A Rosh Chodesh How-To
Starting and growing a Rosh Chodesh group.
The range of program ideas is virtually limitless. Programs can include life cycle celebrations, observance of Jewish holidays, traditional and creative prayer, study of Jewish texts, artistic pursuits, learning new Jewish skills, and discussion about a variety of shared experiences. While connecting to the themes of the Jewish month can help the group focus, some groups may prefer to branch out into nonthematic areas. Adapting ideas from other sources (such as Susan Berrin's Celebrating the New Moon) to fit the needs and interests of your own group will provide useful seeds for growing hearty programs.
As we mentioned above, many groups use opening and closing rituals, recognizing that it's important to create a "sacred space" for the group's activities. A song, a poem, a prayer, or a D'var Torah can serve this purpose. In some cases, the same ritual is used at every meeting to create a sense of continuity; in others, the form remains the same but the content changes as different members participate. In groups where membership is open, a brief introduction activity may need to be part of the opening ritual, so that all present know each other's names and feel included. A closing ritual could provide a response to the just-completed event and include singing, speaking, or even movement.
How can you make your program participatory? Some very simple techniques, such as breaking into groups of two, three, or four for a discussion or an activity, will ensure that everyone has a chance to participate within a limited period of time. After these more intimate sessions, the entire group can gather again and share the themes and the process of the smaller groups. Beit midrash style study, in which people pair up to wrestle with a text, is a time-honored and most appropriately traditional approach, which can easily be adapted to the needs of a Rosh Chodesh group. Whatever the format and content of the program, the leader or facilitator can help people become involved by creating an atmosphere that welcomes and values the participation of each group member.
Leadership: If You Don't Lead, You Don't Become Involved!
When a new Rosh Chodesh group begins, the leader is usually the woman who has sparked the group to get together. As we mentioned, this person may be a newcomer to the community who has participated in other Rosh Chodesh groups or was perceived by others to have the skills and experience necessary to facilitate the formation of a new group. One woman expressed her reasons for starting a group: "I wanted to make a community for myself here–I guess that was very selfish! But I feel blessed that there were lots of women who wanted to try it."
We favor a shared leadership model for Rosh Chodesh groups, realizing that there are many ways that leadership can be shared. It's important to have a person, or a small committee of people, who will handle logistics–keeping track of a calendar and a membership list, notifying people of meetings, making sure there are events scheduled and places for meetings to take place. These functions could rotate from year to year, and they can provide opportunities for some people to make a valuable contribution to the group.
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