History of Havurah

The Addison County Jewish Congregation had its beginnings over thirty-five years ago.

We started as an informal gathering of friends to observe holidays, then celebrated a Bar Mitzvah at the Ripton Community House with a voting booth as the holy ark, then organized Hebrew School classes and a lively calendar of services and community events.

For the first twenty years, we met in church basements, Middlebury College facilities and members’ homes. Even without a physical home, Havurah became the spiritual center of Jewish life in Addison County, reaching out to the general community as a voice for Jewish values and social action.

The beginning of a more formal organization began in 1999 as we moved into our historic building at 56 North Pleasant Street (Route 7) in Middlebury. The house had been the home of the Lazarus family, among the first Jews to live in Middlebury. The Lazarus’s generously donated their family home to the Jewish community of Addison County.  Soon after, Havurah became a 501(c)(3) non-profit and launched a major capital campaign to raise funds to turn a family home into a public building.

Today Havurah House is our gathering point for services, education, life cycle events and holiday celebrations.

In 2001, we hired Rabbi Ira Schiffer as our first paid Education Director.

In 2015, we hired Sarit Katzew to serve as Education Direction and the new role of Program and Outreach Coordinator.

Havurah began life as an unaffiliated, lay-led, volunteer-driven community. Even with the addition of part-time staff, this is still who we are today. We rely on volunteers to lead Havurah and to make it their own Jewish community, reflecting our diversity of backgrounds and unique Jewish experiences.