Chavarim – A Social Program for Neurodivergent Jewish Adults
Chavarim, meaning “friends” in Hebrew, is the only East Bay group specifically for neurodivergent Jewish adults. Through this program, JFCS East Bay is glad to provide a way for clients to socially interact with each other and to become more deeply connected with their community.
Brittany Couture has been leading the program for the past seven years. “Most of the members have been in the group since before even I even came onboard. They’ve been friends for a long time and built great connections. When new people show up over the years, they are welcomed in. It’s a close-knit group.”
“This group already had a hard time going out into the community and being social, so Covid was a hard hit for them,” Brittany observes. The meetings temporarily switched from in-person to virtual during the pandemic. “Being able to continue, even on Zoom, allows people to still have a connection to friends and to what’s going on in the community. They can share how they feel about everything and check in with each other. It’s a mix of a support group and social skills practice.”
Chavarim meetups can span a wide range of activities. Past events have included baseball games, overnight stays in Napa, meals at restaurants, attending theater performances, celebrating Jewish holidays together, and taking part in acting classes. During virtual events, group members show off their skills – such as one client who loves to cook and leads regular Zoom instruction in making delicious dishes.
“Because there isn’t really anything like this, socially, in the East Bay, it’s about being able to connect to other people in ways that would be really difficult otherwise,” Brittany says. “People join for lots of reasons. They want to make more friends, or their family is pushing them to be more social. We have some members who are still nervous about going out, and some who are really ready.”
“We had one member come in, and at first he didn’t have any friends. Since joining, he was able to get people’s phone numbers, message people on Facebook, and even enjoyed meeting people outside of the group. This is all about learning how to make good friends.”