Chai Mitzvah – Indy Overview

By David Heilbron

The Jewish tradition tells that Jews learn best when in a group and commends the practice of learning in pairs saying that “a [learner] sharpens the countenance of their friend.”(Talmud Bavli, Ta’anit 7a)

Now what would happen if you acquired not only study partner with which to study but also joined a network of more than70 individuals engaged in learning and personal growth? From August 2018–June 2019, more than 70 learners from across greater Indianapolis aged 14 to 92 joined in monthly study through seven different Chai Mitzvah learning circles.

Library Learners

Like a book group, Chai Mitzvah circles meet monthly for meaningful discussion on a variety of Jewish topics of interest. In addition to these monthly discussions, each person in the group commits to engage in a social action projects, to identify something to learn, and to adopt or deepen a ritual or spiritual practice of their choosing. Offered multiple curriculum options, groups can choose to learn about the cycle of the year, mussar¸ business ethics or even younger learners can find opportunities with a range of teen-specific curricula.

Prior to the 2018–19 program year, Indianapolis was selected as a Chai Mitzvah Ignite city, receiving additional support to help start a critical mass of learning circles in the community and create a network of learners across greater Indianapolis. As each group follows the same cycle of topics, the Ignite model offers the opportunity for Chai Mitzvah learners to engage in meaningful discussion with fellow group members and to join a learning community that spans across denomination, age, and life stage.

The Chai Mitzvah Ten Commandments class

As a culmination of their learning, Chai Mitzvah participants joined greater Indianapolis community members in a communal Tikkun Leil Shavuotor all-night study marathon this past June. Community clergy and leaders came together with Chai Mitzvah participants and led 15 different learning sessions into the night ranging from text study to spiritual practices to contemporary takes on traditional ideas. The Chai Mitzvah participants took their learning full circle and exemplified the edict “make for thyself a teacher and acquire for thyself a friend” (Pirkei Avot 1:6) by bringing their own learning to the community.

As Indianapolis continues with its second year as an Ignite city, returning learners are excited to explore new topics and interests while new Chai Mitzvah learners are ready to plug in to the network of study and enrichment that the greater Indianapolis Chai Mitzvah community provides. Be on the lookout for a Chai Mitzvah group at a local institution or among groups of friends and peers in the community.

If you would like to learn more about Chai Mitzvah or are interested in starting your own learning circle, contact Ignite Community Coordinator David Heilbron at

Updates on the current situation in Israel