By David Cygielman, Moishe House Founder & CEO

David at his bar mitzvah in 1994

Jewish tradition has many “milestone moments”. Coming off a wonderful weekend in Atlanta celebrating my niece’s bat mitzvah has me thinking a lot about the first 13 years of Moishe House. These markers are a great opportunity to pause and reflect, and to take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re headed—both a time of appreciation as well as a chance to grow. For us, turning 13 offers a real opportunity not just to think about who we are and what we’ve done, but more importantly, who we want to become.

13 years in, we’ve been fortunate to have already reached many numeric milestones. It feels strange to say it, but we have grown into a major international Jewish organization. Moishe House effectively engages tens of thousands of individuals every year, making us the global leader in this space and we’re on track to keep increasing that number. We’ve developed several different program models, all of which continue to grow and evolve to reach more and more young Jewish adults around the world. We’re in a good spot, and now, the real question is: What impact do we want to have on these individuals? Or on ourselves? Who do we want to be in this work? Being in a “good spot” can be a wonderful thing, but it’s also extremely dangerous. It’s the time when we can fall into a groove that could hurt us in our next 13 years. These questions are crucial because they will shape who we are, what we do and how we do it.

Now is the time to hone our identity and ethos. We’ve “come of age” and generally know what it takes to manage in this work. Because of this, we’re making 2020 the year to invest in how we think about who we are. Organizational culture matters now more than ever, and we’re also looking to go beyond that. We want to ask ourselves: What does it look like to be a part of Moishe House? What does it mean to be affiliated with Moishe House? How do we embrace learning? How do we embrace joy and fun? How do we provide more support to our community builders? How do we invest in our teams? I believe that the challenge of answering these questions will push us to become a more cohesive organization, an even better workplace, and most importantly, an even more effective movement. But it won’t all be easy. There will have to be some changes and change is difficult.

Moishe House now runs some unique and scaling immersive experiences, such as our staff-led Jewish Learning Retreats, programs that really have the potential to transform lives (and have already impacted many). Creating these programs demands a high level of intention. We want to take time to think about what it means to be investing in leaders who are given the responsibility of executing these experiences. The more intentional we are with that approach, the better the outcome will be.

13-year-olds often don’t have a choice in their growth—change is inevitable at that age. As an organization, we have a choice. We can coast on our proven models and current culture, or we can deepen our work and identity to become more unified and deliberate in execution. 

We’ve just begun asking these questions and don’t yet have any real answers. But, we’re embracing the journey and are excited to see what results from this time of reflection and intention.