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Kavana

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Judaism, Religion

Mission: Kavana is an independent Jewish community in Seattle. We strive to create a supportive communal environment in which individuals and families can use “kavana” - intention - to create a Jewish life that is spiritually fulfilling, intellectually satisfying, fun, and meaningful. Kavana has a unique approach to building Jewish community: Cooperative Model - As the first Jewish cooperative of its kind, partners share in the task of creating Jewish life for the group. Non-Denominational & Pluralistic - Kavana draws participants from highly diverse backgrounds and allows for multiple entry points to Jewish involvement. “Personalized Judaism in a Community Context” - Kavana acknowledges and embraces the dynamic tension between an individual’s interest and needs, versus the desire to create community. Local Pods - Kavana believes that Jewish communal life will best thrive in settings which are local, organic and intimate.

Programs: Spiritual exploration through prayer and cultural celebrations. We hope to facilitate an individual's connection to him/herself, the community and/or god through cultural events, learning, social action, life cycle events and prayer.

educational exploration through text study and experience based learning for students of all knowledge levels. Our education programs aim to provide both adults and children with the inspiration to translate learning into action.

engagement in social justice issues through broader community involvement. In order to be meaningful, judaism must be lived in the world. Our commitment to social justice prompts us to act both within the jewish community and outside of it by doing deeds of lovingkindness and acting justly.

Community Stories

32 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

4

Board Member

Rating: 5

My family has found a Jewish home at Kavana! My wife and I were looking for a community in which to raise our children that is more open-minded than a traditional congregation, and found in Kavana a place where Jews of all shapes and sizes are treated equally. We're thrilled with the emphasis on practicing Judiasm, as opposed to just watching professionals practice it at services. And, the net result has been that we live a much more Jewish life than we would have if it weren't for Kavana.

4

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Kavana is a wonderful organization that provides opportunites for Jews from a wide variety of backgrounds to make their Judaism relevant and meaningful--whether through learning, prayer, social justice, or the outdoors. I particularly love the Rebbe's Tisch which is an opportunity to share music, Havdalah, food and drink, and Torah in a relaxed setting.

4

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been participating in Kavana for almost three years. I regularly attend Shabbat davening and Living Room Learning, as well as High Holiday services. I find its DIY approach to Judaism engaging and fulfilling. Kavana has provided a supportive and open community for increasing my own Jewish knowledge and skills.

13

Board Member

Rating: 5

Last week, my 7 yr old son got angry with me. Why? because I didn't plan a family shabbat dinner and, instead, had the kids eat before bed. That night, just as I was putting my 4 year old daughter to bed, she started singing "Ma's Leg".."Ma's Leg" at the top of her lungs. I asked her what she thought that meant, and she correctly answered "Fork!". When Kavana was started, one of the outcomes we were targeting was that it engender not just a positive identity, but that special pixie dust that usually accompanies trips to Israel and summer camp. My children's exuberance - and my ability to also personally enjoy meaningful experiences - prove to me that we are on an amazing track towards success!

12

Client Served

Rating: 4

Kavana has made it possible for my husband and I to daven in a meaningful way for the last 2 years after 4 years of feeling we did not have a place to go. Because of Kavana, we are now thinking about participating in a Jewish community year round, and feel empowered to know that if we have children, there is a place we feel will help us instill the values and experiences we care about.

10

Client Served

Rating: 5

Kavana is the first Jewish community where I have felt truly welcomed. When attending large synagogues or community events, often only the people who know me would talk to me or welcome me, however at Kavana, not only do the staff always welcome me and check in with me periodically, but the entire community welcomes me. Even though I am not as active with Kavana as I would like to be, I always feel comfortable and a part of the community when I do attend something.

14

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Having raised sons in Michigan, where we were active in our Temple, I found that only Jewish camp experience fostered the sense of Peoplehood and joy in being Jewish that is lasting. Kavana has been able to capture my grandchildren and all the many children of all ages in enthusiastically learning our traditions and the fun of actively being involved in preparing for and celebrating our holidays. Rabbi Rachel is the Peid Piper and both my 8 year old granddaughter and 6 year old grandson adore her.The concept of involving all the generations of each family in activities forges a bond that extends into each home. At age 80, having lived in many different parts of the country, I find Kavana to be unique.

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have been slow to fully participate in Kavana's variety of experience believing that only time would reveal whether this Jewish Community was truly different from others I have attempted to become a part of. And my patience has been rewarded. This is a community of bright and engaged people who want to explore religion, community, ethnicity, ethics, values and ideas. They provide forums and activities which allow for disccussion, exploration and fun. I feel very lucky.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

For a while I felt that I was missing a part of my Jewish identity, as I did not feel connected with a particular synagogue, but I was too old to be a regular at Hillel. After finding Kavana, this is the type of place that strives to make everyone feel connected, takes into account that people come from different backgounds and life experiences, and works to weave it all into something that strives to give each member what they seek.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I suppose on some level I must have been searching for a Jewish community and organization to belong to, after being out of things for a while. However, I don't think I really knew it until I met the folks at Kavana. There's just something terribly contagious about the warmth, sincerity, humor, curiosity, intelligence, and..."kavana" that permeates the group, from Rabbi Rachel on downward (...upward? around?). "Multiple entry points to Jewish involvement" is a very nice phrase but the reality of it played out in a room full of eager participants with something to share is even better. Yasher Koach!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Kavana provides a spiritual and supportive community environment adding important dimensions to our lives. Our grandchildren are becoming aware of their heritage by being part of the children's programs and our lives are enriched by the activities we can take part in.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Kavana is a creative Jewish environment where participants can shape their own Jewish journey and the community. Members seek out the programs that are of interest to them and then help plan, organize, support, and/or run the events. Programs are often driven by community desire. And, the programming is incredibly diverse. If you don't like services, how about the book group, the movie group, the cooking programs, the Hebrew Immersion play group for children, the Community Supported Agriculture program... Right now, I am working with Rabbi Rachel and my 11 year old son, Noah, as part of the hardcore monthly minyan. He is learning to read Torah and will soon begin to work on the service. The goal is to have him move effortlessly and naturally into his Bar Mitzvah.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

My children and grandchildren are part of Seattle Kavanah. When I visit Seattle, it is usually for a long weekend. I am always happy to share the Kavanah experience. Rabbi Rachel gives the group a warm and inclusive experience, welcoming all. Kavanah Seattle has allowed my family to have a positive Jewish experience. The warmth of family and sharing - holidays and camp - have added knowledge and enriched my grandchildren's (the future of Judaism) lives.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I went to Rosh H. for services and dinner. This is a welcoming community. The Rabbi made the service relevant to today's concerns without sounding overly preachy. There was a wonderful focus on making it personal, yet involving the community through participation.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Whenever I go to the Kavana office or participate in one of Kavana's gatherings, I always feel welcome and valued for being there. Thanks to Kavana's progressive outlook on Judaism, my family feels at home in the Kavana community as well. Kavana provides a wide range of opportunities to suit many different levels and kinds of participation in their community. Kavana's receptivity and open-mindedness embodies the best of what community is all about and I am grateful to be a part of it!

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a Soviet Jew who moved to the United States at age 9, I have had my share of struggles with finding community. My upbringing was devoid of the more sublime aspects of Jewish culture and religion. Kavana was the first organized Jewish experience I have ever had that seemed to speak directly to me. When I arrived at an event, I was welcomed warmly, but without pressure. I felt free to think and observe. The members of the community were friendly and open to a new person. Rabbi Rachel was genuinely friendly and interested. Their programs are diverse, so I can always find something that appeals. It is non-denominational, which frees the services to be whatever works for the members, and indeed Kavana's approach to Judaism seem to fill a hard-to-define need. I am happy to have found Kavana!

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

Kavana has offered a place to better connect with and see the inner workings of the Jewish faith and how it is celebrated. Instead of feeling obligation, our entire family finds something at every Kavana gathering (whether that something is in learning, sharing, connecting or simply having fun). Kavana has amplified our connection to the Jewish faith and culture.

6

Board Member

Rating: 5

I was at the first Kavana Shabbat dinner and service at Gas-works park. From that experience I knew this was a community that would work for me. As a regular at Living Room Learning, I love the regular connection to text and the cycle of the year. This year's Yom Kippur was the most meaningful one I've had. I usually see YK as a holiday to be endured, but this year was able to find moments of reflection, solitude, community, joy, and connection. It helped me enter the new year with a feeling of serenity. As a board member I'm learning about governance and finances. It is always a pleasure to work with the board, as they are a talented and dedicated group. Kavana gives me a sense of belongingness in Judaism.

6

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This syn-Co-op offers an intelligent, hamish, post-modernist response to the never-ending negotations Jewish individuals make with the idea of community - particularly those based in the Northwest where nature is culture, is religion. Inclusive doesn't begin to describe Kavana's atmosphere - bring your needy, your neurotic, your not-sure, your really not-sure. The tent is big. And, if God is in the details, then Kavana is the Martha Stewartstein of minyans. People return emails and promptly. People do what they say they will do. Accountability may be the guiding precept of this group, but organizational tidiness (is that a word?) can't be far behind. Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum resists praise like its like plague, but one must credit her, her husband Noam Pianko (I hope I have his name correctly spelled) and founding partner Suzi LeVine for so bravely pursuing this paradigm. There's progressive and there's open and then there's inviting complete strangers into one's home on a weekly basis and serving them textual exegesis and marcona almonds. On a personal note, I think she is the first rabbi - especially one 31 weeks into pregnancy - to attend a film premiere of mine - me, a very new member who has yet to pay into the community coffer. I am exceedingly grateful to have found this group and hope that its model for integrity and intelligence, sustenance and sustainability will inspire others in ways we can't even begin to imagine.

6

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been impressed with the creativity, thoughtfulness and involvement of many people who had not found a "comfortable Jewish home" until Kavana was established. They have been an integral part of creating a meaningful Jewish experience for themselves--and their families.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Fulfilling. This is a broad-based and tolerant organization that manages to be inclusive without watering down their spiritual efforts. Their services are substantive and their extra-religious activities are community-based and positive. They manage to successfully promote the environment, healthy eating, helping those in need, education, voluntarism and more with a live-and-let-live attitude.

6

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

I've been searching for a Jewish community to become involved with and until I was made aware of the Kavana Cooperative I simply did not connect in the way I was hoping to. After attending my first activity, Living Room Learning, I sensed this was what I was searching for. The people I've met so far are welcoming, friendly, span several generations, fun to be with, embrace diverse expressions of one's Judaism and are supportive of each individual's path in his/her own personal life journey. Having had been observant for many years and now am seeking to return to my heritage, and not sure where this will lead me, I feel safe and inspired by the energy and diverse activities at Kavana. I am also very grateful to have met a Jewish community who welcomes my non Jewish boyfriend.

3

Board Member

Rating: 5

Kavana is an incredible community- ever evolving and focused entirely on the participants who drive the events, priorities, and worship.

5

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have enjoyed many activities with the Kavana Cooperative over the past three years including community (often Shabbat) dinners, cooking classes, and in 2009 weekly participation in the Kavana Tuv Ha'Aretz CSA. I'm finding the benefits of the CSA (community supported agriculture) go beyond buying local produce direct from a farm, an excellent end in itself. Through our CSA we have developed a personal relationship with our farmer, and enriched our community with weekly activities that raise our awareness of local and sustainable food practices, and are just plain fun!

8

Client Served

Rating: 5

Kavana provides enriching Jewish experiences that resonate with my children. they have put tremendous time, energy and thought into the best ways to bring Jewish holidays to life for young kids. My children learned so much more about Rosh Hashana from the interactive conversation while apple picking than they ever retain from other jewish preschools and synagogue programs we have tried. i love the whole family approach to learning. it is a wonderful organization!

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A great community. I have enjoyed meeting wonderful people and participating in a different kind of Jewish communal organization. Our daughter loves the Hebrew immersion nursery school.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum and the Kavana board has developed an organization that has created a community where there wasn't one. Rachel Nussbaum makes each event special, through her warm and welcoming personality, her knowledge and most importantly her ability to make it fun and understandable. She takes the time to get to know each member and is willing to listen and shows a caring side. Kavana isn't about money it's about bringing together people to build a Jewish community.

7

Board Member

Rating: 5

I became involved in Kavana two years ago, after bouncing around and searching for ~15 years for a Jewish comunity that resonated for me. What grabbed me was the idea that we are all responsible for creating our own Jewish experience. Kavana provides a way for people to participate in creating the type of experience that works for them. One can choose ritual, building community with peers, social justice, education, or some combination. If you want it you create it, and the organization provides critical and very smart support. At my stage of life when I discovered Kavana, I had young kids. I was dissatisfied with traditional Jewish education, so I became heavily involved in an initiative with other parents to renew Jewish educatin for children. We developed a family education program -- as distinct from a children's education program -- and it's taken off. The organization also is unique for bringing Seattle's business savvy to creating Jewish community. While Kavana is building on traditional Jewish communities, it also is thinking outside the box -- really creating a new box -- for how a Jewish community might organize and become sustainable. In a nutshell, I believe Kavana has the ideas, brains, and chutzpah to create an innovative path for Jewish community. And that makes it exciting to be a Jew!

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

Kavana is a wonderful and unique organization that helps create a sense of community amongst people of Jewish faith. They have created a powerful and interactive dialogue amongst their members that is incredibly welcoming and inviting. Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum is without a doubt the reason we joined Kavana. She is a wonderful listener who really cares about Kavana's members. She has gone the extra mile on many occasions including our son's bris and helping us get through a particularly hard time during a recent family illness. She has a brilliant and inquistive mind and has been a powerful spiritual advisor to us.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Kavana has allowed us to seek - and create! - what perhaps many Jewish families seek: meaningful Jewish experiences accessible to both adults and children in an intimate context where activities aim to meet personalized needs, not to satisfy the lowest common denominator for the greatest number of people. The grass-roots feel of the leadership, learning, and activities is irreplaceable, and the cooperative model allows us to participate, contribute sweat equity, and be valued for who we are rather than by our checkbooks alone. If every Jewish community in the US had a Kavana, American Judaism would be exponentially revitalized, active, pertinent, and hopeful.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

Kavana impressed me in many ways, but most of all at a community meeting when they made their budget transparent for the entire community, including interested parties who were not already members. This felt inclusive, honest, and open to questions, concern, and new ideas. I felt very empowered.

6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Kavana is the perfect combination - innovative, thoughtful and welcoming. The programming is of superb quality, and caters to a really diverse range of interests. There are a lot of people who just don't fit into traditional synagogues, but they can make a place for themselves at Kavana (and they do!) I think that Kavana's entrepreneurial approach encourages folks to take responsibility for theit own Jewish lives, but gives them the resources and community in which to do it. This is the future!