By David Cygielman, Moishe House Founder & CEO

While the United States has opened up again over the past several weeks and other communities are still experiencing restrictions from the pandemic, it does not feel like we are going back to normal. We had the unique opportunity to pause for more than a year, which puts us all in the position to be asking big questions. Who we want to be going into the future? How do we want to live? Individually, we are in this position of asking important questions and the same is true for us organizationally.

Over the past year, we set out to determine what questions we want to ask of ourselves at Moishe House (MH) as we look to a future that we have the opportunity to shape. Through a process that included the Board of Directors, Executive Leadership Team, Department Heads, and others, Moishe House has six questions that will guide our work in Innovation and Research & Development (R&D). These will not be our guiding questions forever but they are shaping the pilots, small bets, learning, and strategic directions of our Innovation and R&D going into the next few years. With each of these questions, we are committed to testing our assumptions, learning, and doing a series of small pilots to form our thoughts and direction.

  • What does the Jewish community look like in 2030 and 2050?  What is our role in it?
    • In looking at trends and the Pew Study, we see a Jewish community that is more diverse with increased interfaith relationships and a yearning to be able to connect Jewish learning and activity to our customized lives. 
      • We are diving deeper into the role Moishe House can play with interfaith couples who are not yet married but want to explore where Judaism can fit into their lives. 
      • We are investing more in Jews of Color in the Moishe House community to elevate their voices and programmatic strategies.
      • We are doing interviews and focus groups with teens and college students to hear where they see their Jewish lives in 10+ years.
  • How can Moishe House be a place of constant internal innovation and experimentation?
    • Moishe House itself was an experiment 15 years ago. We know the power of bringing a culture, environment and diligent process of innovation and experimentation to the workplace. But, for many of us, we are risk averse and do not have the training or culture that it demands.
      • We are investing in training and expertise with Subculture, an organization built on bringing R&D and design thinking to companies, organizations and people. They will be leading us in a process to ensure that innovation and experimentation is a part of our DNA.
      • We are committing 3 FTE to R&D and Innovation to ensure that Moishe House has the internal focus and ability to bring this mindset to the entire organization while also having a team to lead the way in the learning and pilots.
  • What are the new ways of living, working, and interacting in a post-COVID world that allows for Jewish life and engagement opportunities to increase?
    • The current focus on this question is geared towards the shifts in the post-COVID work environments, specifically on the increase in remote work.
      • We are doing a pilot program with Onward Israel to bring 50 young adults to Israel for 1-2 months to work and live remotely.
      • We are piloting with Moishe Houses in LA, Chicago, Northern Virginia, and Rome to open their homes each Friday into co-working spaces to bring young Jewish remote workers together and bring in Shabbat together.
  • How can we broaden our reach to successfully offer meaningful Jewish life to young adults who do not currently engage in Moishe House or have any current participation in Jewish community?
    • We have a lot to learn here. To begin we will be doing interviews and focus groups with young Jewish adults who are not engaged in any Jewish communal life to better understand their lifestyles, perspectives, etc.
    • We have acquired the Base program from Hillel where we see a huge opportunity and potential for building out the model and expansion. The learnings from the Open Dor Project have shown us the significant opportunity and gap in the marketplace for young adults being connected with great Rabbis. We will be working to grow the existing program and pilot new models for Base expansion.
  • How can we enhance professional and board-level leadership in the Jewish community by growing a communal ability to utilize Jewish thought and wisdom throughout their work and lives?
    • For the past few years, Moishe House has been building out an internal program to provide all our staff and board with amazing 1:1 Jewish educators to individually customize ongoing Jewish learning and exploration. The evaluation and feedback have been very strong and while it is voluntary, we have over 50% participation from the board and staff.
      • We have seen that for Jewish communal professionals and board members, having the ability to access and connect Jewish wisdom, thought and text to how we map out the future of our organizations and lives is quite compelling. Our goal is to build out a system to be able to bring this to the entire North American Jewish professional and board teams in a simple, easy and scalable way. We are piloting the expansion of the 1:1 Jewish learning program with three additional organizations and hope to learn enough that we can further expand it to become normative practice within all Jewish organizational life.
  • What kinds of impact can emergent spiritual communities and entrepreneurial Rabbis have on young adult and young family engagement?
    • The Open Dor Project has been teaching us so much about the emerging spiritual community and leader space. 
      • In order to provide fiscal sponsorship, accounting, CRM platforms, coaching, and more to the dozens of amazing emerging spiritual communities in North America, we are partnering with Rabbi Sara Luria and the Beloved Network to play this crucial role. We are planning to bring seven new emerging spiritual leaders into the Beloved Network each year.
      • We know that there are amazing emerging spiritual leaders who are focused on engaging young adults but need some wind at their backs as they begin the process. Moishe House will be working with a small number of these amazing leaders to provide matching funds in their start-up years to help gain the momentum needed for sustained change and impact.

We know that there are many more questions to ask and infinite possibilities of pilots and directions. In order to prioritize and focus, we are so energized by the overarching questions above and the significant work that will go into learning more and piloting ideas and programs to help us achieve our mission. We would love any feedback and would be happy to share our learnings along the way in any of these areas. Please be in touch if you’d like to stay connected to this crucial Innovation and R&D work within Moishe House.