Terry Wunder, Senior Program Director

2018 was such a chill year. Oh wait, it was an insane year. There were some… interesting political happenings in the US, Climate Change is apparently even more of an issue than we previously thought, Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians created a celebratory cultural moment, and the Presidents of North and South Korea SHOOK HANDS. Crazy (rich Asians).

But the things that had the greatest effect on me were the moments I had with my friends, family, and community.  Like debating Judaism and politics with new friends in Jerusalem, meeting thirty new Jews of Color and learning their unique, yet totally relateable stories in Southern California, and spending a weekend in rural Michigan with other Jewish young adults learning how they inspire their friends to explore Judaism together (#NattyCon2018).

All these opportunities existed because of Moishe House Without Walls (Thanks MH!). Fortunately, in 2018, thousands of other people were positively affected because of MHWOW too – incredible hosts who created meaningful experiences and friends who brought them along for their first Moishe House experience.

The MHWOW staff watched these experiences unfold both in person and through the magic of the Mintranet. We heard about impactful moments from hosts and saw how just a bit of funding can help create those moments.

From a numbers perspective, it was MHWOW’s biggest year yet. Almost 700 MHWOW hosts created over 3,600 programs for more than 19,000 individuals. That’s basically ten MHWOW programs every day. We are so proud of the hard work that went into creating these programs and thankful for every one of the 19,000 young adults who attended them.

This past year was a huge growth year, but more importantly the creativity, Jewish content, and connections made by hosts and community members were the key elements to MHWOW’s success.

2018 was the year of…

Make-Your-Own-Judaism

Amalia Mark, God’s Perfume, Somerville, Massachusetts

I call it the “Great British Bake Off” effect, but who knows if it was Paul Hollywood that inspired more than fifty hosts to do arts/crafts/baking/cooking/brewing/sewing programs this year. Some hosts explored Jewish text through crafting like Amalia from Somerville, MA who hosted God’s Perfume: How to make your own Ketoret” (Ketoret is the incense offering that was used during the time of the Tabernacle, and First and Second Temple) and Becky Bordo’s “Scribal Art & Meditation Workshop with Kalman Delmoor” in Los Angeles.

Becky Bordo, Scribal Art & Meditation Workshop, Los Angeles, California

Other hosts tapped into the maker movement for social purposes like Arielle in Berkeley, CA, who hosted “Board game & craft night at Urban Adamah,” while just across the bay Elissa Gross, in San Francisco went DIY for the holidays in her, “Expressive Arts Multicultural Passover Seder” program. And, of course, some hosts used their skills for the good of others like Nataliya in Berlin, Germany who hosted a “Cooking for the Homeless” event. Regardless of the thing that was being made, those who were making it were gathering together in Jewish community.

Elissa Gross, Expressive Arts Multicultural Passover Seder, Washington, D.C.

MHWOW in Communities Without A Moishe House

This is one of my favorite things that MHWOW does – support Jewish programming in small communities. As someone from a small community (Albuquerque, New Mexico) who knew maybe three other Jewish people in my high school, I am always looking for potential MHWOW hosts from cities that are not typically associated with Jewish activity. I mean, lots of love to LA and New York, but Portland, Maine, and Monterey, California need love too. In North America, hosts that live in communities without a Moishe House are supported by a generous grant from the Polinger Family Foundation – a grant that has supported these hosts for three years.

Sara Lawlor, Halifax, Nova Scotia

This year, about 100 MHWOW hosts in North American cities without a Moishe House hosted just under 500 programs for over 2,600 individuals.

Here are some of the cities where new hosts have created Jewish communities in 2018: Albuquerque, New Mexico, South Portland, Maine, Juneau, Alaska, Moscow, Idaho, Frisco, Colorado, and Memphis, Tennessee. Welcome to the MHWOW family y’all!

Fallon Bader, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Also, there are about twenty hosts outside of North America who are also creating community in cities without a Moishe House. For example, Piero is consistently bringing friends together for Jewish holidays and community events like futbol games in San Salvador, El Salvador, and Ryan who is currently living and hosting Shabbat and Havdallah programs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In addition, we have a group of JDC Entwine Jewish Service Corps fellows who are spending three months to two years volunteering in countries around the world. These folks became hosts through a special one-shot partnership between MHWOW and JDC Entwine last year and are now hosting programs in Mumbai, India (shout out Sydney, one of our most active hosts abroad), Copenhagen, Denmark, Izmir, Turkey, and more.

Pride in All Our People 🏳️‍🌈

One of the best parts of MHWOW is that the programs can be public or private. This creates an opportunity for people to gather to do specific kinds of programming that may require certain demographics of people (for example, women’s rosh chodesh groups), or study groups that are best suited for a consistent group of attendees, or when it is important that the group feels safe, and at times, confidential.

There are many MHWOW groups that create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ communities where young adults can gather, do Jewish things, and find new friends. These groups are able to meet knowing that their information will not be shared to the public, their photos will not be published online or in any publication, and they do not have to “out” themselves through any kind of public registration or sign up process. These spaces are important for those who may not feel that they have a safe space to gather, practice Judaism, or meet other people in their community.

Through MHWOW over 30 programs specifically made for the LGBTQ+ community were created by hosts ranging from “TLV Pride Parade” participation in Tel Aviv, LA, and elsewhere, to “Queer Oneg” type programs in Nashville, Charlotte, Berkeley, CA and New York, and the ongoing “Sephardic-Mizrahi LGBTQ+/intercultural Shabbat Dinner” series in Brooklyn.

Leah Jalfon and Sara Gottschalk, Queer Jews Brunch, Charlotte, North Carolina

We are proud to support these groups and to provide funding for these communities.

Graduating from MHWOW

For the first time, MHWOW exited hosts who have been with us for three years. I have become friends with many of these hosts, as have other Moishe House staff people, and it was sad to transition these folks into a true Alumni status. However, it’s important to look at the body of work these hosts have created in the early days of MHWOW when the Mintranet was truly the wild wild west and changes to the program were happening quickly and often.

Some of the most prolific hosts in MHWOW history hosted their last program in 2018. Arielle (Rockville, Maryland), Mandy (Cleveland), Kevin (DC & Ann Arbor), Josh (Cleveland), Joanna (Ann Arbor), and Ben (New York) each hosted over 50 programs for a collective 1,200 individuals and as a group received $50,000 in reimbursements. M-H-WOW that’s a huuuuuuuge impact!

Naomi Izen, Boston, Massachusetts

Many of these hosts have had major impacts on the MHWOW world, it’s growth, how we operate as a program, and have contributed in ways I could never imagine. Kevin, a doctoral student at University of Michigan brought MHWOW to Ann Arbor by hosting a Peer-Led Retreat with the support of Retreatology. Kevin inspired ten of his peers to become MHWOW hosts, making Ann Arbor one of our most active communities over the last few years.

Leslie, in Washington DC area, was a huge help to me when we were exploring an “expansion city” model in her city. Leslie came to many recruitment and schmooze events, spoke with potential MHWOW hosts, and was super helpful in connecting Moishe House to new people and organizations in the DC area. On top of that, she hosted over 40 programs in her time as a host.

Cheryl, also from Washington DC, created a text-based study group called “Minyan of Thinkers” through MHWOW. Over the course of a couple years, Cheryl wrote many Jewish learning programs, facilitated dozens of discussion groups, and engaged more than five dozen people in her text studies. Eventually, Minyan of Thinkers grew into its own program and Cheryl got new financial support to expand her program from one of Moishe House’s funders, the Schusterman Foundation.

There are dozens of other success stories from hosts who we have been working with for years. We’ll highlight these awesome hosts in a future post so watch out for an upcoming article!

Jason Long, Berkeley, California

Nice to See You Again! And Again! And Again!

The MHWOW team talks a lot about the impact that consistent MHWOW programming has on a community and it’s true – higher frequency of gathering build bonds. We know, through independent evaluation, that hosting 4 or more programs per year makes a group start to feel like an actual group. As we track host progress we can see that hosts are finding that to be true and hosting much more frequently and consistently.

In 2015 there were 281 active hosts. 42% of hosts created 4 or more programs and only 12% of hosts created 10 or more. This time was truly the wild west of MHWOW – none of the current MHWOW team worked at Moishe House yet and MHWOW was handled by part of one person’s job. God bless you Jamie Gold for holding it all together in those days!

To compare – In 2018 there were almost 700 active hosts. 55.4% of hosts created 4 or more programs (260 more hosts than in 2015) and 18% hosted 10 or more programs (90 more hosts than 2015)!!! There were more hosts in 2018 that created four or more programs than there were TOTAL hosts in 2015. Absolutely awesome.

We WANT hosts to use MHWOW as much as they want and we love to see groups gathering more often. In the life cycle of a host we often see a lot of different names coming to programs in the early days of a host’s tenure. Then as the host and their group figure out the kinds of Jewish experiences they like to create together the list of participants gets more consistent over time. This tells us that longevity creates stronger connection between participants, which, after all, is the whole point!

Pets of the Mintranet

Technically, MHWOW is for 22-32 year old HUMANS, but as it turns out, many many doggos and other animals have joined the fun. Here are some of our favorite photos of pets at MHWOW programs:

MHWOW continues to surprise me. The creativity of programming, commitment to community, and depth of Jewish practice, ritual, and expression are impressive and inspiring. At this time last year I remarked that “MHWOW exists for people you figure out what their dream Jewish community looks and feels like”, and this vision is continues to be what drives us to serve our host community as best we can.

Thank you to all the MHWOW hosts who put in their time, hard work, and energy into making Judaism an exciting, welcoming place.

-Terry Wunder, Senior Program Director