A post-capstone exhale

spertuspaper“Lia: Mazel tov, I am very happy to inform you that your MAJPS capstone project has been accepted.”

After months of working on it, my final project for my Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership is now officially complete, as of an e-mail this past Friday.

This summer, after our official classes ended, I began working on my final thesis project. After what seems like months of deliberating over a topic — this is my one chance to save the Jewish community in 50 pages so I better make it count! — I decided to focus on chavurah groups in synagogues.

The Hebrew word “chavurah” literally means “group of friends,” and in synagogues, the word has come to mean a small group of like-minded individuals, couples, or families that get together socially or to engage in Jewish learning on a regular basis. I was fascinated by dozens of books on the history and current landscape of secular groups in America as well as specifically Jewish groups, and I loved interviewing a dozen more leaders in the field. Through this research, I learned that these types of groups are on the decline; but if we want our synagogues to be successful, we need to create groups like these to build relationships and connections between congregants.

If you would like to read the 54-page essay, which includes case studies from synagogues and churches, let me know.

I’m excited for a wrap-up capstone seminar in a few weeks, and then a formal graduation later this year; but in the meantime, I can take a deep breath … and exhale.

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