CORE groups are intentional, lay-led communities, whose members come together on a regular basis with the understanding that Jewish tradition and deep personal relationships add meaning to our lives. CORE groups are defined by their members’ commitment to engage in a process of transformational learning, reflection and relationship-building.
Central Synagogue’s CORE group strategy reflects our mission: to connect our members more deeply to one another, to our community, to Jewish tradition, and to God.
This fall, we invite you to experience the High Holy Days as you never have before. Over the course of seven weeks, small, lay-led groups of our congregants will together take a “deep dive” into the preparation for and meaning of the fall holidays.
This experience will include opportunities for personal reflection, deep discussion, and communal celebration. The schedule is tentatively as follows:
Kick-off event with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl
September 8 • 7:00-8:30pm • Pavilion
Drawing on Alan Lew’s book, This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, we will consider the preparatory month of Elul, and the importance of engaging in cheshbon nefesh – an accounting of our souls – prior to the High Holy Days. You will be encouraged to reflect on a series of personal traits between now and Rosh Hashanah, and to share these reflections with a partner.
Week of September 12: Individual group discussion concerning your personal reflections, and preparation for S’lichot, an evening service that acts as an overture to the High Holy Days.
September 24: Attend S’lichot study session and service with your group.
Week of October 3 or 10: Individual group discussion delving more deeply into one of our clergy’s High Holy Day sermons.
Week of October 17: Individual group discussion concerning the themes of Sukkot.
October 23: Celebrate the culmination of this experience at our Simchat Torah service.
This project is inspired by Rabbi Alan Lew’s book This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared. We will be asking participants to read selections from this book, and recommend that you buy or borrow a copy. (For those of you who have a Kindle, the electronic version is $12.99; electronic copies are also available to borrow at the New York Public Library).
You may also wish to take a look at this post by our President, Abby Pogrebin, from her series last year in The Jewish Daily Forward. In this post, Abby describes her own preparation for the High Holy Days last year, which is quite similar to the process your group will undertake together during the month of Elul.
In order to make this experience work, we need our members to volunteer to lead groups. Being a leader does not require any specialized knowledge of Jewish text or tradition. We will provide easy-to-follow materials to guide your discussions. Group leaders will:
It is our hope for there to be enough open groups for others to join a group based on meeting location and schedule.
In our experience, the ideal size for groups like these is 10-12 people. This size fosters deep connection between members and fosters robust discussion, in which everyone’s voice can be heard. But you may choose to create smaller or larger groups if you like. If you have a few people who are interested in doing this together, but would like to augment your numbers, you can form an open group with a set number of available spots.
Aside from the communal experiences, your group will meet outside the synagogue building, either at a participant’s home, or in some other, comfortable space. We will leave it to each group to schedule their meetings. For simplicity, we recommend picking the same day and time for your 3 discussion sessions. But we leave those details up to you.
Our intent is that this will serve to deepen connections between our members, and with the broader congregation. Therefore, in order to participate, you must be: (a) a member of Central Synagogue; (b) a child of a member; or (c) a participant in Central Synagogue’s 20’s and 30’s programming.
As with most things, what you get out of this experience will depend on your commitment to it. We urge you to commit to the full experience. That said, if you are unable to make one or two of the dates, we recommend that you sign up, and let your group know that you will be unable to attend those dates.
These are lay-led groups, which means that there will not be a staff member present at your meetings. However, our Rabbi for Small Groups, Nicole Auerbach, will be available to support you and answer any questions you might have.
This experience will draw on what we have learned from our pilot CORE Groups initiative, and will be similar in many respects. However, unlike our longer-term CORE Groups, this experience requires a short-term commitment, and will require less preparation by leaders. If your group wishes to continue to become a regular CORE Group, your leader or leaders would be required to receive additional training in the fall, after the holidays.