This article was originally published in Volume 93, Issue 1 of the Temple Bulletin, January 2022.
One distinct Temple Emanu-El program that has been adapted during the pandemic is our small-groups initiative, Gather. Whether bonding regularly over shared interests or meeting for the first time, Gather, Gather Family, and Gather Mingle connect Emanu-El members throughout the community.
Participants find Gather through different routes. For Gather Group Leader Rebecca Weisberg, a phone call from Rabbi Sara Sapadin convinced her to get involved. While she didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what kind of group she would lead, the two of them discussed options before landing on Binge-Worthy Watching. Weisberg started the group virtually in December 2020 and holds Zoom meetings every six weeks. Its members, who range in age from “mid-to-late twenties to mid-to-late seventies” and include individuals and married couples, had already spent nearly a year staying inside and watching new shows during the pandemic.
The group, which usually keeps to about ten members at a time, focuses on scripted shows — the more accessible and recent, the better. The group didn’t set out to watch explicitly Jewish content, and they’ve already discussed “dozens” of buzzworthy series like Peaky Blinders, Fauda, Hacks, Bridgerton, The White Lotus, and Only Murders in the Building. Rebecca compares it to your typical book club, albeit one that mixes in different genres because everyone’s taste is different. Sometimes they’ll focus on a specific one, like true crime or drama. Group members watch the episodes as they air, but Rebecca issues a strong spoiler warning: If you haven’t watched it, skip this meeting and come to the next one. “Sometimes, depending on how long we go between meetings, we generally pick only one show. If we’re going out six weeks or two months, we’ll probably pick two shows.” In other words, if you’d like to know how the series ends and you haven’t watched the finale, you’re free to attend the meeting anyway.
While this group proved to be wildly popular, there will be plenty of opportunities in the new year for members who haven’t attended a Gather Group to experience it for themselves, whether they hope to bond over classical music, sports, or something else entirely. Weisberg plans to keep hers going, too. Temple members who met through Binge-Worthy Watching have become friends and regularly chat outside of Gather. She hopes that, in 2022, there will be more new Gather Groups starting as a result. “Everybody’s really proud of our little group.”