori Chastanet, Alison Cohen, Jackie Luce Eagle, Karen Lowe, Cheryl Pouliot and Lori Silverman.
The next event on the agenda will be “Hava Tequila: Drinks with a Jewish Twist” at Eric and Maria Richmond’s home on Nov. 19. A bartender will teach the group how to make ethnically Jewish or Israeli mixed drinks. People will bring appetizers and desserts and celebrate Havdalah together.
Current plans are to arrange a couple of yearly events open to the whole group throughout the year and, perhaps, to create small subgroups interested in specific activities such as hiking or apple picking.
“And that’s just the beginning,” says Hall.
To join the mailing list or for more information, please contact Mindy Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (508) 756-1543. The group also has a Facebook page: Chaverim Central Mass.
CAP: Enjoying the Chaverim Wine Tasting on September 17.