by Terry Wunder, Senior Program Director

“We put out a puzzle on a table so that they know there is a place for them to sit, an activity for them to do, and I try and remember to tell them the schedule of what’s happening so they know what to anticipate.” 

This quote, from Alex Richler in Moishe House Toronto, is in reference to a space that she and her roommates created for members of their community that are neurodivergent (simply put, someone whose brain functions differently from society’s standard of “normal”) and may need some specific activities and structure to be comfortable in a sometimes loud, unstructured social environment. I love this idea because it’s a simple, thoughtful adjustment that can make a Moishe House a space that is fully inclusive for any and all community members.

I highlight this example because it’s one of many that I’ve seen from residents across the Moisheverse this year, like MH Boston – Cambridge’s soup delivery program (they literally make soup as a group and then deliver it to sick community members), Jordan Daniels, who is trying to open a Moishe Pod in San Diego, is looking for only ground-level housing so that people in wheelchairs can access their home, or how Houston and Atlanta – Virginia Highland put out polaroid cameras for their community members to take selfies and post in their home so they’re part of the house. These sometimes small, but important efforts show residents’ respect for their community members, empower residents and others to create a more welcoming space, and are inclusive.

MH Boston – Cambridge’s community making soup for their soup delivery program

The Resident Support Team shares these stories in our team Slack channels as a way to remind us of the great work being done in the field. We believe that these three elements, 

Respect, Empower, Include

are so important to the work we do as community builders that we’re using it as the lens for which projects, systems, programs, and opportunities we’ll be creating, changing, and evolving in 2020. 

We are currently asking ourselves questions like,

How are we respecting our residents’ time, skills, and needs? How are we empowering them to do interesting, creative programs and not burning them out on quotas, complex systems, and requirements? Are they empowering their community members to be active participants and leaders in their own MH community? Are all kinds of Jews being included? Who do we wish were included, but are not yet and how do we work to make sure they are welcomed? Are they using Us Time???

These questions, along with many more, are the three tenants will drive how we function as a team. I also challenge you, the community builder, to ask yourself these questions: How will you respect, empower, and include your community members and those not yet a part of your Moishe House community? How can Moishe House help you? 

Mh Philadelphia learning about housing insecurity in their Sukkah

In a world where examples of division and conflict are in the headlines every day, we want to face that by putting all of our effort into treating people well, making sure everyone that wants to be part of a vibrant, welcoming, Jewish social space can be, and give every resident the tools, skills, funding, and confidence to make that happen. 

In 2020, Moishe Houses will do 23 programs EVERY SINGLE DAY. If we approach each one of those events as an opportunity to show respect to each other, empower one another to live Judaism your way, and include as many young people as possible in the process, we’ll have changed the world for the better. 

Here are more examples of Respect, Empower, Include moments from other Moishe Houses:

  • MH New York City – Murray Hill created an automated RSVP system to make sure they never missed a community member who emailed about a program.
  • MH Miami Midtown resident Carol Kaplan personally called a potential community member to invite them over because they were feeling wary of showing up because of anxiety related to their neurodiversity. After the event, that new community member wrote a nice thank you note to the resident and MH staff.
  • MH New York City – Williamsburg hosted a Young Adult Mental Health panel which brought about almost 40 participants to learn from local experts and field workers. 
  • MH Baltimore includes an accessibility statement in their newsletter including parking information and who to contact if you have a disability and require an accommodation. 
  • MH Philadelphia resident Liat Greenwood created a text study about housing insecurity and they used it when doing a pizza in the sukkah event for Sukkot as a way to infuse content in collaboration with Loren Berman, their Regional Jewish Educator. 
  • MH Atlanta Toco Hills hosted a program with a “points expert” to talk about credit cards and airline points and how to work the system for max returns.
  • MH Twin Cities sent out thank you cards to all their WE ARE donors over a certain dollar amount, to MH staff, and their local Federation. 

MH Atlanta Toco Hills community learning from a credit cards ‘points expert’ to improve their knowledge