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Jewish community seeks repairs for Havurah House, schedules benefit

MIDDLEBURY — Havurah, the Addison County Jewish congregation, is in the midst of a $30,000 fund drive to make some key repairs to its meeting house at 56 North Pleasant St. in Middlebury.
The group has been soliciting donations among its members as part of a “Raise the Roof” campaign that will include a “Taste the Tradition” fundraiser on Saturday, April 28, to generate more financial backing and interest in the project.
It’s no coincidence the campaign has been dubbed “Raise the Roof,” That’s because the Havurah House roof is the most pressing improvement on the repair list. That list includes:
•  Replacing the deteriorating shingles over the social hall with a long-lasting standing seam roof, along with repairing the porch roof.
•  Replacing worn-out carpeting and tile floors.
•  Acquiring a new refrigerator.
“A lot of this (deterioration) has happened over time,” explained Sarit Katzew, Havurah’s director of education and coordinator of outreach and programming.
“We want to repair the roof now before it becomes an emergency situation.”
It was in 1999 that the Jewish community of Addison County moved into its 56 North Pleasant St. location, donated to the group by the Lazarus family. Prior to that — during its first 20 years — Havurah members gathered informally in church basements, Middlebury College facilities and members’ homes.
“Even without a physical center, Havurah became the spiritual center of Jewish life in Addison County,” reads a brief history of the organization provided by Katzew. “We also reached out to the general community as a voice for Jewish values and social action.”
Donation of the North Pleasant Street home gave Havurah some firm roots and a permanent place in which to hold its religious programming and events. It has also provided a venue for the organization’s Hebrew School, which has been growing and evolving as more young, Jewish families move into Addison County. School enrollment increased from 11 to 18 this past summer, and plans call for creating separate classes to specifically cater to young, middle and pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, according to Katzew. Modest numbers have historically driven classes of multiple student age groups with different proficiencies in Hebrew.
While a $30,000 campaign might seem small when compared to recent school renovation projects around the county, it represents a sizeable layout for a small congregation, Katzew noted. There are currently 65 families and individuals who are members of Havurah. It would cost around $800 per member-family for the project to be financed within the congregation, according to Katzew.
“The money will need to come from beyond our membership,” she said, adding internal solicitations have thus far raised around $6,000 toward the goal.
So Havurah is reaching out to the broader community, and the “Taste the Tradition” celebration is looking like a real winner. Scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. at Havurah House, it will be an interesting twist on a potluck dinner. Attendees are being asked to bring a favorite family dish, the recipe, and tell its story with a note and/or photo to display. Havurah will use that information to create a community cookbook for sale after the event.
Participants will learn about each other’s family histories and vote for different categories — such as “most reminds me of home.”
Admission to the event is $25 per person.
The meal will also feature a raffle of some very nice donated prizes, such as a gift basket from Vermont Soap Co., two Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival Passes, and “Taste of Middlebury” — dinner for 2 at Two Brothers Tavern, Rough Cuts, The Lobby and Fire & Ice.
Raffle tickets are $5 each. Those who bring a dish and recipe to potluck will get a free raffle ticket. You don’t need to be a Havurah member to attend. Child-friendly food and entertainment will be provided for an additional $10 donation.
Folks wanting to attend Taste the Tradition should RSVP by April 20 to hheddirector@gmail.com. More information on Havurah and “Raise the Roof” can be found at havurahaddisoncounty.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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