2017 Snapshot-To-Date
MHWOW Snapshot-To-Date HOSTS 0


Food for London: 'Serving a food-waste feast to the homeless? It's obvious'

Posted 04/26/2017 at 03:43PM


Hannah Style and fellow volunteers serve food to residents at Conway House Nigel Howard

It was two years ago when dietitian Hannah Style walked into her local Sainsbury’s in Kilburn and asked to speak to the manager.

“Give me all your groceries that are going in the bin, all your misshapen vegetables and all the fresh food you haven’t sold and I will use it to feed the homeless,” she said with characteristic chutzpah. 

The Sainsbury’s branch manager, a big man with a booming voice, looked down at this determined, diminutive stranger in her colourful gym outfit. “Great!” he said. “We’ve been looking for a charitable cause — we’d love to help.” 

The following week Hannah, 26, duly picked up the surplus produce and took it to nearby Conway House, a 60-bed homeless hostel for men, where she prepared a sumptuous communal sit-down dinner for the residents. 


Hannah Style and fellow volunteers serve food to residents at Conway House (Nigel Howard)

She called it Feast! Just five residents pitched up. A month later she held a second slap-up meal, this time using recipes from the residents themselves, and involved them in the cooking. 

Within a year, Feast had grown into a popular weekly event with up to 40 residents attending the smorgasbord of food and conversation. 

But success brought new pressures — a lack of funding meant their sustainability was in doubt. 

Now a £9,733 grant from the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund has helped to secure Feast’s future. 

It was one of 29 grants announced this week as part of our £358,500 Food for London initiative backing community projects that use surplus food to tackle food poverty. 

Our grant — Feast’s first — will be used to hire a part-time logistics and volunteers manager to oversee their programme and put it on a sustainable footing. 

“This grant is transformative for us,” said Hannah, welcoming the Standard to Feast’s regular Thursday dinner and greeting each resident by name as they arrived. She soon had them helping the dozen volunteers. 

An array of roast tomatoes, ricotta cheese with mushroom, asparagus and rice, and bread and butter pudding were just some of the dishes being prepared while music played and conversation flowed. 

Hannah, who works at several GP practices, explained her motivation. 

She said: “A lot of patients I see are malnourished adults susceptible to weight loss, often due to cancer, substance abuse or following a stroke. 

“I provide nutrition support to build these people up so what I am doing with Feast is transferring what I do in my day job to another category of vulnerable people who need healthy food — the homeless. 

“We use surplus food because repurposing good food that would otherwise be thrown away is such an obvious solution.”

One guest tucking into the carrot and coriander soup starter was James, 62, a chemical engineer who worked in an oil refinery but had been homeless for three months. 

He said: “I used to earn over £100,000 a year so I really did not expect to end up homeless, but this is where I have ended up due to depression, unemployment and a marital breakdown.

“You think homeless is for other people and then it happens to you. I have a Masters from Edinburgh University, I am a fellow of the Institute of Chemical Engineers. 

“This is the hardest time in my life and one of the toughest things is how isolating it is. 

“When you live in a homeless hostel, the only people you tend to see are other homeless people or key workers. But at Feast you meet volunteers, regular people with regular jobs. 

“This meal brings me out of myself and into conversation with young people. It gives me hope. You can’t imagine how important that is.”

Hannah added: “One of the most poignant things was when one of the residents had their 70th birthday here. He said he hadn’t had a family meal for some time. We were moved to tears.”

Another resident, Paul, 50, said he used to care for his uncle but when he died, the flat was taken back by the council and he had nowhere to live. 

“This is the best day of the week for us,” he said. 

“We eat well but we also enjoy the company and have fun.” 

Hannah said the practice of volunteers eating alongside residents was inspired by FoodCycle, a charity that also uses surplus food to feed the socially excluded, and where she had been a hub leader. 

But in 2015, after she moved into Moishe House, a rent-subsidised community of Jewish social activists, she was inspired to start her own gig: she approached Conway House and Sainsbury’s and, assisted by a dozen Moishe House volunteers, started Feast. 

Hannah has since added Aldi to the mix and they are “similarly delighted to have food go to a good cause instead of composting”. 

She pointed to the piles of ready-prepared salads and boxes of groceries and said: “The amount of food we get from just two branch supermarkets is crazy. You can only imagine how much is being thrown out across London. It’s criminal and it’s happening all over the UK.”

Recently Hannah formed a committee of six volunteers to run Feast. 

“I feel privileged to have such a committed group of people making Feast work and to have got close to some homeless people,” she said. 

“I come from a middle-class Jewish family, but their stories have made me realise how it could so easily be me.”

 So what’s next? “Our model has the potential to be replicated,” said Hannah, dishing up cherry custard dessert. “The Standard’s grant could be a kick-starter for us. 

My vision is to take these incredible feasts and, with the right backing, eventually expand this concept to other hostels across London.”

The names of the residents have been changed.

Home that hosts events for Jewish millennials opens in Buckhead

Posted 04/21/2017 at 01:30PM

Becca J. G. Godwin - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Moishe House Atlanta – Buckhead residents Cassidy Artz, Amy Abelson and Matthew Spruchman opened their home’s doors April 6.

A international organization that serves post-college Jewish millennials has opened its third Atlanta area location. 

Moishe House Atlanta – Buckhead is the group’s 100th home, joining others in 74 cities and 24 countries across six continents. There are also homes in Toco Hills and Virginia Highlands

For the unfamiliar: Each Moishe House is a home facilitated by three to five residents who host numerous Jewish programs for their peers a month in exchange for a subsidy and program budget supported by various organizations.

The FAQ says it is a non-denominational, pluralistic Jewish organization with a mission “to create vibrant Jewish communities” — but all are welcome.

Residents are chosen through an application process, and are responsible for finding and maintaining their own home. Most live there for one to three years.

A international organization that serves post-college Jewish millennials has opened its third Atlanta area location. 

Moishe House Atlanta – Buckhead is the group’s 100th home, joining others in 74 cities and 24 countries across six continents. There are also homes in Toco Hills and Virginia Highlands

For the unfamiliar: Each Moishe House is a home facilitated by three to five residents who host numerous Jewish programs for their peers a month in exchange for a subsidy and program budget supported by various organizations.

The FAQ says it is a non-denominational, pluralistic Jewish organization with a mission “to create vibrant Jewish communities” — but all are welcome.

Residents are chosen through an application process, and are responsible for finding and maintaining their own home. Most live there for one to three years.

Moishe House Expands to Buckhead

Posted 04/18/2017 at 08:10PM

The 100th Moishe House opens April 21 in Buckhead. It is the third house in Atlanta, joining Virginia Highland and Toco Hills.

By David R. Cohen | April 18, 2017

NEWS-Moishe House Mezuzah

Moishe House residents Aviva Leigh, Matt Spruchman and Cassidy Artz watch as Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman installs a mezuzah at the front door of the Buckhead house April 6.

Moishe House, the international nonprofit organization composed of a collection of homes that serve as hubs for the young adult Jewish community, has opened its third house in Atlanta and 100th overall.

The new location, which is in Buckhead near Phipps Plaza, hosted a small ceremony to hang a mezuzah and officially open the house Thursday, April 6, with help from Chabad Intown Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman.

“We are thrilled to be opening our 100th Moishe House,” said David Cygielman, the founder and CEO of the organization. “This historic milestone shows just how empowered young adults have changed the face of post-college Jewish life over the last 10 years. But even more important than this number are the hundreds of residents and tens of thousands of participants whose Jewish lives have been enriched by opening their homes and creating their own innovative programming.”

Each house is home to three to five Jews ages 22 to 30 who have outreach and networking skills. In exchange for subsidized living in a desirable location with a highly social atmosphere, residents plan, publicize and host monthly religious, social, educational, cultural and community service programs.

The Buckhead house has three residents: Aviva Leigh, Matt Spruchman and Cassidy Artz, all of whom are transplants from other cities. The three have agreed to make inclusivity the top priority of their house.

Moishe House Buckhead is home to Cassidy Artz (left), Aviva Leigh and Matt Spruchman.

“Buckhead is probably the hottest area in Atlanta right now,” Spruchman said. “A lot of young professionals live here, and it makes sense to have a house in this area. None of us are Atlanta natives, and we came here without knowing many people. So we want to cater programming to people who maybe came here for a job and are looking to make new friends.”

“Especially if you are new to a city and you don’t know anyone,” Artz said. “Being able to preach this idea of inclusivity is an important value to all of us.”

Atlanta’s other two houses are in Toco Hills and Virginia-Highland, which recently moved from Inman Park.

“Atlanta is a growing city with tremendous opportunity for young professionals and graduate students,” Cygielman said. “With the city continuing to expand, there are several unique neighborhoods and Jewish demographic populations that serve large numbers of young Jewish adults that we aim to reach.”

Cygielman said there are plans for a fourth house in Atlanta and for a full-time regional manager to support houses in the Southeast. He said more houses are possible in Atlanta because of Moishe House’s strong partnerships with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the Marcus Foundation and with individual supporters.

Meet the Residents

Matt Spruchman

Age: 26

From: Dallas, Texas

Alma mater: University of Texas, Austin

Came to Atlanta: For a job in IT

Hobbies: Watching sports, playing guitar and binging Netflix

“My first few months in Atlanta were hard. I’ve never had to go out of my way to make friends. These young professionals programs like Moishe House are the way I know people, and it’s how I met Cassidy and Aviva.”

Aviva Leigh

Age: 28

From: Clearwater, Fla.

Alma mater: Indiana University

Came to Atlanta: For an acting career in the booming film industry

Hobbies: Volunteering, getting involved in activism and playing keyboard

“Coming to Atlanta has been the smartest risk I’ve ever taken. I love it here. At Moishe House, it’s so exciting to make a meaningful contribution. Now I feel more satisfied with how I’m impacting the people here and also meeting new people in the Jewish community.”

Cassidy Artz

Age: 25

From: Cleveland, Ohio

Alma mater: Northwestern University

Came to Atlanta: To study at Emory (candidate for a master of public health degree this year)

Hobbies: Traveling, scuba diving and fly-fishing

“I will do almost anything to go anywhere. I love the idea of seeing how different people live their lives, and I gain so much from the fact they see the world differently than me.”




For Millennials, Color War And Jewish Connection

Posted 03/29/2017 at 04:44PM

Adult camps opening this summer provide comfortable fit.

BY AMY SARA CLARK March 29, 2017


This summer, young adults can relive such Jewish summer camp favorites as Israeli dancing, gaga and, of course, color war. Above, a color war team poses during a Moishe House event. SCOTT SPORLEDER

When Sydney Sperling thinks about Shabbat, she thinks of camp. She grew up going to the Reform movement’s Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, Calif., spent a semester in Israel during high school and then did a joint bachelor’s program at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University. But in the years since, her Jewish involvement has declined.

“Since being out of college I haven’t been as involved as I would like,” said the 24-year-old, who works in product development at Major League Baseball. “Going to services could be comforting and fulfilling, but there’s not really anything that I’ve found to be comparable to that feeling of being at camp.”

Sperling is not alone.

“A lot of young Jews don’t really find their spaces in the communities they live in, where they feel comfortable and where they feel like there’s a Jewish ritual, a dynamic space that they kind of get and love,” said Jamie Maxner, director of Camp Nai Nai Nai, one of two Jewish summer camp programs for 20- and 30-somethings that are opening this summer.

“And, for a lot of them … Jewish summer camp really represents that for them … that’s where they feel most comfortable Jewishly. They haven’t found that parallel in the existing institutions and community organizations,” she added, “so we wanted to give that back to the folks that are going to be there [at camp].”

Camp Nai Nai Nai is the brainchild of Moishe House, which supports peer-led Jewish events for young adults. (The name alludes to the syllable often used in place of words in a Jewish song.)

“Moishe House is always looking to create programmatic models that reach young Jews where they are, as opposed to the Jewish institutions where they are not,” Maxner said. “They … saw this opportunity and saw this market and said: ‘We need to be there.’”

Carine Warsawski also saw the opportunity. A longtime promoter of Taglit-Birthright and other Israel trips, Warsawski saw Jewish camps for adults as a way to engage Birthright participants after they return home. Together with Avi Green, Warsawski launched Trybal Gatherings, a series of eight four-day camps that take place at sites across the country. (Trybal is spelled with the y, to emphasize that participants will be trying something new, Warsawski said.)

“There are amazing organizations out there engaging young adults,” she said. “But everybody is focused on these one-day experiences: a Shabbat dinner or a bar night or a dance — a matzah ball — or a speaker series, but nobody is focusing on the immersive.”

But the immersive is exactly what makes Birthright and other Israel trips so effective. “The core elements of, say, an Israel trip experience are the sense of community, Jewish connection and adventure,” she said, “so I wanted to take those core ingredients and create something domestically for people to follow up with.”

Over the past decade, the adult camp market has exploded, with more than 800 camps across the country, according to the website Grownupcamps.com. The American Camp Association estimated in 2013 that more than a million adults went to camp the previous summer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Some Jewish camps have had weekends for adult alumni, and one of the larger secular adult camp programs, Club Getaway, offers a weekend for Jewish professionals — one of several niche offerings. But there haven’t been camps dedicated to the Jewish adult demographic until this summer.

Syndey Sperling and co-counselor Lindsay Stein at Camp Newman in 2010. COURTESY OF SYDNEY SPERLING

Both camp programs (which have joined forces, cooperating on such areas as marketing) offer a mix of sleepaway standards like capture the flag and canoeing, as well as Jewish-themed activities such as Israeli dance, gaga and workshops such as “Ask a Rabbi.”

Both also incorporate Shabbat dinner. The camps diverge when it comes to Shabbat services. At Trybal Gatherings, participants will have a Kabbalat Shabbat service. “I don’t imagine it’s going to be a traditional Shabbat service … but something creative, something more inviting,” Warsawski said. “We’re trying to set the bar low and bring people in who feel comfortable, regardless of how much organized Jewish experience they have.”

Camp Nai Nai Nai will have two services: a traditional one with the standard halacha and a mechitza, and an “intentional, dynamic, community-based service option,” with music, that “for a lot of people will evoke what they remember from their summer camp days,” said Maxner.

Both camp programs are all-inclusive, with the registration fee taking care of meals (including alcohol) and lodging in bunks or tents. Those who prefer more privacy can, at most of the campsites, pay extra for private rooms at a retreat center.

Camp Nai Nai Nai, which takes place over Memorial Day Weekend in southern Pennsylvania, is subsidized by the Maimonides Fund and costs $325.

Trybal Gatherings costs $575, which is on par with secular adult summer camps. Subsidies are available through local Jewish organizations, such as JCC Manhattan, which offers to chip in $100 for any Birthright alumni who take part. They are also providing a free bus to the Berkshires weekend.

Sammy Kanter, who directs JCC Manhattan’s 20s and 30s programs, said the JCC doesn’t normally subsidize participation at non-JCC programs, but, he said, JCC staff felt “passionate” about participating in Trybal Gatherings’ endeavor.

“I hear all the time from people that come to our programs that they are connected to their Judaism because of summer camp. So I think the idea that Trybal Gatherings is recreating that camp community with adults is exactly what we’re trying to create at the JCC,” he said, “so we really wanted to be a part of it.”

Paying for the bus has the added advantage of getting new people in the door, he added. “For everyone going away to camp, what better reference point than to meet at the JCC?” That way, he said, “they know where we are, they step in the building, and then they’re dropped off at the JCC after the trip. [The bus is] almost a way to say: ‘This could be your Jewish home outside of this camp experience.’”

Indeed, Warsawski said she started Trybal Gatherings with “two goals in mind: to engage Jewish young adults in the Jewish community via immersive experiences and to serve as a grassroots entry point to local organizations.” Many federations are offering a $75 discount code; people who use it will be added to their local federation’s mailing list. Some Jewish organizations are sending staff members to the weekends to talk up their post-camp offerings. Some young adult Jewish organizations are sending existing members, both for them to bond with each other and as a way to recruit new members.

Sperling’s boyfriend, Brett Blueweiss, is one such example. The 26-year-old, who works in MLB’s social media department, found out he was going after Sperling told him she had already signed the two of them up. But he’s eager to do it. He went to secular sports camps, and had fun, but they were nothing like what his girlfriend experienced, he said.

They also have a closer bond with Shabbat. “I grew up thinking of services as, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do this,’ while they grew up thinking, ‘Oh, Shabbat is the best night ever.’ You didn’t think of it as sitting and praying, but more like having fun with your friends,” he said. “Part of what excites me about this [camp experience] is seeing what they grew up doing.”

In addition, he said, “I think it will be fun to be able to spend time with people that you do know, and then make some friends, hopefully, maybe lifelong friends, just from a weekend.”


Open Dor Project Announces its First Cohort of Spiritual Startup Leaders/Communities

Posted 03/15/2017 at 03:26PM

By Rabbi George Wielechowski
and David Cygielman

March 15, 2017

When the Open Dor Project announced its first call for applications in eJP four months ago, our team and our selection committee could never have imagined the inspiring diversity of emerging Jewish spiritual leaders and communities we would encounter. As a new, initiative focused exclusively on supporting spiritual startup leaders and their communities, we just didn’t know, frankly, what exactly we would find out there. In a world where the very meaning of the words “spirituality” and “community” are changing so rapidly, would there be a critical mass of brave Jewish clergy leaders doing this path-breaking work and searching for their own community of practice? Moreover, would there be populations seeking out new models of Jewish spiritual community to help them fulfill a missing yet core piece of their own life journeys?

We were overwhelmed (in all the best ways) by the reception from dozens of spiritual leaders across the country, who each shared their very different visions and expressions of what it can look like to be a connected, spiritual people. It has been truly gratifying to see that many entrepreneurial clergy are hard at work building vibrant Jewish spiritual life in new ways and that so many otherwise unaffiliated Jewish individuals, couples, and families are lining up to participate – when given an opportunity that fits their lives and needs.

There are the communities providing paths of artistic expression and healing into Jewish life; the one-on-one networks giving unconditional welcome where it hasn’t been felt before; the communities bound together by music or the sacred place where fine arts and Jewish spirituality meet without judgment; the micro-communities of interest groups activated around common passion or cause; the synagogue reboot; the activists deeply rooted in Jewish spirituality; the urban renewers and the suburban re-imaginers. The majority of communities we encountered are intergenerational, with a core participant base in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. All of these communities successfully empower a much less traditionally affiliated generation to embrace communal leadership and a sense of real ownership over their Jewish journeys, while simultaneously creating a needed diversity in the expression of Jewish sacred space.

And that’s only a small glimpse into the unbounded creativity – in form and content – that is the hallmark of these innovators and, perhaps, the harbinger of our Jewish future.

All in, we spoke to 55 rabbis around the country building, or hoping to build, new visions of Jewish spiritual community; 31 applied; we had the difficult task of narrowing it down to 8 finalists; and we are proud to announce today the 4 talented and inspiring spiritual startup leaders in our Year One Cohort:

  • Rabbi Dan Ain, Because Jewish     Brooklyn, NY
  • Rabbi Adina Allen, Studio Am        Berkeley, CA
  • Rabbi Dan Horwitz, The Well         Detroit, MI
  • Rabbi Ari Moffic, CoHere                Chicago, IL

You can learn more about each of these leaders and their communities here. Cohort members will receive multi-year funding, training, and the support of a learning community made up of their spiritual and entrepreneurial peers.

A key learning for our team is that while there are many talented entrepreneurial spiritual leaders entering the space, it is incredibly challenging for most of these leaders to raise funds or participant contributions prior to having several years of operations. The need for extreme bootstrapping is a serious barrier to entry for spiritual startup teams that we hope the philanthropic community will help in lowering.

Our sages encouraged us to remain open to the idea that the journey to meaning and purpose would naturally come in different forms for different people: “All the words [teachings, interpretations, approaches, models] were given to us by one Shepherd, one God created them, one Provider gave them, the Lord of all deeds, Blessed be He, has spoken them. So make yourself a heart of many rooms …” (Tosefta – Sotah 7:12).

So many of us today are inclined towards building for ourselves hearts with many and varied spaces within, waiting to be filled with a diversity of approaches to loving, connecting, and living. If our experience in the first year of the Open Dor Project is any indication, we’re going to be blown away by how many creative Jewish spiritual communities are out there – just over the horizon – looking to help us fill every one of those rooms with abundant blessing.

Rabbi George Wielechowski is the founding director of the Open Dor Project.
David Cygielman is the founder and CEO of Moishe House.

How Bulgaria Saved Its Jews and What We Can Learn From Them

Posted 03/01/2017 at 03:09PM

Feb 28, eJewish Philanthrophy 

By Lonnie Kleinman

They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. What they don’t say – but should – is that those who remember history and learn from it can create a better, stronger world.

Last November, I traveled to Bulgaria with co-workers from around the world for an annual staff retreat. In partnership with JDC Entwine, Moishe House staff met in Sophia for five days of learning, growth, and exploration. Preparing for the trip, I expected to join my co-workers for five days of fun and bonding. What I didn’t expect was to learn a new story of resistance and solidarity – one that saved the lives of thousands of Jews.

The story of the Jewish community of Bulgaria is one that dates back as far as the second century CE. Jews continued to settle in Bulgaria over the years and in 1920, there were approximately 16,000 Jews living in the country. By 1934, the Jewish community grew to 49,000 people, with more than half living in Sophia. While this community was relatively small compared to that of other European countries during the same time, the Jews of Bulgaria had a distinct culture and presence in wider society.

This was apparent walking into the main synagogue in Sophia where I was immediately in awe of the glorious structure and decor. The halls of the shul filled with laughter and noise as Moishe House staff members settled in to hear the story of Bulgaria’s Jews.

The story of Bulgarian Jews begins similar to that of most Eastern European Jews during WWII, but has a vastly different ending. Beginning in July 1940, Bulgarian authorities instituted anti-Jewish legislation that excluded Jews from public service, restricted their choice of places of residence, and limited their participation in many occupations. In 1941, Bulgaria fell to German demands and entered into a military alliance with the Axis Powers. In 1942, Germany demanded that Bulgaria release all the Jews living in Bulgarian territory into German custody. Bulgaria agreed and began preparing for the deportation of Jews. Simultaneously, a law was passed that prohibited Jews from voting, running for office, working in government positions, serving in the army, using Bulgarian names or owning rural land. Radios and telephones owned by Jews were confiscated, and Jews were forced to pay a one-time tax of 20 percent of their net worth. The law also set quotas that limited the number of Bulgarian Jews allowed in Universities. The law was protested by Jewish leaders, as well as some professional organizations, a group of outspoken writers and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was a tremendously influence organization in Bulgarian society.

Events across Europe continued to escalate and in March of 1943, the majority of non-Bulgarian Jews living in the German-occupied and Bulgarian-administered territories of Greek Thrace and Macedonia (13,341 people in total) were remanded into German custody and deported to Treblinka. News of these deportations soon incited mass protest in Bulgaria among members of political opposition, politicians, clergy and intellectuals. When deportations within the borders of Bulgaria were initially set to continue, the deputy speaker of parliament persuaded Tsar Boris, the head of the Bulgarian monarchy, to delay. The speaker was soon pushed to resign and further protests erupted. Citizens too to the street. Public protest, combined with the intervention of the Metropolitan of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, caused Tsar Boris to cancel the deportations once again in May 1943.

Bulgaria’s nearly 50,000 Jews were saved the fate that befell millions of others. Their neighbors and elected officials refused to stay silent, even under German occupation. Leaders spoke out against hateful legislation and refused to allow the physical removal of citizens.

As I sat in the shul in Sophia, listening to this story, I wondered what our world would look like today if more countries cried out in protest as the Jewish citizens were physically deported from their neighborhoods. Furthermore, what do we, as Americans, do today when we see something injustice, both on a small and large scale in our communities?

What if we were to look to our history as a way of relating to oppressed people, not a way of holding onto our separateness and uniqueness? Our vast history of persecution does not mean we are unique or better than in our suffering, but that we have a moral imperative to stand in solidarity with others who are oppressed. After all, those moments I am showing up and working in solidarity with others are the moments I feel most connected to the divine. I’ll leave you with the word of Charles Mantinband, a Rabbi in Hattiesburg, MS during the 1950s and 60s and an outspoken opponent of segregation. He wrote in an article in 1962 that was published by the Anti-defamation League of B’nai B’rith that,

“In order to remain in the South and be worthy of my Jewish heritage, I had two decisions to make. The first was that there could be no distinction between any of God’s children – the pigmentation of skin could be no more important than the color of eyes. The second was that I would never sit in the presence of bigotry and by my silence seem to give assent. I do not look for trouble, but when hate is evident, I must protest.”

Let us strive to never sit in the presence of bigotry and remain silent.

Lonnie Kleinman is Moishe House’s Southern Regional Director. Lonnie will be starting her journey to the Rabbinate in the fall at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Finding unity through song, ritual and discussion

Posted 02/23/2017 at 02:49PM

Times of Israel - February 23, 2017

Written by Jordan Fruchtman, Chief Program Officer of Moishe House

Anyone who says the month of January was easy is lying, or not paying attention. A usually predictable event — the peaceful succession of power from one president to the next — was anything but predictable as our country, still raw from the bitter election cycle of 2016, prepared for the giant question of “What comes next?”

As an organization with lots of politically and civically active participants, including many in the San Francisco Bay Area, Moishe House staff have been working every day to figure out how to best respond to and act on recent events. How do we support our residents as they try to process the turmoil around them and try to come out on the other side and how do we represent them when they themselves represent so many different voices?

In the Bay Area, these questions and efforts came to a crest at an art gallery in San Francisco on the night of January 20. Across the country, protesters marched and rallies were held, but at this event, entitled a “Unity Shabbat,” there were no protesters or marchers or shouting or fighting. There were 60 young adults from the five Bay Area Moishe Houses, the Federation’s YAD, the Shalom Hartman Institute and Reboot tackling critical social topics head-on through a Seder full of prayer, discussion, song and reflection.

And it was, by all accounts, amazing.

One participant said of the Seder, “The room was a powder keg of raw emotion. Instead of an explosion, Unity Shabbat was able to channel the present energy into a thoughtful conversation on how we stumbled into such divisive times and steps we can take to move forward.”

Rabbi Adina Allen, of the Jewish Studio Project, and Joel Stanley, Moishe House’s Senior Director of House Programs, facilitated the evening, while Moishe House residents and community partners led small-group discussions, addressing relevant quotes from Jewish and secular sources, and looking at themes such as working with divergent opinions and how to be effective allies with vulnerable groups.

Rabbi Allen spoke on the parshah, comparing current societal and communal roles to those of the midwives in Egypt, who acted with resilience to effect positive change. The evening ended with song and poetry, from “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” (“the world will be built with love”) to the lyrics of Leonard Cohen (“there is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in”) to “We Shall Overcome.”

Asher Kaye, a Moishe House resident in Palo Alto, said “The environment of the Shabbat table, gathering with the tranquility and comradery of the Day of Rest and messages on respectful disagreement, set the atmosphere for serious and engaging conversation.”

This evening wouldn’t have been possible without the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and we felt incredibly proud to be part of this group who made it possible for these young adults, these young leaders, to come together, support each other, and think about shared values and a deeper purpose.

The Unity Shabbat took place in January, yet it seems as if the fractures that appeared during the election and leading to the inauguration are deepening, rather than closing. If we could each act in the same manner as the young leaders at the Unity Shabbat — acting and speaking from a place of healing and a desire to reach common ground — I think we could find  that our ability to repair the things that divide us are just as strong as the things that seek to tear us apart.

Moishe House residents live their Jewish faith

Posted 01/19/2017 at 10:04PM

Moishe House residents live their Jewish faith

By Danae King
The Columbus Dispatch

If not for the yarmulkes, prayers and blessings, the gathering in the Bexley apartment of three 20-somethings might have been any other party.

Instead, it was a dinner party of local young Jewish professionals, in a space maintained for that purpose.

It's called Moishe House and the one in Bexley is one of more than 90 worldwide. Three young professionals live in the house and host events for their Jewish peers - regardless of how much they practice their religion or adhere to traditions.

"It's low-key, there's no pressure," said Allegra Lewison, originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Lewison lives in the house with Michal Adar, 25, and Roni Hyam, 28. They moved in in August and they each have different Jewish backgrounds and experiences.

Lewison attended Ohio State University, where she was a part of the Jewish community and made friends - friends who mostly moved away after their graduation in May.

She decided to be a part of Moishe House to find other Jews her age, after hearing about a group who did it last year. The last group was ready to move on, so she talked to Adar, whom she knew from college at Ohio State, and Hyam, who was involved in a previous Moishe House in Columbus, and the three decided to do it together.

Lewison, who works in the Mount Carmel emergency department, isn't the only Jewish young professional who has felt like she didn't have a community to practice Judaism with. In fact, the existence of the 10-year-old organization, founded in California, seems to hint at a bigger cultural issue.

"There's a big gap between college and family life that's hard to reach," she said.

Larry Gast, vice president of development with Moishe House, said that gap is why the organization was created, and why it's so important.

"When you get to this post-college, pre-family part of life, it's a big question mark. It's been a question mark in Jewish life for a long-time," he said.

The Columbus Jewish community does offer other social events and groups for teens, and also works with Moishe House. There are plans to bring a few young adult groups together for an event, said Rabbi Ari Neuman, of Torat Emet in Bexley. The way he sees it, Moishe House complements what the local synagogues and Jewish organizations offer.

"There are plenty of people who want to connect to their Jewish roots to some extent," Neuman said. "If Moishe House, High Street, Atid, or Shabbat Connect helps them find a connection in the Jewish community, I think that's a win for Judaism at large," he added, referring to other groups for young Jews.

What sets Moishe House apart from other Jewish activities for the age group is there's no "boss figure," Lewison said, and, it's "homier."

"When you're transient, when you're in your 20's, you may live in a place for two years and you're just trying to make friends," Gast said. "You're looking for something that fits your life."

That seems to be what appeals to the people who are involved in Moishe House, whether they live there or just attend the events.

Each member of the house is planning to stay for a year - the program allows up to three - and they've already had visitors asking if they can move in at some point, too.

"It's so exciting to see people so interested," said Adar, born in Israel, and currently employed at DSW's corporate offices.

In exchange for hosting events, the Moishe House residents get a housing stipend that covers 50 percent of their rent and a reimbursement for the food for the events. The goal for each house is that the community, usually a local benefactor or organization, will support 75 percent of the cost of the house, Gast said.

No matter what other events they host, they always hold a monthly welcome dinner on a Friday night. This month, the dinner was a potluck, the first they've tried, and about 15 people attended. At past dinners, they've had more than 50 people squeeze into their small apartment.

Hyam, who was born in India, moved to the United States four years ago to attend college at the University of Massachusetts. He's now a software engineer at DSW's headquarters.

He learned about Moishe House five years ago in India, when he heard the founder speak at a conference. Ever since, he's wanted to live in a Moishe House. When he came to Columbus, it finally worked out.

"It's been life-changing," he said of the experience so far. "You realize the importance of your role as a Moishe member, the experience you create."

The experience and the community have a deeper significance for Hyam, who grew up Jewish in a community with only 200 other Jews. He remembers traveling eight hours round trip on the occasional Saturday just to meet Jewish children his age.

"I never had all this I'm living right now," he said. "I feel like I'm making up lost time."

Those interested in finding out more about Moishe House can go to www.moishehouse.org.

Come for the Party…Stay for the Judaism

Posted 01/12/2017 at 03:56PM

Area Jewish organizations find new ways to keep 20s/30s engaged

JANUARY 11, 2017 



You’re jury-rigging the final acorn to a long piece of misshapen tree bark.

As you put down the glue gun used to complete the makeshift menorah, you’re bumped by a young brown-haired girl bundled up for the winter despite the fact the dimly-lit brewery is jam-packed with other 20-somethings and 30-somethings like yourself.

Then again, it is still rather refreshingly crisp in here (what with the frigid weather outside and all the beer cans perfectly stacked around the sides of the room).

The young woman apologizes, smiling and squeezing your shoulder thoughtfully before making her way through the crowd that surrounds you both toward a nearby activity table, where she fits a large cardboard dreidel upon her head.

The group around you laughs, and you join in the merriment.

But … it’s time to hush down, as the  relayed “Shh!” and “Quiet!” make their way around the room of 250 people as though this were a nostalgic game of “Telephone.”

The DJ on the other side of the room has stopped playing Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song,” the candle lighting far to your right commences, and while trying to figure out which of the four versions of Sandler’s lovingly comic ode to the festival of lights had just been cut short, it dawns on you: This isn’t just a party. This is  Judaism.

The time is approximately 9 p.m. The place: Union Craft Brewing. It’s the fifth of Chanukah’s “eight crazy nights,” as Sandler would put it, and you’re one of many enjoying another successful Chanukah BrewHaHa presented by Baltimore’s own Jewish outreach organization, Charm City Tribe.

CCT is one of many entities working to attract or reconnect area Jews in their 20s and 30s to their heritage.

In this face-paced, digitally connected postmodern era, groups such as CCT are producing all manner of specialty events revolving around good food, good drinks and good music as a vibrant alternative to the kind of traditional synagogue services that have left some young Jews seeking connection elsewhere.

Adam Yosim, 29, a television reporter for Fox45, proudly stands holding one portion of the prayer written on a large white poster board above his head.

He wears a hip-hop inspired “Chanukah sweater” and a flat-brimmed hat trendily tilted just so.

He is not alone, as a handful of other young Jews hold prayer portions above their heads. Some, shorter than the formidable Yosim, stand on chairs to ensure they’re well seen throughout the crowd.

Finding Oneself in the Community

A North Carolina native who has traveled around the country as a television reporter in different news markets, Yosim has discovered that the quickest, easiest way to meet new people and get ingratiated in the city — on both a  professional and personal level — is to reach out to area Jewish community members.

“Everywhere you go, there’s a Jewish community,” Yosim, who’s lived in Baltimore for two years and resides in Mount Vernon, said. “That’s been a big part of everywhere I’ve moved, getting immersed in that community.”

CCT was one of the first such groups Yosim reached out to when he came to Baltimore, and after meeting with director Rabbi Jessy Gross within the first few weeks in town, he began going to events regularly.

Beyond such outings being Yosim’s primary means of connecting with his Judaism, there’s a significant socializing element involved.

Last June, Yosim met his fiancée at CCT’s Schmooze and Brews, a monthly happy hour the group hosts every month for Jews in their 20s and 30s.

Atlanta-born Perrin Shapiro, 24, similarly found her beshert through a local young Jewish outreach event after moving to Baltimore following her graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I moved to Little Italy, and the first week here, my roommates hadn’t moved in yet, and I didn’t know anyone,” Shapiro recounted. “My mom sent me a link to the [Downtown] Chabad, which was literally the next block over, and that’s where I met [my boyfriend].”

More than two years later, Shapiro is still dating 27-year-old Jared Hurwich. The two have moved in together in Canton as of Jan. 1. This after her first encounter with one of the monthly Downtown Chabad young professional Shabbats, each with a different theme.

Motifs for food and decorations range from “Harry Potter” to a Brazilian night and a “men in the kitchen” night, when the guys in the group help out Chani Druk, wife of Rabbi Levi Druk, in the kitchen. There’s also been a black tie Shabbat  produced as a kind of “winter formal.”

Raised Jewish and having attended Jewish day schools in Atlanta, Shapiro revealed that she wasn’t nearly as involved in Jewish activities or culture in college as she is today through the Chabad.

“In college,” Shapiro said with a knowing laugh, “I had a lot going on!”

Two young Downtown Chabad regulars bless the Four Kinds while their friends enjoy a lunch in the University of Maryland, Baltimore Sukkah. (Chabad of Downtown)


Shapiro said what draws her to the young professional Shabbats and other events through the Downtown Chabad is a mixture of everything offered: the tasty grub and the fact that Druk and his wife are close enough in age to her that they have become friends in addition to spiritual guides … and also the “group of kids” Shapiro has become so close to.

“I feel like I really lucked out with this group,” Shapiro said. “I like being involved in the Baltimore Jewish community.”

Shapiro’s boyfriend Hurwich agrees that “it’s not a big sacrifice” for him to make time attending events through the Downtown Chabad.

A local delivery station manager for  online retailer Amazon.com, the Montclair, N.J.-born Hurwich was an infrequent  visitor to the Chabad when he first moved to town three-and-a-half years ago after college in Philadelphia.

Hurwich went on to say that although he has remained “on the same page” as his Conservative upbringing, he doesn’t “go to shul as much as I did when I was younger; I do go to more Jewish events now than I did when I was younger.”

It’s a way for Hurwich to remain connected to his Jewish heritage while also seeing some friends and having fun. Hardly a Friday night sacrifice.

“We won’t go to things just because ‘it’s important to go,’” 28-year-old educator Michal Wetzler, who arrived in Baltimore this past September from Israel as a shlichah at Pearlstone, said. “No, we want to go to things because they’re interesting.”

Celebrants enjoy the Pearlstone Center’s Havdallah bonfires. (Mira Menyuk)


For Wetzler “interesting” definitely means a strong connection to Judaism and to other Jews in the community … but also “talking about stars and stuff,” or — as part of Pearlstone’s regular Havdalah events — evening bonfires and BYOB live-music jams.

As an Israeli, Wetzler sees such events as less specialty “attractions,” as she put it, and more traditional evening fare. Bonfires and spending time out in the open at night playing music, marveling over the cosmos has less to do with finding a space to connect with other Jews — since this is less of an issue in Israel, of course — and more about enjoying oneself.

For Wetzler, it’s fairly simple: These evening outdoor Havdalah events are less a get-together and Jewish observance and just simply a different kind of means to connecting to the Jewish culture overall.

Though Wetzler confesses she may be at something of a disadvantage since she’s only been in Baltimore a short time,  she does feel that there continues to be a need for more opportunities offered to young Jews who crave a less “formulaic” approach to connecting than, say, routine synagogue visits.

“Right now, going to services on a Friday night for two hours and having to stand up and sit down and stand up and sit down is kind of on the backburner for me,” Yosim said. “It’s more appealing for me to go to dinner for Shabbat at somebody’s house.

“I’d rather do stuff with people my age,” he continued. “And you don’t see a lot [of people around my age] going to temple every week.”

Indeed, according to a startling October 2013 Pew survey, the number of people who refer to their religion as “Jewish” has declined by nearly 50 percent since the late 1950s.

Pikesville resident Nicole Talor, 26, is president of JNFuture and on the board of FIDF, both fundraising and advocacy groups supporting Israel. She worries that lower numbers of young people associating with their Jewish background may have something to do with the rising anti-Semitism on college campuses and support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

“Even if you’re a proud Jew, you’re feeling like you’re being silenced,” Talor said. “As a young Jew, I think it’s important to surround yourself with other members of the community, and that’s pretty easy to find in Baltimore.”

Filling a Room with Light

Mickey Rubin, 29, is a senior regional  director of the decade-old global nonprofit Moishe House. He believes there’s a simpler reason more than a third of millennials are “unaffiliated” on a religious level, as noted in a May 2015 Pew survey, particularly when it comes to Jews.

“Religion is not really something that’s very hip and cool anymore,” Rubin said.

He still believes “younger Jews in general are looking for something bigger than themselves to connect with.

“I think that young Jews and millennials in general are all about creating something new and fresh and innovative, and Moishe House is about that,” continued Rubin, who oversees the Baltimore chapter of Moishe House which was founded  in 2010.

The challenge becomes finding a way for these Jews, who are looking for a connection (or reconnection) to something larger, to do so on their own (contemporary, individualistic) terms away from that routine that some ostensibly find banal and not worth their time anymore, especially being as busy as they are in their 20s and 30s.

“They don’t like to be told what to do,” Rubin said. “We have to think about  Judaism a little differently: not necessarily about being told what to do but being able to express yourself in a spiritual, social and communal way.”

Moishe House grants resources to young Jewish residents who host various events that, in turn, draw in other young Jews. Events range from Shabbat dinners to social causes. (Moishe House)


Moishe House is a unique organization in that supervisors such as Rubin, who refers to himself as a “fairy godmother” of the small dormitory-esque houses he oversees, grant resources (namely in the form of funding) to young Jews who create their own programming that draws in other young Jews to their houses via hosting Shabbat dinners and similar activities.

“I think what makes it work,” Rubin said, “is giving them the resources to create what they want to create and giving them easy access. It’s a very 21st-century and millennial way of thinking about it.”

Personal trainer David BenMoshe found that when he first came to Baltimore from Mt. Airy, Md., “everyone being so welcoming” inspired him to be able to give back through his engagement in the Jewish community here. He refers to this as a “blessing.”

Having converted to Judaism in 2010, BenMoshe became a member of B’nai  Israel — out of which is run a youth outreach program called BIYA (B’nai Israel Youth Association) — in 2012.

With the assistance of Rubin, who is also involved in BIYA, BenMoshe hosted his first young professional night for Shabbat in mid-December.

The evening’s agenda involved BenMoshe’s leading a short, guided meditation and yoga practice before Shabbat services were read by B’nai Israel’s Rabbi Etan Mintz (who also took part in the yoga, BenMoshe giggled in recounting). For dinner, there was schnitzel, eggplant salad, sesame salad and couscous.

“The schnitzel was delicious,” BenMoshe said.

As with Wetzler, BenMoshe doesn’t see the aspects of his evening or others like it as a dilution of or distraction from the Jewish engagement, but rather an  inextricable component of what it means to observe one’s Judaism.

“Putting these other life experiences in actually enhances the experience,” BenMoshe said. “Anything that builds community is a huge part of being Jewish.”

Chai Life is a program provided by Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. (Baltimore Hebrew Congregation)


Reisterstown resident Marcie Lehnhoff, 28, is an HR specialist with a social policy research firm who found, somewhat dismayingly, that she had become disconnected from her own Jewish experience.

Observing modern Orthodox Judaism as a lifelong member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Lehnhoff grew up in what was more or less a Reform home; the somewhat confusing juxtaposition is part of what she believes resulted in this disconnect later in life.

Once she hit high school and college, she discovered that “services weren’t fun,” noticing along with Yosim that “there weren’t really people there my age.”

Today, she delights in more synagogues and other Jewish institutions offering more for high school kids and teenagers to engage with, “but I think when I was growing up, there was a gap,” she said. Even Birthright turned out to be a means for her to feel more connected to Israel and issues revolving around the Jewish state as opposed to a direct spiritual connection.

Getting older, Lehnhoff began missing “the religious aspect” of Jewish culture. She found her way back after an event of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, where she heard about JHeritage, a locally founded nonprofit that helps support various causes and hosts social events.

“It was a lot of fun, a way to meet people around my age with the same kind of background,” Lehnhoff said. “I reconnected with the people in my community. It was great because the more events I went to, the more people I was meeting.”

Through her connection to JHeritage and participation in its events — including one of her favorites, the Purim party that took place at Power Plant Live! last year — Lehnhoff has strengthened her connection to Judaism and been led to a group of like-minded friends who she said are the closest she has now.

“I would say that my daily circle of friends now are more JHeritage people than not,” Lehnhoff said. “I think this is Judaism: having a strong community, having fun. That’s what makes Judaism great.”

JHeritage rabbi, director and co-founder Ariel Fishman, 30, has noticed that “for some people, Judaism fell off after bar and bat mitzvahs.”

Once b’nai mitzvahs are no longer in Hebrew school and go into high school and later college, where other activities, study, work and socializing take over much of their time, that “sacrifice” of  attending regular services becomes too large for many to make.

“We don’t want your Jewish tradition to end at 12 or 13,” Fishman said. “For most people, they haven’t found a right balance between spirituality and fun, exciting events as well.

“When you can take the deeper meanings of Jewish tradition and show that it’s about kindness and love and community, you can really light up the whole room,” Fishman said. “You just need to provide this in an accessible format.”

Once again, Charm City Tribe’s BrewHaHa took place at Union Craft Brewing in Hampden. (Marc Shapiro)


This accessible format and room of light is quite literally what CCT’s Chanukah BrewHaHa is all about.

If these events are, in the end, continuing to build, maintain and strengthen the  Baltimore Jewish community — itself an integral aspect of Judaism — then Gross clearly succeeds in helping to better establish her own definition of “community”: a network of people connected together through, yes, a party of all things.

“This is a connection in a way that makes sense to me; it’s something that  I want to do,” said David Alima, 37, co-owner of The Charmery who regularly serves ice cream at BrewHaHa.

“It’s hard to say people getting together to drink beer, eat ice cream and listen to good music will make the world better. But whenever people get together like that, there will be good energy in there.”

Read about how Jewish activist organizations are engaging young people by visiting bit.ly/2j5lkpw.

Moishe House at 10: Millennial success story in Jewish living

Posted 12/09/2016 at 04:07PM

Where do million-dollar ideas get born? On one now-legendary occasion, the setting was a 2001 Hillel Shabbat dinner in Santa Barbara. That’s where an elderly gentleman asked then-20-year-old David Cygielman out of the blue: What would you do if someone gave you a million dollars, but you weren’t allowed to spend any of it on yourself?

Luckily, Cygielman had some answers. It turns out the gentleman, a regular at the Hillel dinners, was an eccentric retired millionaire looking for something meaningful and Jewish to invest in. Morris Squire’s hypothetical $1 million turned into an actual $2 million. And within a few short years, these two men from very different generations went on to create Moishe House, a peer-led Jewish organization that provides dynamic Jewish community to thousands of young adults around the world.

(Bottom photo, from left) Annie-Rose London, Ellie Lotan and Jenny Wyron at Moishe House East Bay (Photo/Hannah Rubin); (top photo, clockwise from left) Jeremy Shuback, Mo Goltz, Analucia Lopezrevoredo, Halley Bass, Meg Stewart and Michael Gropper at S.F. Valencia house

(Bottom photo, from left) Annie-Rose London, Ellie Lotan and Jenny Wyron at Moishe House East Bay (Photo/Hannah Rubin); (top photo, clockwise from left) Jeremy Shuback, Mo Goltz, Analucia Lopezrevoredo, Halley Bass, Meg Stewart and Michael Gropper at S.F. Valencia house

How does it do that? By offering financial incentives to Jewish young adults in their 20s who agree to turn their homes into welcoming hubs for their peers, a population that has aged out of the Jewish life of college campuses but isn’t quite ready for the more adult-oriented events offered by institutions such as JCCs or synagogues.

Since December 2005, when the first two Moishe Houses opened in Oakland and San Francisco, 95 houses have been established in 22 countries, with 300 current residents and more than 880 alumni.

Ask any of the people involved in Moishe House — donors, residents, alumni, staff — why the program has been so successful, and they all will give a version of the same answer: It works because it was needed.

“The old Jewish model was that you throw people out after college, and you wait for them to come back when they got married and joined a synagogue,” said Jordan Fruchtman, Moishe House’s chief program officer. “But what that approach ignores is the huge population of young Jews in their 20s who are hungry for community. Moishe House provides that community. People want it because we’re not telling them how to do it — we leave it completely up to them. All we do is make it possible.”

It’s 8 p.m. on a Wednesday evening at the East Bay Moishe House, and 30 Jewish-identifying young adults are sitting in a circle on Ellie Lotan’s living room floor for a monthly gathering to sing niggun, wordless Jewish melodies. A small shrine, covered in pomegranate seeds and Hebrew letters, sits to the left. A “protect our water” poster is tacked to the wall, next to a pile of tambourines.

David Cygielman

David Cygielman

Lotan, who lives in the Oakland house with two other women, calls the experience of singing wordlessly in community a “spiritual high.” The event is one of the seven monthly Jewish-interest programs she and her roommates have planned, a central feature of the Moishe House model. Residents in each house receive rent subsidies and funds to run a minimum of five programs per month.

The Bay Area is home to five Moishe Houses, including a Russian-speaking house in San Francisco. No two are the same — while in Oakland the events include race talks and a queer Shabbat, the house in Palo Alto is more likely to serve up challah french toast for post-Yom Kippur noshing and host weekly Shabbat dinners. A Moishe House in Kiev, Ukraine, might present a lecture on Jewish genealogy, while the Buenos Aires house is known for its previas (pre-drinks before social events) and yoga classes.

This flexibility is what makes Moishe House so successful, its adherents say.

“We’re not here to tell anyone what to do, we’re only here to help them do it,” said Cygielman, the Moishe House CEO, about the laid-back approach to cultivating community. “We like the idea that if one house is a little ‘crunchy,’ then you’ll have another house in that same city that is less so. This way, anyone that’s Jewish has a place where they feel comfortable to go.”

Plenty of people have found their comfort zone. In 2015 alone, Moishe House events attracted more than 43,000 unique participants.

With funding from top Jewish philanthropy groups like the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, and partnerships with local Jewish federations in nearly every city it resides in, Moishe House celebrated its 10th anniversary last month with galas in London, New York and San Francisco.

“Art Show and Schnitzel Cookoff” event at S.F. Valencia house, 2012

“Art Show and Schnitzel Cookoff” event at S.F. Valencia house, 2012

Cygielman was 23 and working as the executive director of Squire’s philanthropic Forest Foundation in Santa Barbara, set up to fund local Jewish youth programming. During a weekend visit to his native Oakland, he caught up with some old friends who had met on a Federation teen tour to Israel and were now roommates. Together they bemoaned their lack of Jewish community now that they were in the “Jewish millennial limbo” between college and marriage — so they decided to throw a big potluck dinner for other peers they knew in the area. Squire agreed to donate the heft of the dinner budget.

Eighty people were invited to the event, but the hosts expected a fraction to make it. To their surprise, 73 people showed up. “People sat everywhere — inside, outside. They were coming and going all evening, having the first Shabbat dinner they’d had in a long time,” Cygielman said. “We never expected those numbers.”

Even after that initial success, Cygielman thought it would be a one-off event. But a few days later he received an email from Brady Gill, who was about to move from Oakland to San Francisco with three friends. They wanted to use their home to host Shabbat events on the other side of the bay.

“I was living rent-free in a room in my father’s office, commuting to San Francisco for clown school,” Gill remembered. “I heard about the Shabbat dinners, that there was someone offering to pay for them. Immediately, I wanted in on that.”

When Cygielman approached his boss to ask for more funding, Squire got excited. “Part of the exercise in working for Morris was that everything had to be way bigger than you could imagine it in the beginning,” said Cygielman. “For someone to just do a Shabbat dinner didn’t matter. The question became — could they do a Shabbat dinner every single week?”

Isaac Zones (front) and Brady Gill (hat), both original S.F. Moishe House residents, with Miriam Blachman and Aaron Gilbert in 2006

Isaac Zones (front) and Brady Gill (hat), both original S.F. Moishe House residents, with Miriam Blachman and Aaron Gilbert in 2006

The pair came up with the idea of offering rent subsidies and a program budget in exchange for a commitment to run regular events, and presented their idea to the roommates at the houses in San Francisco and Oakland. Within quick succession, and just like that, the first two Moishe Houses were born.

“We were scrambling to put on a ton of events and get as many people as possible to show up. We had no idea what it would be or if people would be into it,” said Isaac Zones, a resident in the first San Francisco house. The roommates held a regular poker night, created their own haggadah for Passover seders and started a co-ed softball team called the Matzah Ballstars. “We got to try a bunch of social experiments that were interesting to us, with backing, and see what worked.”

Things developed quickly — within the first year, 10 Moishe Houses opened. After just two years, there were 20, and the operation had gone international. “We were building the airplane as we were flying it, and we were saying yes to everything. The great thing about being funded by one person, and having unlimited funds, was that we could do whatever we wanted,” said Cygielman.

And just as they were flying high, the 2008 stock market crashed happened. One morning in July, Cygielman woke up to learn that the Forest Foundation had closed down and Squire, who was in his late 80s, had decided to move to Thailand.

“We went from full funding, about $1 million per year, to zero funding — overnight,” he said. “I had young Jewish leaders living in houses in 20 cities who wouldn’t be able to pay their next months’ rent. I freaked out.”

It was a moment of crisis, but Cygielman wasn’t ready to give up on the dream.

“David came to us and said that in approximately two weeks, the entire Moishe House project was going to end,” recalled Sandy Cardin, president at the Schusterman Foundation, a Jewish philanthropic initiative. “He asked if we would provide funding necessary to allow the organization to continue. We decided to take that risk with them because we really believed in the project.”

Ellie Lotan (from left), Annie-Rose London and Jenny Wyron, current residents of Moishe House East Bay  photo/hannah rubin

Ellie Lotan (from left), Annie-Rose London and Jenny Wyron, current residents of Moishe House East Bay photo/hannah rubin

The foundation provided $500,000, enough to sustain the project for a few months, and that was followed by another $500,000 from the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Koret Foundation, both based in San Francisco. And then, a year later, the Jewish Federation of the East Bay pitched in. “We were the first federation to give a grant to Moishe House,” said CEO Rabbi James Brandt. “At the time, we were excited — and now we feel like we’ve helped make history.”

Cygielman and some college friends he’d hired to help out filed for nonprofit status, set up a board of directors and paid staff, and came up with policies and procedures. “We closed down anything that wasn’t excellent. We decided that the age range would be from 22 to 30, that each house had to have at least three people living in it,” he said. “This time, we really became Moishe House.”

Though it started as a space for a certain population of postcollege millennials, Ellie Lotan, a resident at Moishe House Oakland, said it has become something more than just a stopover.

“It doesn’t feel like an in-between thing— it feels like the forever lifestyle we’re all choosing, that we’re all trying to create for ourselves,” said Lotan, 31, who has lived in Moishe Houses in both Oakland and Park Slope, Brooklyn, since 2012. “We’re making a commitment to a radical lifestyle, to live communally — to transform what Jewish institutions will look like in the future. I don’t think David Cygielman necessarily envisioned that when he first started out.”

Lotan, who is studying expressive arts therapy at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, came to Moishe House because of her “lefty” Jewish upbringing and “during a time in my life when I was saying yes to everything. There was a revolutionary feeling — I was feeling brave,” she said.

Housemate Jenny Wyron, 29, said her Reform upbringing caused her constant anxiety that she somehow wasn’t Jewish enough to claim the identity. After  discovering the Oakland Moishe House and participating in its events, she said, she became inspired by the way Judaism was being practiced and applied for residency when a spot opened up last year.

“Halloween Shabbat” at S.F. North Beach house, 2016

“Halloween Shabbat” at S.F. North Beach house, 2016

“Up until then, my spiritual journey had very little to do with Judaism,” Wyron said. “And then I went to Moishe House and … [it] just made Judaism cool to people.”

The Moishe House in Oakland has a particularly storied place in the community, given how long it has been around. Lotan had a very different experience living in the house in Park Slope.

“People here are more interested in community, more invested in going to each other’s houses, going to events together,” said Lotan. In Brooklyn, they would scrounge to get people to come to Shabbat dinners, she said, while in Oakland people show up to every event. Last year’s Hanukkah NastyNasty party drew 70 people, and the residents are hoping for more at this year’s iteration on Dec. 23 — they’ve invited 600 people on Facebook.

Not every Moishe House resident came to the program because of a commitment to Jewish leadership. David Lewin-Rowen, 29, who grew up in Palo Alto, ended up there after hearing about a cheap vacancy in a house of young Jews. Describing himself as a “kind-of, sort-of-Jewish” Jew, he says he hadn't explored his Jewish identity much prior to moving into Moishe House Palo Alto last year.

Now he says the experience of Jewish community in his house is unlike any he’s been part of. “Being Jewish can either feel really isolating or really empowering — and up until living in Moishe House, I had never really gotten to feel the empowering part,” said Lewan-Rowen. “It might sound corny, but it has been transformational.”

Kiki Lipsett spent 18 months living in the Vancouver Moishe House in 2011 and 2012. She said she was drawn to “create more young Jewish community” and learn more about her Jewish identity. “It’s an intense experience,” said Lipsett, who grew up Reform. “You’re living and working with people, putting on a lot of programming every month. It takes up your whole world.”

After her time at Moishe House, Lipsett decided to move to Israel to further explore her Jewish heritage. She now lives in Oakland, where she is in school for music therapy and performs music at a variety of Jewish rituals and services in the East Bay.

“We are in the business of belonging,” said Moishe House board member Kevin Waldman. “It doesn’t matter what your views are or where you’re from. With Moishe House, you can make something and you can belong.”

While Cygielman is excited about the exponential growth that has occurred in the 10-year life of the organization, he says he is even more excited about the future. In recent years, programming has been extended outside of the traditional Moishe House arrangement into multiday Jewish learning retreats and “Moishe House Without Walls,” a program that provides funding for young Jewish leaders outside of Moishe Houses to lead workshops, host seminars and run events in more than 100 cities.

According to an internal survey, 11,525 unique participants have attended these programs, and 97 percent report they are “more aware and likely to get involved in other Jewish programming.” Approvals are under review for new houses in Berkeley and South Palm Beach, Florida. Jason Boschan, director of marketing and communications based in the North Carolina office, said the organization receives “at least one application per day, sometimes more.”

“We wouldn’t keep growing if there wasn’t such a high demand — but people are really excited, they want it, all over the world,” said Cygielman. “And I’m excited to lead by following — to keep listening to our residents, to what they need to succeed as Jewish leaders in their communities, and to keep helping them achieve that as best we can.”

First Moishe House residents: Where are they now?

More than 10 years after being pioneers in a Jewish living experiment for young adults, three of the first Moishe House residents reflected on how the experience shaped their life path.

San Francisco resident Leo Beckerman, 33, lived in the first Moishe House D.C. in 2006 and later moved to one of the houses in Los Angeles. During his years at Moishe House, he would cook Shabbat dinners for big crowds — sometimes more than 70 people. That was how Beckerman discovered his love for cooking Jewish-inspired meals. He now does it for a living, as co-founder of Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco.

Isaac Zones, 35, a Bay Area Jewish musician, was one of the four original residents of the San Francisco house in 2005. He recalls Shabbat dinners that culminated around a bonfire in the backyard, with him playing guitar and leading the group in song.

“Those experiences forced me to get over whatever awkwardness I may have felt about leading spiritual moments for my peers,” said the Oakland resident, who performs at Jewish weddings, holidays and ceremonies with his band Shamati, a “Jewgrass” dance band. “I was pushed into something I wouldn’t haven’t gravitated to normally — it really set me on a path to becoming a Jewish professional.”

Brady Gill, 33, lived in three Moishe Houses in San Francisco and the East Bay from 2006 to 2009, spending his summers as a counselor at Camp Tawonga. He now works as a counselor at Camp Grounded, a digitial detox camp for adults, and is an independent consultant in the field of “connection, play and belonging.”

“The work that I’m doing is within a secular field, but a lot of what I know about connection and belonging comes from my Jewish upbringing, which, since I wasn’t raised religious, come from Moishe House and Camp Tawonga,” the Oakand resident said. “It was only when I was in a position to be teaching Judaism, or leading a community within it, that I was really able to find meaning.” — hannah rubin

Our Opportunity and Responsibility to Engage Boston’s Russian-Speaking Jews

Posted 12/02/2016 at 04:26PM

By Yana Tolmacheva

Seven percent of Jewish adults in Boston were born or raised in Russia or the former Soviet Union, or were raised in a Russian-speaking household.


(Photo: RoBeDeRo/iStock)

(Photo: RoBeDeRo/iStock)

“Russian-speaking Jewry” (RSJ) is an acronym iterated from my mouth more often than any modern-day colloquial abbreviations. Russian born; Brooklyn raised; Boston educated. RSJ has developed from my childhood of English at school, Russian at home, Hanukkah menorahs and New Year’s trees, trips to Israel and churches into a career of JCCs, the JCRC and now my current role at Moishe House as director of RSJ programming. Today I oversee a growing network of 16 RSJ Moishe Houses, a leading platform for engagement of RSJ young adults worldwide in creating meaningful Jewish experiences and developing vibrant communities.

Boston holds a special place in my heart as the city of my professional Jewish education, the place where I was manager of a sister-city partnership with Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine and where I was a lay leader on the RSJ committee at CJP. It’s a community of which I am proud to be a part of in ever-changing capacities.

Growing up I navigated the complexity of the multifaceted RSJ identity and its professional communal landscape in a consistent effort to strengthen the RSJ community. How do we define ourselves? How does the broader community understand us? How do I understand myself? What choices do I make to ensure a preservation of my heritage? Who is responsible for shaping the future?

These are the questions my peers ask. These are also the ones they do not. And that’s precisely why Moishe House is so uniquely adapted to address this population, and it’s precisely why in 2009, Genesis Philanthropy Group(GPG) partnered with Moishe House to create targeted RSJ programming. And it’s precisely why the diverse and vast Boston Jewish community is our priority. In partnership with GPG and CJP, we are working to open an RSJ Moishe House in Boston—a platform of connection, engagement and, most important, ownership, for people to own their identity, questions and community. The current network of RSJ Moishe Houses includes 16 across North America, the former Soviet Union, Germany and Australia. Last month our expansion initiatives targeted Boston, and the release of the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study perfectly illustrates why.

“Seven percent of Jewish adults were born or raised in Russia or the former Soviet Union, or were raised in a Russian-speaking household,” the study states, with 42 percent of them young adults (18-34) and part of the largest minimally engaged group of Boston Jewry. It’s the first time I took 7 percent to be quite a large number.

But so what? Seven percent equals nearly 13,000 adults who identify as Russian-speaking Jews. That’s 13,000 people who share a rich Jewish history, a distinct RSJ culture and an immigrant experience. It’s 13,000 adults whose families and heritage miraculously survived brutal history to become part of the most successful immigrant group in the United States. In other words, Boston has an opportunity for real impact in RSJ leadership development and community building.

The study demonstrates young adults’ desire for connection to community, not defined by an attachment to a denomination or institution. This especially resonates for RSJs, and the peer-led, home-based model of Moishe House enables entry for the “minimally engaged.”

The reality of RSJs in North America has changed. We are no longer immigrants benefiting from community resources to assimilate to American society; we are a substantial demographic group rife with success and potential. We need not frame engaging RSJs as a challenge to the Jewish community, but as an opportunity for dimension and the continuity of a vibrant Jewish community.

In December 2015, Moishe House led its first community-building retreat exclusively for the RSJ community at Camp Ramah in New England, bringing together 25 RSJ young adults from 12 cities to delve into what we creatively titled, “True Life: I’m a Russian-Speaking Jew.” Overflowing participant feedback included things like: “I am so thankful to have been included in the retreat. It really helped me feel a connection to my heritage and to the community moving forward, something I have been striving for my entire life.” Now we have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, to continue the transformational experience for Boston’s 7 percent to create a sustainable and meaningful community for ourselves.

The Community Study was commissioned to understand the community and identify opportunities, and I think it’s fair to say we must not miss the opportunity of RSJs to elevate their connections to each other and to the Jewish community. It’s a community rife with achievement and potential, a group that is vital to Jewish continuity, with influence and intellect to impart.

Read the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study here.


(Photo: RoBeDeRo/iStock)

(Photo: RoBeDeRo/iStock)

“Russian-speaking Jewry” (RSJ) is an acronym iterated from my mouth more often than any modern-day colloquial abbreviations. Russian born; Brooklyn raised; Boston educated. RSJ has developed from my childhood of English at school, Russian at home, Hanukkah menorahs and New Year’s trees, trips to Israel and churches into a career of JCCs, the JCRC and now my current role at Moishe House as director of RSJ programming. Today I oversee a growing network of 16 RSJ Moishe Houses, a leading platform for engagement of RSJ young adults worldwide in creating meaningful Jewish experiences and developing vibrant communities.

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Boston holds a special place in my heart as the city of my professional Jewish education, the place where I was manager of a sister-city partnership with Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine and where I was a lay leader on the RSJ committee at CJP. It’s a community of which I am proud to be a part of in ever-changing capacities.

Growing up I navigated the complexity of the multifaceted RSJ identity and its professional communal landscape in a consistent effort to strengthen the RSJ community. How do we define ourselves? How does the broader community understand us? How do I understand myself? What choices do I make to ensure a preservation of my heritage? Who is responsible for shaping the future?

These are the questions my peers ask. These are also the ones they do not. And that’s precisely why Moishe House is so uniquely adapted to address this population, and it’s precisely why in 2009, Genesis Philanthropy Group(GPG) partnered with Moishe House to create targeted RSJ programming. And it’s precisely why the diverse and vast Boston Jewish community is our priority. In partnership with GPG and CJP, we are working to open an RSJ Moishe House in Boston—a platform of connection, engagement and, most important, ownership, for people to own their identity, questions and community. The current network of RSJ Moishe Houses includes 16 across North America, the former Soviet Union, Germany and Australia. Last month our expansion initiatives targeted Boston, and the release of the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study perfectly illustrates why.

“Seven percent of Jewish adults were born or raised in Russia or the former Soviet Union, or were raised in a Russian-speaking household,” the study states, with 42 percent of them young adults (18-34) and part of the largest minimally engaged group of Boston Jewry. It’s the first time I took 7 percent to be quite a large number.

But so what? Seven percent equals nearly 13,000 adults who identify as Russian-speaking Jews. That’s 13,000 people who share a rich Jewish history, a distinct RSJ culture and an immigrant experience. It’s 13,000 adults whose families and heritage miraculously survived brutal history to become part of the most successful immigrant group in the United States. In other words, Boston has an opportunity for real impact in RSJ leadership development and community building.

The study demonstrates young adults’ desire for connection to community, not defined by an attachment to a denomination or institution. This especially resonates for RSJs, and the peer-led, home-based model of Moishe House enables entry for the “minimally engaged.”

The reality of RSJs in North America has changed. We are no longer immigrants benefiting from community resources to assimilate to American society; we are a substantial demographic group rife with success and potential. We need not frame engaging RSJs as a challenge to the Jewish community, but as an opportunity for dimension and the continuity of a vibrant Jewish community.

In December 2015, Moishe House led its first community-building retreat exclusively for the RSJ community at Camp Ramah in New England, bringing together 25 RSJ young adults from 12 cities to delve into what we creatively titled, “True Life: I’m a Russian-Speaking Jew.” Overflowing participant feedback included things like: “I am so thankful to have been included in the retreat. It really helped me feel a connection to my heritage and to the community moving forward, something I have been striving for my entire life.” Now we have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, to continue the transformational experience for Boston’s 7 percent to create a sustainable and meaningful community for ourselves.

The Community Study was commissioned to understand the community and identify opportunities, and I think it’s fair to say we must not miss the opportunity of RSJs to elevate their connections to each other and to the Jewish community. It’s a community rife with achievement and potential, a group that is vital to Jewish continuity, with influence and intellect to impart.

Read the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study here.

Yana Tolmacheva

Yana Tolmacheva brings together her passion for global Jewry and community building in her role as director of RSJ (Russian-speaking Jews) programming at Moishe House. She earned her BA in Psychology from Hunter College and is a graduate of the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University, receiving her MBA in Nonprofit Management and MA in Jewish Professional Leadership. Prior to Moishe House, Yana worked at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston managing the sister city partnership between Boston and Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Yana is originally from Moscow and grew up in New York City. She has spent extensive time in Latin America, Israel and enjoys her continued work travel to the former Soviet Union. During her free time, Yana has taken up boxing with plans to compete on an amateur level in the coming months.

Trusting Young Adults to Build Their Own Communities From the Ground Up

Posted 11/29/2016 at 06:48PM


Jordan Fruchtman


This piece is part of a series on next-generation engagement following a panel discussion at the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation). This universal topic is front of mind with Jewish leaders striving to create pathways of inclusion and connectivity to Judaism for “Gen X” and millennial Jews. Each panelist, including this author, has received a Cutting Edge Grant from The Foundation. The multi-year grants of up to $250,000 are awarded to creative thinkers, social entrepreneurs, and innovative organizations to develop and implement transformative programs of high visibility and impact in the Los Angeles Jewish community. Since being established by The Foundation in 2006, more than $15 million in Cutting Edge Grants have been awarded to 84 programs, with a particular emphasis on initiatives to drive Jewish engagement and inclusion.

If I do my job right, I’ll never run a Jewish program for young adults again. I won’t plan another program. I won’t purchase a single loaf of challah. I won’t create a Facebook event and invite my friends. I won’t come up with “Sangria in the Sukkah” or “High Holy Day Meditation” or “The Best of Mel Brooks Movie Night.” You see, at Moishe House, we don’t think we – or any organization for that matter – can create programs and cultivate Jewish life for young adults like the young adults themselves. And I’m not talking about chairs and co-chairs or board members or anything like that. I’m talking about the people who live a few doors down from you, your buddy from college or your friend from yoga.

Moishe House was born when four Jewish twentysomethings began hosting Shabbat dinners in Oakland, California for their friends back in 2006. Fueled by enormous demand for peer-led, home-based programming, Moishe House fills a gap for post-college Jewish adults who are transient by nature in career and location, but looking to find their niche before settling down. As a result, Jewish young adults are connecting their ability to generate buy-in from their peers to the pipeline in their local Jewish community that feels natural and welcoming.

Since there is no one better in the world at creating programming for Jewish young adults than other Jewish young adults, we do our very best to empower thousands of these young adults every day through our Moishe Houses, where a handful of people (residents) live together and host programming in their shared home weekly. Similarly, through Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW), a growing community beyond our house networks, young adults host programs from their own homes a few times every year.

In August of this year, for example, the residents of Moishe House Baltimore hosted a discussion on Judaism and gender, while across the pond in London there was a sushi-making night. In Sofia, Bulgaria, residents and community members hosted a Havdalah and dinner and in Auckland, New Zealand, a large group of young adults attended Limmud New Zealand together. We give young people around the world the means to build the Jewish lives they create for themselves, in their own homes and for their own friends.

The numbers we are seeing seem to support this effort. In August 2016, more than 4,000 unique young adults around the globe participated in a Moishe House or MHWOW program in their communities. During this timeframe, there was an average of 20 Moishe House or MHWOW programs held every single day throughout the month. Through holiday celebrations, Shabbat dinners, service projects and so much more, our residents, hosts and community members are showing that Judaism can be innovative, engaging, casual, fun and most importantly, accessible.

Every statistic and study shows us that this shouldn’t be happening. More and more young adults are leaving organized religion and aren’t participating in institutional activities. But by taking out the middleman, the actual institution, we’ve opened up a new world for Jewish young adults. They get to define Judaism and Jewish life for themselves, without the constraints of typical avenues of engagement. And every few years, Moishe House residents and MHWOW hosts cycle through. There are constantly new emerging leaders stepping up to the plate to do this important work, meaning we have a consistent stream of fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm from people who love Judaism, embrace being Jewish and want to share that passion with their friends and peers.

My job, and the jobs of everyone at Moishe House, is not to plan programs. Our job is to inspire, empower and enable these leaders to do that for themselves. And that matters because if we, the Jewish community, don’t evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of Jews, no matter what their age and level of involvement, we’re going to lose them. But if we meet them on their level and give them the tools to do the work of forging connections to Jewish traditions and to each other, we will keep them in the fold of the greater Jewish people and strengthen the fabric of our Jewish communities for years to come.

Announcing the Open Dor Project

Posted 11/29/2016 at 06:41PM

Announcing the Open Dor Project: Applications Open Today

Posted on NOVEMBER 14, 2016 - eJewish Philanthropy

open-door-projectBy Rabbi George Wielechowski

The Open Dor Project is a new initiative, inspired and powered by Moishe House, and designed to further the creation and development of emerging Jewish spiritual communities across the country.

Applications open today, November 14th, at www.opendorproject.org, and will be accepted through January 13, 2017.

The idea for the Open Dor Project is, in some ways, a simple one: Create a learning community that helps exceptional spiritual startup leaders receive the mentorship, training, spiritual support, and resources they need to build inspiring Jewish communities that touch hearts and connect lives.

Our team believes that the more fundamental support emerging Jewish spiritual leaders and their innovative communities receive in the early stages, the more they will be able to reach and meaningfully serve the ever-growing population of people around the country that aren’t very likely to walk through the doors of more traditional Jewish institutions.

The project’s main work will be to support cohorts of 3-to-5 entrepreneurial spiritual leaders in their efforts to build new and vibrant models of Jewish spiritual community. Cohorts will be chosen through an open application process, with a new cohort created each year, for the next three years.

The success and leadership of the Jewish Emergent Network gives the Jewish world a solid proof-of-concept when it comes to the inspirational power that new models of spiritual community offer a population seeking creative experiences, vibrant learning, and open and welcoming environments through which to explore their Jewish spirituality and identity. After spending the summer connecting with colleagues at many of the JEN communities about their experiences, and speaking to nearly 20 other rabbis leading similar communities across the country in different stages of development, I’ve come to believe that these creatively unbounded Jewish leaders are building a needed variety of communities of spirit and learning that offer us our best hopes of successfully serving the spiritual and life needs of many modern people.

There are growing populations of seekers around the country who are yearning to build meaningful lives through a Jewish lens and to feel a deep sense of connection and belonging to each other and the Jewish frame of heart and mind. The Open Dor Project strongly believes that one of the best ways to serve these people is through increasing access and the opportunity to engage with the type of creative and inspirational Jewish life that emerging spiritual communities offer.

We invite entrepreneurial Jewish clergy to learn more and apply at www.opendorproject.org.

Rabbi George Wielechowski is the founding director of the Open Dor Project.

The Open Dor Project is inspired and powered by Moishe House.

10 Years Later, Moishe House Remains More Committed Than Ever to the 20-Somethings Building Communities

Posted 11/28/2016 at 02:15PM

Published by Ejewish Philanthrophy

Our home is a center for Jewish life for our friends and neighbors. We're proud of the community we've created. It's inspiring to watch it grow." -Sarah Petty, 27, Moishe House Chicago - Lakeview. Photo courtesy Moishe House.

Our home is a center for Jewish life for our friends and neighbors. We’re proud of the community we’ve created. It’s inspiring to watch it grow.” -Sarah Petty, 27, Moishe House Chicago – Lakeview. Photo courtesy Moishe House.

By David Cygielman

Ten years ago, Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” topped the Billboard charts, the second installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was the highest-grossing movie of the year, Google purchased a quickly growing video-sharing site called YouTube, and I had a full head of hair.

At the same time, a group of Jewish friends living in the San Francisco Bay Area in their early 20s were trying to figure out how to be young professionals and/or graduate students in the “real world” while staying connected to their Judaism. They had positive Jewish experiences growing up and some stayed engaged during college, but as 23-year-olds, they found themselves more than a decade younger and in a completely different phase of life from the local young adult programming being offered and no longer had access Jewish life on their former college campuses. Rather than simply disengaging Jewishly, they hosted a potluck Shabbatdinner with the encouragement of a generous future donor. Seventy-three people showed up, all gathering for their first Shabbat as young, post-college adults. They may have known or not known they were on to something special: the beginning of Moishe House.

Fast forward 10 years and those casual Shabbat gatherings among friends have evolved into a global network of hubs of peer-led Jewish life for young adults, called Moishe Houses. Our work now also includes a packed calendar of Jewish Learning and Leadership Retreats and a rapidly-growing initiative that empowers Jewish young adults to host peer-led programming from their own homes, wherever they live (titled Moishe House Without Walls – MHWOW). In 2015 alone, Moishe House engaged more than 43,000 unique young adults around the world through 7,400+ programs that were created by Jewish young adults for Jewish young adults.

But at Moishe House, it isn’t the numbers that make us proud of the work we’ve done across the globe for the last 10 years; it is the people that have served as Moishe House residents, MHWOW hosts, Jewish Learning Retreat participants and community members at our programs since 2006.

It is the story of Tiffany Harris, a resident of Moishe House Washington D.C. – Columbia Heights, who arrived in Washington, D.C. in January 2014 with a job at the Peace Corps headquarters and her favorite Crossfit Tel Aviv t-shirt. A few weeks later, someone approached her at the gym while she was wearing that same shirt and told her about this place called Moishe House. Less than three years later, Tiffany is not only a resident of Moishe House Washington, D.C. – Columbia Heights, but is also the resident representative on Moishe House’s national board of directors.

It is the two-month backpacking trip to South America that lasted for more than two years for NY native, Evan Rosenstock. In college, Evan was not highly engaged in Jewish life, but while spending time away from home in Buenos Aires, he ended up building one of the first international Moishe Houses. Today, he has developed his skills and now leads programming professionally at JDC Entwine.

From Moishe House’s earliest days 10 years ago, it has been people like Tiffany, Evan and thousands more who have driven Moishe House’s programming, growth and impact. As a result, hundreds of thousands of young adults have discovered and connected to a Judaism that feels real and accessible to them. They are creating Jewish communities that will sustain them throughout their lives.

What has been accomplished over the first 10 years brings us a sense of pride but it is not what drives us. For us to really be successful, we must deepen the experiences, increase the reach and create more ways for young Jewish adults to meaningfully connect to their Judaism. This will happen with more Moishe House houses, stronger leaders, increased learning and most of all, a continued commitment to peer-to-peer engagement. We are continuing to learn and put this learning into action. For example, we have found that immersive learning experiences are more attractive than weekly classes so we are doubling down on our multi-day education offerings.

Yet, we estimate that we are only serving 10 percent of what is possible and look forward to many more monumental footsteps in making the long-term impact we seek. There are cities we are not serving, there are leaders we are not reaching and there are programs we have not yet launched. These Jewish young adults continue the trend of settling down later, being more mobile and diving deeper into a shared economy. As this new phase of emerging adulthood now becomes a longer period than high school and college combined, it is more important than ever to provide the most meaningful and rich Jewish experiences that will form the relationships and rituals to last a lifetime.

This is a time to celebrate but also to reflect on what we have yet to do. While we engaged 33,485 unique participants last year, we still do not have Moishe Houses in Madrid, Nashville, Montreal, Mexico City, or many other key cities. Despite having six different locations in Los Angeles, a young adult might still have to drive 45 minutes in traffic to attend a program. MHWOW has so much to expand its footprint well beyond a few specific cities and a couple of organizations where MHWOW is available to cohorts of alumni. We need to continue to deliver and grow high value programming by engaging Jewish adults through our houses, MHWOW and learning retreat platforms.

Ten years since that first potluck Shabbat dinner in Oakland, Drake’s “One Dance” is topping the Billboard Charts, Finding Dory is the highest-grossing movie of the year, Google is testing self-driving cars and I am officially old enough to have a bad back and life insurance. From Australia to Austria and Beijing to Boston, we now have 94 houses in 22 countries around the globe with many more on the way.

As we quickly learned 10 years ago at Moishe House, leaders in their 20s are one of the best and most valuable sources for ideas, programming and creating their own community – and we must be there to support them.

David Cygielman is Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Moishe House.

An Artisanal Judaism Grows in Brooklyn - The Jewish Week

Posted 10/27/2016 at 10:09PM

Home-based, small-batch programs take root in Williamsburg as millennials search for authenticity.


Staff Writer | Hannah Dreyfus

A recent Torah dedication ceremony at Base BKLN in Williamsburg. Courtesy of Base BKLN.

A recent Torah dedication ceremony at Base BKLN in Williamsburg. Courtesy of Base BKLN.

Gregory Uzelac, a 26-year-old freelance writer living in the increasingly trendy Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, describes Jewish life there as being in the “Jewish start-up age.”

“Young Jews are hungry for places to explore their roots in innovative ways,” said Uzelac, who is currently working on a book exploring why so many young members of the tribe seem to have a negative outlook on their religion. “We’re looking for a truer, deeper Jewish feel.”

His sentiment is amplified by statistics: According to recent data gathered by Brandeis University’s American Jewish Population Project, Kings County has the second largest number of Jewish millennials in the country, with 98,000 Jews in residence between the ages of 18 and 34. (Los Angeles County was first, clocking in at 102,000, according to the study.)

While the large number is bolstered by the fact that the neighborhood is home base for Satmar chasidic Jews, the figures also highlight the recent influx of secular Jews to the neighborhood, according to the project’s director, Len Saxe.

“Our overall numbers suggest that the charedi community is not as large as previously thought,” Saxe said in an e-mail to The Jewish Week. “No doubt, it’s influenced by the influx of secular and less-religious Jews.”

Young Brooklyn Jews seek a 'truer, deeper Jewish feel.' Courtesy of Base BKLN.

Daniel Parmer, a research associate on the project, explained further, writing in an email that: “The 98K figure is based on anyone who identifies as Jewish when asked about religion, so it is all-inclusive and covers the majority of the total Jewish population.”

While the current data represents only a one-year snapshot, the next phase of the study looks at demographic change from 1990 to the present, Parmer said.

Indeed, the Brooklyn Jewish scene is characterized by its diversity, and the desire, by millennials of all stripes, to engage in Judaism authentically, said Uzelac. Those who do so by moving to Brooklyn are drawn by its reputation as a “creative place that shines with individuality and quirk, with culture and character.”

Uzelac, for example, grew up firmly Reform in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. His family belonged to the Reform congregation Rodef Shalom, where he attended day school. As an adult, he moved to Brooklyn to start fresh. “We’re looking to get involved in Jewish life in a new way — whether it’s an outward rebellion or not, we grew up knowing about being Jewish, and now we want to assert that identity in our own way.”

Alyssa Petersel, a 24-year-old writer and social work grad student at NYU, moved to Williamsburg a year ago for similar reasons. Though she grew up going to a Conservative synagogue in Long Island, where she attended Hebrew school for many years, she described her earlier Jewish experiences as a “chore and an expectation.”

“When I moved to Brooklyn, I was surprised and comforted by [being surrounded by] so many other people who had the floating question mark of: ‘What kind of Jew am I?’” she said. Though she no longer identifies with any particular denomination, the Buddhist philosophy she studied as an undergraduate at Northwestern University greatly influenced her desire to reconnect with her spiritual life. “I was coping with a lot of transitions and I wound up seeking out meditation groups and yoga,” she said. “That led me to question whether such a thing existed in Judaism.”

Both Uzelac and Petersel found the authentic Jewish experience they were looking for at Base BKLYN. Launched by Hillel International in June 2015 with funding from UJA-Federation of New York, the program aims to engage millennials by using the home of a rabbi and his wife as the convening point for pluralistic Jewish life. This High Holiday season, activities were in full swing. Joining with the Base DWTN in Lower Manhattan, Base leaders Jon Leener and Avram Mlotek ran “experiential” High Holiday services that pulled in several dozen people. The service included reading various texts to “guide intentions” before shofar blowing, and an in-depth analysis of the Torah portion.

Influx of secular Jews in Kings County seek out tradition in unconventional ways. Courtesy of Base BKLN.

“There’s a weight to this type of Jewish experience,” said Uzelac. “Not in a burdensome way, which I think a lot of young Jews do feel, but in a creative, serious, intellectual way.” In Brooklyn neighborhoods booming with creatives — writers, musicians, artists — this is exactly what the young population wants. “It’s all about questioning and going beyond traditional limits,” he said.

“As opposed to the Jewish people who migrate to Murray Hill for that post-collegiate, finance-dominated setting or the Upper West Side to kind of replenish the ranks of Jewry there,” he added, “young, Brooklyn-dwelling Jewish people are seeking an alternative lifestyle and a community of unique individuals.”

Leener, who opened Base BKLN one year ago on Powers Street between Manhattan and Puerto Rico avenues in Williamsburg, said that the atmosphere of “openness and fluidity” in hip Brooklyn neighborhoods is drawing young Jews.

“Young millennial Jews want to build their own vision of Jewish life,” he said in a phone interview. “Brooklyn is a canvas for that.”

The movement of young Jews away from the traditional synagogue does not surprise him. A March 2014 Pew Research Center study found that millennials are increasingly removed from religious institutions; the results came on the heels of Pew’s 2013 “Portrait of American Jews,” which found that nearly a third of young Jews define themselves as having no religion.

“Young people are looking for informality, a feeling of openness,” said Leener. The common characterization of Jewish millennials as “unengaged” frustrates him. “If there’s anything I’ve seen in this past year, it is that young people desperately want to be engaged in Jewish life and community,” he said. “What was offered before was simply not fulfilling their needs.”

Around the corner from Base, Moishe House Williamsburg, opened in December 2011, is routinely drawing a crowd. The house residents, young Jewish professionals, are responsible for organizing events for other Jewish 20-somethings in exchange for subsidized rent. Founded in 2006, Moishe House is one of the fastest-growing outreach initiatives for Jews in their 20s. Two of its seven New York locations are in the hot Brooklyn neighborhoods of Park Slope and Williamsburg. Since opening, the Brooklyn houses combined have engaged over 12,000 young adults in the area, according to a Moishe House spokesperson.

“Our Brooklyn houses — particularly the Williamsburg house — makes Judaism accessible for the secular crowd,” said Becca Kass, Moishe House’s eastern regional director, and herself a millennial. The houses’ “low barrier of entry” programming caters to a broad audience, particularly in Brooklyn.

A picnic Shabbat lunch hosted by the Moishe House of Park Slope. Courtesy of Moishe House.

“Less traditional Judaism is a great overarching idea for the type of Jewish life people are looking for in Brooklyn. Whether it be social justice work or having a conversation about how Jewish identity plays into the Black Lives Matter movement or helping people in the community, the people who come are looking to connect Judaism to the values in their own lives,” she said.

Emily Colman, one of the residents at the Williamsburg Moishe House, was surprised to find a Jewish outlet that spoke to her so deeply when she moved to the neighborhood four years ago. Growing up in the small town of Bloomington, Ind., she was not accustomed to Judaism being hip.

“In a small town, it’s never the cool thing to be Jewish,” said Colman, 27, who attended a small Reform synagogue growing up. Still, when she moved to New York, she started searching for the Jewish community she felt she had lost. “I would go to every single 20-something meetup in all the different synagogues, but I didn’t find something that resonated.”

When she moved to Brooklyn, she started to attend Moishe House events and quickly became heavily involved. Today, as a resident, she helps organize and run seven events a month for like-minded young Jews in the neighborhood.

“I’m continually surprised by the thirst for knowledge I see among my peers,” she said. “We’re hungry for tradition, but in an untraditional way.”

As attendance at events continues to grow, Colman reflected on the change. “If I were to have one major takeaway from the last few years it would be this: Where you can’t find what you’re looking for, build it. If you feel disconnected from your religion, create what you want to see.” 

Peer-to-peer community building - Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

Posted 10/27/2016 at 01:10AM

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 10:00 am

GRAHAM PAUL | Staff Writer | 

More than 60 young Jewish professionals gathered in the Moishe House Phoenix sukkah this past weekend to celebrate Sukkot together, one of the many social events Moishe House hosts each month for Jews in their early career years out of college. Although there can often be a disconnect in Jewish participation when college students graduate and enter their careers, Moishe House Phoenix has helped fill that void since 2013.

Moishe House, which was founded in 2006 in Oakland, California, establishes peer-led, home-based programming for Jewish adults ages 21-30. There are currently 93 Moishe Houses in 21 countries.

Moishe House Phoenix connects and strengthens the relationships between young Jewish adults as it regularly sees 100 or more attendees at their gatherings. For instance, more than 100 young professionals in their 20s gathered at the local house on Sept. 23 for a Shabbat dinner celebrating Moishe House’s 10th Anniversary Global Shabbat, joining the celebration with other Moishe Houses around the world.

“The residents of Moishe House Phoenix are phenomenal at engaging their community members through our peer-to-peer model,” said Jason Boschan, Moishe House director of marketing and communications, via email. “Like many of our houses and residents around the world, Moishe House Phoenix has drawn this type of attendance for large-scale programs over the past several years. Their peers are excited to participate and the residents continue to deliver time and time again.”

Moishe House Phoenix is currently participating in the international 2016 WE ARE campaign that enables Moishe House residents and community members to raise support and give back to their community. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a matching gift partner and is contributing $2 for every $1 donated for new or increased gifts. The campaign ends at the end of October. To donate, visit bit.ly/MoisheHouse2016.

Sponsors of the local house include the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, The Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation, Young Jewish Funders of Arizona and Robyn Schneider, in honor of Mona and Sol z”l Crandell from their grandchildren. It is also supported by the Federation’s NowGen Giving Circle and Sheila Schwartz.

Second round of residents

Moishe House chapters are started by a group of three to five carefully selected leaders who plan and implement 60 or more programs a year for their friends and friends’ friends, said Boschan. The residents live together, receive a rent subsidy and a monthly stipend to ensure they are able to plan several events a month, and serve as a connection to other Jews in the local community.

Most Moishe House residents live in the house for one to three years and then new residents replace them. This past year, Moishe House Phoenix welcomed four new residents: Josh Traulsen, Jacob Khazanovich, Chase Alyeshmerni and, the first female resident, Haley Hearst.

Before moving into Moishe House Phoenix, Josh Traulsen served on the Moishe House board. He is the director of student life for Hillel at Arizona State University, and graduated from ASU with a degree in nonprofit management and special events management. The Phoenix native has held positions with and engaged in many Jewish organizations in the Valley, such as serving as president of the Temple Kol Ami’s NFTY group (KATY) for two years in high school, a counselor at Camp Daisy & Harry Stein and as director of children, youth and family for the East Valley JCC. “I had been on the board of Moishe house for a few months living independently of Moishe House,” Traulsen said. When a spot opened, “I jumped at the opportunity to become a Moishe House resident.”

Jacob Khazanovich, also known as Jake Khaz, moved into Moishe House over the summer. He graduated from ASU in 2015 and is currently working as an engineer at a medical device company in Scottsdale. Khaz was heavily involved in Jewish programs in Arizona growing up, including experience in college with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“I really liked how new Moishe House residents are gradually phased in,” he said about his experience.

“I was moved in after the other residents had about four months of experience hosting events and running the Moishe House, and the next resident was moved in after I had four months of adjusting to the new environment.”

Chase Alyeshmerni, another ASU graduate, helps franchise businesses with marketing and growing their digital presence online.

“With a passion for Jewish development in the community and aligning Moishe House strategically with the right partners to grow this organization, I am energized by the thought of watching our community flourish,” he said on the Moishe House website.  

Haley Hearst recently moved to Phoenix from Texas. She involved herself in Jewish programs and organizations where she grew up in Omaha, and recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to support and connect other young adults in the Phoenix area to a great, Jewish young professional community and network,” she wrote on the Moishe House website.

A variety of programs

Although its name is Moishe House Phoenix, the house is actually located in the heart of Scottsdale. It has a huge backyard, pool, barbecue and a tennis court. For Sukkot, residents and volunteers built a giant sukkah where Moishe House threw a party on Oct. 22.

“This is the only event we charge for each year because we have a huge attendance and people are eager to enjoy the food and drinks under the sukkah we work hard to prepare each year,” Traulsen said. “ For every other event, we host it free to ensure everyone can afford our planned events.”

The demand for an event-planning organization for young Jewish adults is evident as Traulsen discussed that “we oftentimes fit this dining table with close to a hundred people for Shabbat dinners and other events.”

It also serves as a strong networking and community building venue for those seeking business partners, or simply new friends.

The national Moishe House encourages each chapter to focus on four types of events as part of their program calendar. Each month the Moishe House residents are required to host five or six events to ensure a stable schedule of programs so participants can maintain their involvement.

Jewish learning is a focus at many of their events. They are involved in community events such as Chai Tech, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Business & Professional Group, and often invite local rabbis to speak at events. Moishe House also focuses on Jewish holidays and traditions by hosting regular Shabbat dinners and events for the major holidays, such as a break-fast after Yom Kippur, building the sukkah, dinner in the sukkah and a Simchat Torah celebration.

Another focus is on “Repairing the World.” Moishe House residents are expected to host or facilitate events aiding others in the community, such as volunteering to give blood at the American Red Cross, working at a soup kitchen or volunteering at a homeless shelter, according to Boschan.

Lastly, Moishe House also ensures many social events are planned. The local  Moishe House plans events such as ice skating, dance nights, “Beer and Boardgames,” barbecues, pool parties and countless other social events for local Jewish adults to socialize and make new connections with their Jewish community.

Looking toward the future, the vision for Moishe House is to be the global leader of pluralistic Jewish life for adults in their 20s, Boschan said.

“We hope to continue to facilitate a wide range of experiences, so that they have the leadership, knowledge and community to enrich their Jewish journeys.”

To learn about upcoming programs, visit moishehouse.org/houses/phoenixor the Moishe House Phoenix  page on Facebook.

Moishe House Marks 10-Year Anniversary Of Engaging Young Jews - Detroit Jewish News

Posted 10/19/2016 at 08:39PM

Friends and members of Detroit City Moishe House and Moishe House Royal Oak celebrate Shabbat and the 10th anniversary of Moishe House

Friends and members of Detroit City Moishe House and Moishe House Royal Oak celebrate Shabbat and the 10th anniversary of Moishe House

Detroit City Moishe House hosted 40 young Jewish professionals for Shabbat dinner Friday, Sept. 23, featuring food from Slows barbecue, Detroit Vegan Soul, Bucharest, Leo’s Coney Island, Sister Pie, Star Bakery and Chef Cari Kosher Catering. As if the great food wasn’t cause enough for celebration, the gathering also was part of the Moishe House Global Shabbat.

Fueled by enormous demand for peer-led, home-based programming from young adults and their Jewish communities, Moishe House has become the global leader of Jewish life for young adults.

Metro Detroit is home to two Moishe Houses: The Detroit City Moishe House in Indian Village is a hub for young Jewish professionals to explore the amazing people and places throughout Detroit. MoHoRO (Moishe House Royal Oak) MoHoRO’s goal is to create a sense of Jewish community in Royal Oak and Metro Detroit that is currently missing for young professionals. Both of the houses provide programming and community for Jews in their 20s.

In honor of Moishe House’s 10th anniversary worldwide, more than 80 houses from Michigan to Argentina to Ukraine shared dinner, drinks and prayers to honor Shabbat and the Moishe House community that’s been built together.

Members of Moishe House Royal Oak joined in the Sept. 23 celebration.

Detroit City Moishe House is looking for new roommates! If you’re between ages 22 and 32 and are interested in planning fun, meaningful programs for your peers in Detroit, email [email protected] Check out future events at facebook.com/detroitcitymh. Also check Facebook for Moishe House Royal Oak.

Young Jewish adults find ‘meaningful,’ if not traditional, ways to celebrate Yom Kippur - The Seattle Times

Posted 10/11/2016 at 06:02PM

Originally published October 11, 2016 at 9:11 am Updated October 11, 2016 at 9:20 am

The Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish year, begins at sundown Tuesday. For some people, avoiding work and technology as prescribed is simply impractical, but they embrace the spirit of the day in other ways.

By Kennedy Wirth
The Seattle Times staff reporter

Yom Kippur is a very personal celebration for many Jewish people, and some young Jewish adults have adopted their own ways of observing the Day of Atonement.

This year the holiday will be celebrated from sunset Tuesday through Wednesday night. It is the holiest day of the Jewish year, marked on the 10th day of the Jewish month Tishrei. Traditionally, Yom Kippur is observed by refraining from work, participating in a 25-hour fast and attending multiple synagogue services. Through fasting and prayer, Jewish people repent their sins of the past year.

Tanya Fink, 25, is a resident of Seattle’s Moishe house, which hosts events for young Jewish professionals. She identifies as Reform Jewish and describes her faith as a different form of traditional Orthodox Judaism.

“The trend for younger Jews is taking their own personal approach to Yom Kippur,” Fink said. “ … We have jobs and school that we can’t always get out of so it puts pressure on us to find meaningful ways to celebrate it in a personal way.”

Fink reflects on her mistakes and relationships over the past year. She also thinks about social-justice issues and how she can do her part to encourage change in the coming year.

“I’m not as concerned with spending the whole day in synagogue — that’s not as meaningful for me,” Fink said. “The words that come out of my mouth don’t have to be the exact Hebrew words that my ancestors said.”

In the 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur, Fink subscribes to a website called “Do You 10Q” that sends her a question to reflect upon each day. A big part of her reflection during Yom Kippur stems from the website’s questions: How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you?

Fink also participates in Tashlich, which means to “cast off” in Hebrew. She does this anytime between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Those who do this toss bread, like Fink did last year in Lake Washington, or bird seed into a body of water to physically represent casting off regrets. She also fasts and tries to wear white, which is a traditional custom.

“The fast is definitely meaningful to me. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself and connects you with all Jewish people around the world,” Fink said.

For busy college students, it can be difficult to take off the entire day. Lee Segal, 20, is a junior at the University of Washington and identifies as Reform Jewish. She participates in the fast and goes to synagogue services for the beginning and end of the holiday.

“Technically, you’re not supposed to use technology or drive, you’re only supposed to sit and think all day, but as a student I can’t do that,” Segal said.

Every year, she reflects by writing down three things she is most sorry for and how she can change them. This is her way of asking for forgiveness and improving in the new year.

Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue in Seattle offers daily reflection exercises on its website and encourages young Jewish people to think about what is important this time of year.

“I think that younger people and younger generations are looking for a refreshed meaning in the holidays and not (just) celebrating them because that’s what’s always been done,” said Rachel Sofferin, interim executive director at Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue.

Sofferin encourages mindful eating and journaling as a good place to begin to find meaning in the holiday.

There is a strong community focus on Yom Kippur. Young adults with busy schedules are encouraged to spend time with their community and pray or reflect together. With a number of services offered throughout the day, everyone is encouraged to attend synagogue when they can.

“It is the one holiday of the year where it is really a community holiday,” said Carol Benedick, executive director at Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle. “If there are young people that can’t make it to the synagogue, then they find a group because it isn’t about being alone.”

Not all young Jewish adults stray from tradition. Nathan Wasserman, 24, also lives in Seattle’s Moishe House and identifies as modern Orthodox Jewish. Wasserman describes his celebration of the holiday as very traditional, which is how he grew up celebrating. He fasts and attends synagogue services throughout the day. He also sticks to tradition by taking the day off from work, refraining from wearing leather, washing and using lotions or perfumes as not to show wealth.

“It’s the single most important day on the Jewish calendar,” Wasserman said. “It’s about asking for forgiveness.”

The Jewish Educator: The Owner of Jewish Knowledge?

Posted 10/07/2016 at 02:36PM

45 residents from 20 houses and 18 countries met at the International Resident Conference to gather, learn and celebrate together in Prague, Czech Republic #Moishe10

45 residents from 20 houses and 18 countries met at the International Resident Conference to gather, learn and celebrate together in Prague, Czech Republic #Moishe10

By Hannah Gaventa

I have always struggled with the balance between education and facilitation. When we educate about an idea or concept, what gives us the right to impose a message or agenda on our learners? Who determines whether what we have to say is interesting, useful or important?

In my role as International Director of Jewish Education at Moishe House, I’ve noticed that a predominant trend with Moishe House residents and community members around the world is an ever-present thirst to explore Judaism and their Jewish heritage, develop a complex and multi-faceted Jewish identity and discover how or what role Judaism has to play in their lives. However, they are not interested in someone telling them what their identity should look like, or which parts of Judaism they should be engaging with on a regular basis. In my experience, Jewish young adults want to feel empowered to create their own Jewish spaces and develop their own creative Jewish programming on topics they feel passionate about that relate to their lives.

However, I’ve often found that leaders and educators shy away from losing their position as the “omniscient educator” who owns the wisdom and knowledge. It is far easier to have an agenda, an aim for a lesson, or produce a set of clear objectives for the learner. Any deviation from the topic can cause panic and dismay in the best of educators. The idea of providing an open space for the learner, where there are no right and wrong answers for the lesson, is threatening to the authority of the educator. The prospect of losing this power and authority can be frightening.

I believe this ‘loss’ can allow for the greater growth of a learner, and rather becomes a leveler, which can only promote the confidence and strength of the learner. At the same time, this enables the educator to have the necessary humility and flexibility vital for the role.

With the education team at Moishe House, together with my colleagues Tanya Zaytseva and Rabbi Brad Greenstein, I aim to build the capacity of our residents and provide them with multiple opportunities to question and develop independently, whilst maintaining a mentoring and supportive relationship. This balance enables me to provide an educational atmosphere where questions are encouraged and critical thinking is celebrated. I certainly don’t have all the answers, and by giving away some of my authority, I too can become the learner in my interactions with Moishe House residents.

When I first met Balint, a resident of Moishe House Budapest, he told me ”I just have so many questions.” Balint first started to discover his Judaism through Birthright, and soon became involved with the Jewish community of Budapest, moving into Moishe House in February 2016. Since moving into Moishe House, Balint found a space to explore the answers to some of his questions and to continue to navigate his Jewish journey. Since October, Balint and Moishe House Budapest have run a diverse range of Jewish learning programmes in their house such as Kabbalat Shabbat services, challah baking, a conversation about women in Yiddish literature and even a session about Brit Mila.

In order to make these informed decisions to choose our own Jewish paths, we need to have the skills to be able to research our questions as well as the basic knowledge to understand and interpret the answers. At Moishe House, we always learn for the sake of doing, and our residents who are passionate about building community are the ones who are going to be change makers in both the Jewish and wider world.

When we run an International Jewish Learning Retreat, we create a space for our participants to explore Judaism, push the boundaries, learn new skills and share with each other the challenges they face in their community building. In May, we hosted a Jewish Learning Retreat in Brussels, just a couple of months after the terrible attacks in the city. To see 30 young people from 12 cities come together just to learn more about the festival of Shavuot and explore Social Change initiatives through a Jewish lens, was truly inspiring.

Nathaniel from Mumbai participated in our Shavuot and Social Change Jewish Learning Retreat, having spent a number of months at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Learning, one of our partner organisations. At Pardes, Nathaniel had been developing his Jewish learning skills, and during our Retreat, we were able to give him the opportunity to facilitate a Jewish learning session for the first time ever for his peers. Nathaniel led a fascinating workshop exploring the laws around poverty and Shavuot, incorporating many stories of his life growing up in India. Nathaniel expressed his gratitude to Moishe House for giving him this opportunity, and told us how excited he was to “keep ideas flowing” between the global community of participants.

I hope to be able to provide Moishe House residents with the confidence to make their own educated choices, which can only have a positive impact on their lives and communities. The education team is there only to support the residents and community members as they progress on their Jewish journey. And we want to pass on the Jewish knowledge and ‘authority’ to all of our young adults. There is no reason why each and every Jewish young adult can be the owner of their Jewish knowledge!

Hannah Gaventa, Moishe House’s International Director of Jewish Education, can be reached at [email protected]

Moishe House: Answer the Shofar’s Text Message - Atlanta Jewish Times

Posted 10/07/2016 at 02:34PM

BY OCTOBER 5, 2016

Moishe House is 10 years old.

Guest Column by the residents of Moishe House Atlanta-Toco Hills and Moishe House Atlanta-Inman Park

Whether to announce the new moon, the new year or a calling together of people, the shofar was our cellphone in the biblical age.

Each blast is an SMS, Facebook message, BBM or iMessage from the Rambam, telling us to “arise, you who are fast asleep, and awaken, you who slumber.”

The shofar blowing is the ultimate call to action. With every blow, the breath should permeate your body, ridding your mind of “empty, futile pursuits” and forcing you to “search your deeds, repent and be mindful of G-d.”

Brené Brown quotes President Theodore Roosevelt early in her book, “Daring Greatly”: “It is not the critic who counts, not the person who points out how the strong man stumbles. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who knows enthusiasms, the great devotions … who at best know in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Rosh Hashanah teaches us to show up in the arena, be fully present and make ourselves vulnerable in an effort to know “great enthusiasms.” The days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. We encourage you to truly make these days and all the days of 5777 awe-full.

Say yes to events throughout the community. Donate to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Celebrate Shabbat. Join a sports league. Lie on the grass at Piedmont Park. Skip down the BeltLine. Volunteer with VIA. Grant yourself a good and sweet new year.

When the shofar blows this holiday, allow yourself to receive that SMS and let it be your call to action. “Arise” with the Rambam. “Rise up” with “Hamilton.” “Let’s do it” with Home Depot. “Hey! Oh! Let’s go!” with the Ramones. “Seize the day” with the “Newsies.”

Strive valiantly through Atlanta. We do not need you to mar your face with dust, sweat and blood, but with smiles, accomplishment and maybe some hummus residue.

Show up in the arena that is the Atlanta Jewish community and fail, achieve, show great devotions and do so by daring greatly. Bite into your nonmetaphorical, nondigital apple as you listen to the shofar this year and arise.

The seven of us Atlanta Moishe House residents welcome all Jewish twentysomethings in the greater Atlanta community to be present in Jewish life all year long. Whether through celebrations of Jewish holidays, participation in a community service event that works to better our community, a Jewish learning program or one of the 158 total programs we hold annually, “awaken, you who slumber.”

The Wandering Jews of Moishe House - European Jewish Magazine (JEU)

Posted 09/30/2016 at 01:22PM

Ever heard of Moishe House? Sophie, a Paris MoHo-resident, shares her thoughts on this peer-focused, alternative community initiative for young Jewish adults, that's becoming a global phenomenon.

Last weekend a rather odd bunch of folks gathered in a Czech thermal spa.

In the remote and woody countryside close to Prague, European Jewry was plotting. On the agenda was the future of the Moishe House organisation, an American-based nonprofit which creates innovative spaces for young Jewish leaders to create their community, to open their Jewish homes to strangers, and spread Jewish knowledge and values.

Over the weekend, the Moishe House residents were carefully trained to better their skills in accomplishing this great mission: in between the coffee breaks, they learned about conflict-resolution and career-building in participative sessions.

On Friday eve, three different sabbatical activities were offered.

While a pedagogical kabbalat shabbat was held, explaining the secrets of the Siddur, others were davening Carlebach-style in the conference room. Finally, those who wanted to experience something new were guided into a meditation walk in the woods with Inbar Amir, an Israeli educator.




And indeed, embracing Jewish diversity is one of the Moishe House’s fortes, and one of the few reasons I’m proud to be part of it.

The Moishe House is a unique place, in which I don't have to feel schizophrenic for being a tradition-oriented Jew while being a feminist and LGBT rights activist. I feel that the Moishe House allows us to just be ourselves as Jews. As young community leaders, we are given a blank space: we get to decide how we define and shape our Jewish identity outside of the boxes. 'Come as you are’, like McDonald's. (But without the cheese on top of the burger.)

Many Jewish organisations, from Chabad to Moishe House, pride themselves on being ‘open to all’.

And in a certain sense they are: you can walk into a Chabad shul as well as a Moishe House dinner whatever your background and affiliation. But let’s not delude ourselves: the decisions a given organisation makes on certain key issues determines what segment of the population it will target - and, reciprocally, alienate.

By deciding to leave kashrut as optional for Moishe House residents, by hosting both-gender activities, and by encouraging interfaith or pro-LGBT activities,Moishe House is targeting a rather secular part of Jewish population.

And I personally don't believe this ought to be kept a secret.

Whether those choices will alienate the Orthodox depends on their own values. But it also depends on us - on our own ability to create a safe space for them, in which they don't feel pressured to absolutely conform to secular expectations. As a young person finding my path within Judaism, I remember being infuriated by the paternalistic discourses of some well-meaning Orthodox Jews for whom ‘open to all’ meant ‘accepting to work on the spiritual bettering of our Jewish brethren in whatever state of depravity they are’. Let us not do the same to the more conservative members of our community.

The Moishe House invests in 22-32 year-olds for a reason.

First, I would argue that it's easier to deal with people when they're through with puberty. Second, the Moishe House people saw that there was a gap that needed filling.

After college, young Jews are no longer pampered by all those Jewish organisations on campus, and are rarely part of a Jewish community or organisation. Let’s face it, many of us in the West struggle to find exciting ways to engage with our Jewish heritage. This is where Moishe House comes into the picture: by providing a Do-It-Yourself, non-denominational hub dedicated to youth, which can provide a fertile soil for Jewish life to naturally grow from.




And after more than 10 years, those efforts are paying off.

In Europe, the first Moishe Houses were opened in the former Soviet Union, where the need for innovative Jewish programmes was felt the most. The new generation, which had grown up in a society in which religious education was prohibited, was showing interest in its Jewish heritage, but didn’t have many opportunities for learning and growth. Rather than telling that generation to wait [in order] to be taught by Orthodox envoys, Moishe House gave them the possibility to start from scratch and shape their own community. The reason why Moishe House trusts young adults might be because it was founded by some, and is still run by them.


Moishe House was founded in 2006 by four 20-somethings hosting Shabbat dinners in Oakland, California for their friends and networks.


In Paris, although the historical context is rather different, the key to Moishe's house success might not be any different.

Many members of my generation, in their 20s and 30s, often feel estranged from the larger Jewish community and its outdated ways of approaching Judaism which doesn't speak to them, from Rabbis rebuking their flock for assimilation, to ‘dress like a tsinut princess’ parties.

However, this age group is a crucial one to address: they are the very future of the Jewish community. Grassroots projects such as the Moishe House, when carried out by energetic and committed individuals, can have a considerable impact. They can bring back to Jewish life those who we will never meet in a shul, but can find other ways to connect with their Jewish self.

Moishe House is not a one-theme organisation

Rather, it’s a platform, or a meeting spot, where many different voices get to be heard: what the New York Times once called ‘a four bedroom kibbutz‘.

Some activities are purely social — we drink like Hasidim but study like Litvakim - like sport classes (check out our Maccabi run in Paris!). We also hold many cultural events, lectures, debates, Jewish cooking classes...

Others have a more activist bent. Last month, our house held a Bollywood party with Ezra, an organisation which encourages younger members of the community to take care of the older ones, establishing a bond between generations and providing care and affection to lonely elders.




The stereotype of two Jews with three opinions is more than a joke, it permeates everything that is Jewish, from the Talmud to gefilte fish recipes. If there is something essential to Judaism, that is dialogue.

The Moishe Houses strive to be in the image of the Jewish community itself: diverse, disparate, colourful; and to provide a safe space for all: from Orthodox-observant Jews to members of the LGBT community, non-Jews or non-affiliated Jews.

In my opinion what a Moishe House should do is provide young individuals with meaningful Jewish experiences that would challenge their assumptions about‘what Judaism is’. This, I would also argue, involves getting acquainted with non-Jewish ideas and activities, as I believe that it is healthy and necessary for the young Jewish community to broaden its horizons. Judaism is not only a dialogue within itself, but also a dialogue with the world. Additionally, I believe in a Moishe House that is also a convivial space where one can simply enjoy oneself and meet up with friends and make new ones.

I would feel we have fulfilled our mission if program participants walked out of our home having met people and ideas they would not have encountered otherwise. I would like them to feel that they have somehow come closer to the Jewish community and to their own Jewish identity, whichever shape this takes for them. I would like us to have aroused their curiosity about Judaism and their relationship to it. Overall, I want the participants to enjoy their coming to the Moishe House, which should first and foremost be a friendly place where all can feel at home and a showcase of all that Judaism and the Jewish community have to offer.

Come and meet us! There's certainly a Moishe House near you. If not, then open one! (Get in touch with Adam: [email protected])

Sophie Bigot-Goldblum is a Paideia and Heidelberg alumna. She holds an MA from Hebrew University, and is currently a Moishe House resident in Paris.

Young Jewish adults in Seattle find a home and community at Moishe House - Seattle Jewish Times

Posted 09/19/2016 at 01:16PM

Moishe House helps 20-somethings feel connected to each other and their Jewish faith.


Seattle Times staff reporter
When Raphael Ginsburg, 23, moved to Seattle in January, he knew only one person in the city. Eight months later, he feels like he’s part of the Seattle community, thanks to Moishe House.

Knowing there were other young Jewish professionals here who shared his experiences helped make his transition easier.

“That was a big deal, having that instant community, that instant group of friends that I can associate with,” said Ginsburg, who moved into Moishe House after a friend put him in contact with a fellow University of Maryland graduate who was living in the house.

Global Shabbat, Moishe House
7:30-10:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, Seattle Moishe House, 3238 14th Ave W., Seattle (moishehouse.org/houses/seattle).

Moishe House is an international nonprofit organization that aims to help young Jewish adults feel connected with their communities and traditions. The seed for the organization was planted in 2006 by four housemates in Oakland, Calif., who would occasionally invite their friends over for Shabbat dinners on Fridays. According to director of marketing and communications Jason Boschan, their first dinner was attended by 72 people. Ten years later, Moishe House has 89 houses in 21 countries. The Seattle Moishe House, the 77th location, opened last September.

Those who would like to become residents may either apply to join an existing house or establish a new one. The houses themselves, which have three to five residents, are subsidized by the organization; in return, residents must host five to seven events each month to engage the local Jewish community. These events may be of a secular nature — yoga sessions and outdoor excursions appear regularly on Seattle Moishe House’scalendar — but they may also be in observance of holidays such as Shavuot, the harvest festival, and Tu B’Av, similar to Valentine’s Day. On Sept. 23, all 89 Moishe Houses will host a Shabbat dinner to celebrate Moishe House’s 10th anniversary.

Seattle Moishe House’s first event in August was a food-culture night where the residents discussed the role of fermented foods in Jewish culture. Like all Moishe House events, it was a lively affair, attended by about 25 visitors — less than half as many as a typical Shabbat dinner turnout, but enough people to fill the living room. Residents caught up with their friends from outside the house, making plans for after the event; one guest talked about his recent trip to Israel. Meanwhile, Ginsburg shared his assortment of self-brewed beers while housemate Ze’ev Gebler, 25, chopped up cabbage for a lecture on how to pickle vegetables.

Gebler is one of the more recent additions to the house, having joined in July. He moved to Seattle eight months ago from the Boston area, where his friends in the Boston Moishe House spoke highly of the experience. Gebler said that if Seattle — which had a Jewish population of 63,400 in 2014, according to a survey by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle — hadn’t already had a Moishe House, he would have started the chapter himself.

“I can speak as someone who came into an event just as a community member because I wanted to tap into a community,” Gebler said. “It was just a very genuine energy […] people that were excited to put on events and people that were happy to have this opportunity, and that’s contagious.”

Moishe House’s residents value the experience for two reasons. The first is simple and relatable: moving to a new city is a momentous transition, and being able to move into a pre-existing community provides a support system. Tanya Fink, 24, was one of Seattle Moishe House’s first residents.

“It’s been really amazing to see how people have taken advantage of it, brought their friends, and spread the word,” Fink said. “I think that’s how we’ve reached 400 [Facebook] likes and 60 people at a Shabbat dinner, because we’re really filling a need specifically for young Jews moving to cities.”

The second reason is more complicated. Boschan explained that Jewish communities invest in the family unit through institutions such as Hebrew schools and Hillel Houses. This, Boschan says, inadvertently creates a “void” where Jewish people between childhood and parenthood “become a bit disconnected from the Jewish world” — and it’s why Moishe House focuses on young adults.

“Moishe House really helps fill that gap for young adults in their twenties,” Boschan said.

It also helps fill the gap for newcomers of all ages to the community. Moshe (Jeff) Admon, 39, moved to Seattle earlier in the summer to establish his own law firm. Admon, an Israeli American, recalled a “roaming Moishe House” at the University of Arizona, where he graduated from law school in 2015. Upon arriving in Seattle, he checked to see if there was a Moishe House. His visit to the Seattle Moishe House for the food-culture night was his first, and he intends to go to more events.

“It’s just a warm and welcoming community from what I’ve gathered in the last two hours of being here,” Admon said. “It’s a way to bring people together in an age where it’s very difficult to connect.”



Moishe House Matures in Atlanta and Beyond - Atlanta Jewish Times

Posted 09/14/2016 at 03:29PM


Moishe House turns 10 on Friday, Sept. 23.

An international phenomenon that began in 2006 when four young Jewish adults in Oakland, Calif., began hosting Shabbat dinners for their friends, Moishe House now has 91 houses in 21 countries. Recent additions include Montevideo, Uruguay; Be’er Sheva, Israel; St. Louis; Mannheim, Germany; and a third site in Boston.

Houses in the works include Cincinnati; South Palm Beach and Boca Raton, Fla.; and White Plains, N.Y.

Lander Gold, the senior director of advancement and philanthropic partnerships, said at least 95 houses are expected by year’s end.

Inman Park Moishe House residents indulge in a group hug.

Inman Park Moishe House residents Sarah Lashinsky, Sammy Rosenbaum and Jeremy Katz indulge in a group hug.

Demand for houses is particularly strong in countries that have experienced massive persecution, such as the former Soviet Union and Hungary, where the young population is experiencing a Jewish renewal, Gold said.

In many cases young Jews are learning about their faith for the first time and have a strong thirst for that knowledge. In Paris and Brussels, they are experiencing anti-Semitism but do not want to leave. Community growth and a desire for connection are taking hold in areas such as Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, and Shanghai and Beijing, China.

In an age when the organized Jewish community is grasping for ways to engage young adults, Moishe House brings them together organically on their own terms.

Each house is home to three to five young Jewish adults ages 22 to 30 who have outreach and networking skills. Creativity, social conscience and a high level of community activism are also desirable qualities for residents.

Locations for houses are vetted as carefully as the residents. A home environment with ample gathering space, easy accessibility and individual living space for each resident is required.

In exchange for subsidized living in a desirable location with a highly social atmosphere, residents conceive, plan, publicize and host monthly religious, social, educational, cultural and community service programs for their friends, peers and greater social networks.

Events range from Havdalah dessert gatherings and Passover seders to speakers, resident birthday parties and community service days. The residents bring together their Jewish friends and those on the periphery of Jewish life.

House residents become more engaged in the Jewish community while learning leadership skills on top of the day-to-day responsibilities of their jobs, lives and families.

Atlanta’s first Moishe House opened in Toco Hills three years ago. It was followed by an Inman Park location, and plans are moving ahead for a third house by year’s end.

Local engagement has been high.  Moishe House events across both houses drew a total attendance of 2,889 and 1,166 unique participants for 168 programs in 2015, and 1,221 people attended 76 programs in the first half of 2016.

Each house holds five to seven programs per month. The Toco location was just recognized as the international Moishe House of the month for its programming and participation.


Toco Hills Moishe House residents host a blood drive.

Support for a new Moishe House is determined in one of two ways, Gold said.

The first: An area with a significant young Jewish population is identified and contacted to investigate feasibility and gauge interest. Gold said Moishe House usually seeks a community with 1,000 to 1,500 Jewish adults ages 22 to 30.

The organization then partners with local individual supporters and funding partners such as the Jewish Federation, local foundations and donor-advised funds.

“It is usually pretty clear if a community can support and sustain one or more Moishe Houses,” Gold said, adding that Atlanta probably can sustain four.

The second method for opening a Moishe House is through the efforts of potential participants. “We are usually approached for a new location. We are very much demand-driven by the young adult Jewish population,” Gold said. “We have an open application on the Moishe House website for a new house to be considered in a community. We can have a handful, up to 30 applications per week. The applications are always from young adults. Once the desire for a house is established, we then work to secure the funds and move forward.”

For the general community, Moishe House International is piloting a League of Champions in Atlanta, New York, San Diego and Chicago to garner support for houses. Two to four area leaders are identified, each pledging a minimum of $1,000, and they then engage other supporters and community activists.

A minimum of $20,000 must be secured the first year to move ahead with a location. The goal is to cover 75 percent of house expenses ($90,000) through such champions.

Moishe House provides a bridge from college life and Hillel or Chabad to the established adult Jewish community. So far in 2016, Moishe House has held more than 30 peer-led and national Jewish learning and leadership retreats for present and former participants.

“We want to complement a community’s young Jewish population,” Gold said, noting the effectiveness of engagement through personal invitations and peer-to-peer contact. He said, “It is a low barrier entry to the community, and Moishe House is providing that entry point.”

Shabbat Marks Decade of Moishe

Atlanta’s two Moishe House locations will join the other 89 houses around the world in a global Shabbat celebration of the organization’s 10th anniversary Friday night, Sept. 23.

Each Moishe House is a place for young Jewish adults to come together for educational, religious, social and community action programs each month. Since the first house opened in California in 2006, Moishe House has spread to 21 countries.

The Inman Park and Toco Hills locations will hold a combined commemoration at 8 p.m. at the new Toco Hills Moishe House on Biltmore Drive.

During the celebration, the Moishe House story will be told, and participants around the world will join in. The entire Atlanta Jewish community is welcome to attend.

To get more details or to RSVP, contact Lander Gold at [email protected] or 202-779-9190.

Empowering Young Adults to Make the World a Better Place

Posted 09/08/2016 at 01:28PM

Empowering Young Adults to Make the World a Better Place

Posted on SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 Written by  

 (Wire the Wise): Sandra, a wise, learns from Keren, a wired, how to manage her cellular account at our event in Manhattan, New York City.

(Wire the Wise): Sandra, a wise, learns from Keren, a wired, how to manage her cellular account at our event in Manhattan, New York City.

On September 15, Repair the World, and more than 30 partners in Jewish service, social justice, leadership development, and communal engagement, will convene Service Matters: A Summit on Jewish Service. The nearly 200 expected participants who help engage people, especially Jewish millennials, in authentic Jewish service will uncover existing breakthroughs and generate new ideas to make meaningful service a central part of American Jewish life.

In advance of the Summit – and to spark conversation – three Service Matterspartnersare sharing service initiatives that are integral to their Jewish engagement efforts, or that will be field tested. By highlighting lessons learned, successes, andchallenges, these pieces offer valuable insights for anyone looking to engage Jewish young adults in meaningful action toward social change.


By David Cygielman

The concept of a “service project” is one that is incredibly familiar to most Millennials from their years of school and youth involvement. From food drives in middle school to volunteering at homeless shelters with friends for high school volunteer hours, today’s millenials have grown up in a culture of giving back to the community. But in a typical young adults’ daily life today, they’re far less likely to encounter opportunities for actual service work. What they do see, though, are daily social media campaigns, primarily focused on crowdfunding campaigns (Ice Bucket challenge, charity walks, Races, etc.) with stories and videos of the do-good agencies. The goal for Moishe House is to create dynamic ways for young adults to participate more actively in meaningful service to support their their friends and communities, in addition to the participation in online campaigns. As Moishe House has grown globally and we have increased our focus on service-oriented work, one thing is abundantly clear: young adults care about important societal issues and are motivated to engage with the community and to use their skills to help others.

At Moishe House, we have always supported residents who pursue volunteerism and acts of tikkun olam. In fact, we require it as part of our model. Moishe House invests in dynamic Jewish young adults by providing them with the tools and resources they need to plan and execute service-oriented programs in their communities, in addition to educational, social and holiday and culture-related programming. We do not prescribe exactly what initiatives to participate in or where to devote their energy and attention;that has never been our approach and never will be. And we do not need to, because they are identifying needs where they live and filling those needs all on their own.

In 2015 alone, Moishe Houses across the globe executed more than 575 different service programs, with nearly 2,500 unique participants. From volunteering at an orphanage in Beijing to working with refugees in Prague to cooking for the homeless in Philadelphia, Moishe House residents and community members around the world are actively taking ownership of issues in their communities and are working to improve the lives of their neighbors and the shared cities in which they live.

(Beijing): Moishe House residents and their peers visit an orphanage in Beijing, China to give back on Good Deeds Day.

(Beijing): Moishe House residents and their peers visit an orphanage in Beijing, China to give back on Good Deeds Day.

And beyond just planning one-off service-oriented programs, we are seeing young adults take their work to another level, actually creating their own organizations and initiatives to combat problems in individual communities. One such real life example is “Wire the Wise,” which launched in New York City in March 2015. Wire the Wise connects young adults with senior citizens through intergenerational meetups around Manhattan. Seniors (the Wise) share their knowledge with young adults (the Wired) while the young adults teach them to use some of the newest technologies. Since March 2015, Wire the Wise events have attracted over 200 young adults and over 200 seniors to their programs. Feedback for the program has been tremendous, and the initiative continues to expand to new locations across the city every few months.

We know that the work Moishe House residents and community members do in their communities has an impact on those they serve, and we are also confident that this service work is making them more complete people. Many studies through the years have noted volunteerism’s effect on happiness, stress levels and mood. Moreover, the primary focus of young adults living in Moishe House’s around the world is to build Jewish community and that can only be done by getting involved with those outside the walls of each local house. Moishe house takes seriously the Talmudic mandate “al tifrosh min hatzibur” to engage deeply with and contribute to one’s local community. Many of these same studies have shown that once a person is invested in volunteering and service work, they are far more likely to continue to participate in this type of community involvement throughout their lives.

Meaningful and consistent service will continue to be a core part of our mission at Moishe House, not just because it feels like the right thing to do but because it is necessary for vibrant Jewish community to exist. As time has gone on, we have developed more partnerships to bring this service into action – including Repair the World and local Jewish Federations.

Giving space for young adults to create these initiatives on their own increases the number of positive initiatives in communities, increases the happiness of those involved and increases the chances of ongoing engagement in the community among young adults. Our young adults bring people together, strengthen community, encourage civic responsibility, promote personal growth and self-esteem and make a difference. When millennials step through the doors, they don’t check their community interests at the door. They bring their causes and passion with them and we should all support them in turning that enthusiasm into impactful action.

David Cygielman is founder and CEO of Moishe House.

Moishe House aims to create social scene downtown for young Jews

Posted 08/18/2016 at 07:24PM

by Ryan Torok
Posted on Aug. 18, 2016 at 10:41 am

Moishe House Downtown Los Angeles co-creators and residents (above, from left) Ben Livni, Danielle Dankner, Ariel Brotman and Eric Czubiak appear on the roof of their Little Tokyo apartment building following a Friday night dinner. Photos by Ryan Torok

Moishe House Downtown Los Angeles co-creators and residents (above, from left) Ben Livni, Danielle Dankner,
Ariel Brotman and Eric Czubiak appear on the roof of their Little Tokyo apartment building following a Friday night dinner.
Photos by Ryan Torok


Just a half-mile from Skid Row stands a six-story apartment building in Little Tokyo. Modern in style with parking that’s off-the-charts expensive, it is home to something you might expect given the neighborhood — a Seoul Sausage eatery occupies the first floor — and something you might not.

On the second floor, past a social space filled with a flat-screen TV, sofas and game tables, is a green apartment door with a welcome mat on the floor that says simply: “Moishe House.”

Here, in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, is the latest foray by the international nonprofit Moishe House to increase engagement among young Jews. The project works by subsidizing housing for young adults, who, in exchange for receiving a share of their monthly rent, organize Jewish communal events. 

The courtyard of Moishe House Downtown Los Angeles (left), located in an apartment community, features many amenities, including a pool and spa, a lounge area and more.

“We’re trying to introduce Jews to the downtown Los Angeles community,” Ariel Brotman, 24, said during an Aug. 9 kickoff barbecue for Moishe House Downtown Los Angeles. A law student at USC, she is co-founder of the house with three other second-year law school students from USC and Loyola Law School: Eric Czubiak, 23; Ben Livni, 25; and Danielle Dankner, 23.

The group moved into the apartment on Aug. 7 but already had a comfortable rapport with one another because the four became friends as undergraduates at UC Santa Barbara. 

They have previous experience with organized Jewish life, too. Czubiak and Livni were involved with the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi in college, and Brotman and Dankner were active with the Santa Barbara Hillel. They said they’re ready for the challenges that come with being Moishe House residents, including balancing their academic lives with the demands of living in a Moishe House, drawing strong turnout to their events, and creating a community in a part of town with fewer Jewish residents than, say, West Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley.

“It’s up-and-coming, and it’s just nice to be a part of the change. Beverly Hills and other cities are already established. Here it’s more cultural. You get to see Wells Fargo bank and the top financial institutions as well as homeless people. It’s a great dynamic, and it’s real life. I feel like when you walk the street you see all the world,” Livni said, barbecuing hamburgers in the building’s courtyard. “And it’s a great feeling.”

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment that is Moishe House Downtown Los Angeles comes with a monthly rent of almost $4,000, half of which is subsidized in exchange for residents holding five to six events per month. The group is receiving financial support from Spencer Kallick, a local attorney and member of the Moishe House board of directors, the Kallick family and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. 

The apartment includes a small kitchen, medium-size living room, laundry room and a large balcony with a dining table. The four can use other amenities at the apartment complex, AVA Little Tokyo, including a pool and spa; a barbecue area; a social room; and a roof area with sofas and a projector to play movies — all open every night until 10 o’clock. 

Brotman and Dankner, who were roommates as undergrads, are sharing a bedroom, while the guys each have their own. Dankner, a former intern at the Journal who attends Loyola, enjoys playing the piano — a keyboard was on the floor of her room during the kickoff party — and is the daughter of Limor Dankner, the middle school principal at Milken Community Schools. 

Across the living room, an Israeli flag hangs on the bedroom wall of Livni, who also attends Loyola. Rounding out the group is Czubiak, an Eagle Scout who is a student at USC. 

The group is obligated to organize Jewish events, general social events and/or tikkun olam events. Already, less than a week after moving in, the downtown residents had held three events, including a karaoke night in Koreatown and a Shabbat dinner. Future planned activities include an Aug. 26 challah-baking and candle-making gathering and an event on Aug. 31 with the Jewish Graduate Student Initiative, during which attendees will participate in mock job interviews.

The four residents decided to open a Moishe House when they were undergraduates in Santa Barbara and they heard David Cygielman, founder and CEO of Moishe House, speak about the organization. It took several years, however, for them to be in the right place in their lives to follow through with it. The summer between the first and second year of law school was the time, Brotman said.

Moishe House is not the only organization in the Jewish community that targets young adults, but its peer-driven model is unique in that participants, who are not professional Jewish leaders, become full-time representatives of Jewish life and are charged with spreading the word about Moishe House at school, work or in social settings. Residents also produce an online newsletter.

Founded in 2006 in Oakland, Moishe House is headquartered in Encinitas and oversees 89 houses in 21 countries. To celebrate the nonprofit’s decade of work, every Moishe House location will hold a Friday night dinner on Sept. 23 as part of an initiative called “10th Anniversary Global Shabbat.” 

The downtown house is the sixth location in the Los Angeles area. Other local Moishe Houses are in North Hollywood, Silver Lake, Thousand Oaks, West Hollywood and West L.A. An additional house in Woodland Hills for young adult Israelis — a partnership between Moishe House and the Israeli American Council (IAC) — closed in June due to a lack of funding. 

“We knew [the IAC] house wasn’t a long-term thing,” Jessie Bustamante, the West Coast director of institutional advancement at Moishe House, said in a phone interview. “It’s possible the downtown house will be probably be the last house in L.A. we do for a while. Earlier this year, the downtown house wasn’t even on our radar.”

“The house ends up representing the neighborhood, and people embody that feeling, as well,” said Josh Hillinger, Moishe House’s southwest regional director, who was in attendance at the downtown location’s kickoff. A former resident at Moishe House Sherman Oaks, which in March became Moishe House North Hollywood, he said the expectation is for residents to “develop their own meaningful programs.” 

He described the houses as “micro-communities” and said Moishe House sees the rent subsidy as an “investment in the future leaders in the Jewish community.” 

To keep a house open costs about $40,000 to $50,000 per year, he said. That figure includes funds for the rent subsidies, the house’s program budgets — the downtown house will receive $375 per month to offset event costs — and Moishe House staff. 

Moishe House chief program officer Jordan Fruchtman said the organization’s annual budget in 2017 will near $10 million, with “a pretty significant amount” coming from Los Angeles-based supporters.

Approximately 30 young people attended the downtown kickoff, including Aaron Varsha, 24, who runs an auction business and lives in Santa Monica.

“I think tonight was spectacular,” he said. “It’s a good place to start a new future and a wonderful place to hang out, meet friends and find someone special looking to have Jewish babies.”

Welcome Moishe House To Minneapolis

Posted 08/09/2016 at 08:52PM

Moishe House residents (from left) Samantha Hamlin, Jacqueline Soria, and   Lauren Dahar are looking forward to meeting the Twin Cities Jewish Community.

Moishe House residents (from left) Samantha Hamlin, Jacqueline Soria, and Lauren Dahar are looking forward to meeting the Twin Cities Jewish Community.

Welcome Moishe House To Minneapolis - TCJewfolk.com

by Lonny Goldsmith - August 5, 2016

When you’re in college, it can be easy to find a connection to a Jewish community. Once you get out of college, finding that same connection to a Jewish community can be more of a challenge. David Cygielman understood that plight 10 years ago.

Thanks to the urging of his then-boss Morris Bear Squire, Cygielman and his friends threw a Shabbat dinner that drew 75 people. The next week they did it again, and the turnout was strong again. This marked the start of Moishe House, which Cygielman is now the CEO of.

Moishe House welcomed its first three residents to its Minneapolis house this week when Samantha Hamlin, Jacqueline Soria and Lauren Dahar, moving into the house. The first event is a housewarming brunch on Sunday, Aug. 7 from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at 3044 Emerson Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

“The real goal is to make sure everyone feels welcome in our home and make sure they understand what Moishe House is about,” Dahar said.

Hamlin and Dahar were the first two in the house, and Soria moved in this past Wednesday.

“We all applied and were accepted to Moishe House, which at the time was an abstract thing,” Soria said. “We all like each other and want to build community. We all came with that idea.”

Hamlin is from Minnesota, while Dahar is from Cleveland and went to the University of Michigan, and Soria is a New Jersey native who went to Northwestern University. The latter two were each active in their respective Hillels, and heard about Moishe House from there.

“The (Moishe House) model has been growing and growing,” said Adam Dobrusin, the director of expansion for Moishe House, which now has 87 houses in 21 countries. “It’s the largest organization for Jews in their 20s. It’s all a peer-to-peer model: Find a cool group to live together and task them with building community.”

The two big goals for the house are to get the community involved with planning programs and partner with other organizations in town.

“It’s a very open, welcoming space for people who haven’t connected or done anything in a long time,” Dobrusin said.

Moishe House is open to applicants between 22 and 30 years old. Dobrusin said they look for a group of friends who want to live together, are outgoing and love having people over and are welcoming, and are interested in exploring Judaism while helping others connect.

The model has been successful so far. According to its last annual report, Jewish young adults connect with each other and build community through Moishe House. After participating in Moishe House, residents report large increases in belonging to a larger movement (72 percent) and connection to the global Jewish community (64 percent). Moishe House is seen as a hub of Jewish life for Jewish young adults by a large majority of program participants (79 percent) and residents (89 percent). Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of residents have adopted new Jewish practices since getting involved with Moishe House.

The house is open thanks to funding from Minneapolis Jewish Federation and Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies. Dobrusin said each house has a goal of being locally funded and supported, with a goal of 75 percent of funding to come locally. The funding opportunity had been available, Dobrusin said, but finding the right residents was the challenge.

“We hadn’t found the right group but I’m confident we did now,” he said. “These are three young women who are so talented and excited to take this on. This group is stellar. I build teams all over North America, and I can tell you this team will build something great.”

New Moishe House creates pluralistic Jewish community for Beersheba millenials - Jerusalem Post

Posted 08/09/2016 at 03:44PM

Four young adults realize their vision of turning their house into a home for all.


Adi Treves, Itay Itamar and Yotam Rechnitz of the Beersheba Moishe House.. (photo credit:TAMARA ZIEVE)

The inception of the recently-inaugurated Beersheba Moishe House is similar to the founding of the first ever Moishe House in Oakland, California. It was born out of the efforts of a small group of passionate, dedicated youth opening their home to create a sense of community and strengthen Jewish identity. Just as the very first Moishe House began with four Jewish 20-somethings hosting Shabbat dinners, the Beersheba House began with four bright-eyed young Israelis-- and their dog-- trying to build bridges between different parts of the city's population.

House resident Itay Itamar first stumbled across Moishe House in Melbourne, Australia in the summer of 2024. "There was a post-Passover baking session that a local told me about," he recounts. Back in Israel, he accidentally found himself at the Jerusalem Moishe House in the Nachlaot area. “It was a Hanukka party, they had a Hanukkia made out of red bull cans. Loads of of people stopped by and I thought, we need this in Beersheba” he tells The Jerusalem Post,as he sits around the living room table of the Moishe House Beersheba that he had envisioned.

He’s joined by two community members, Yotam Rechnitz and Adi Treves. The former is busy in the kitchen preparing platters of vegetables and fruit in honor of our meeting. He doesn’t live in the house, but the other two point out that this is characteristic of the sense of communal effort they have built there. “Everyone chips in in any way they can,” Treves explains.

It took a while for the Beersheba house to formally become part of the Moishe House organization, but in the meantime, Itamar and three fellow activists laid its foundations. In October 2015, the quadruple --three of which are Ben Gurion University students-- rented a house in an underprivileged area of Beersheba, and started hosting Friday night dinners, parties and lectures several times a month. “We were people who did this type of stuff anyway, so we decided to live together and do it,” says Itamar. They named the house after the guide dog they were fostering, HaBayit shel Zoe (Zoe’s House). 

Moishe House representatives visited the House, consulted with them and asked them to meet with potential donors.

Zoe’s House quickly gained traction and the resident’s dream of transforming their humble house into a place where everyone feels at home, began to take shape . “I would walk in the street and hear people talking about it,” Itamar remarks. 

In June, the House officially became a Moishe House, in collaboration with the American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU), and with the support of the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation. The connection between Moishe House and AABGU was made through a mutual board member, Jaynie Schultz, of Dallas, Texas. “I feel so privileged to be involved with two outstanding organizations. The opportunity presented by this joint initiative will make the outcome exponential,” says Schultz, who has been a supporter of Moishe House from the very beginning.  

Alejandro Okret, Moishe House’s chief global officer, adds, “We want to continue saying ‘yes’ to helping meet the demand for peer-led, home-based programming for young adults and their Jewish communities in the state of Israel.”

The Moishe House model sees the residents opening their home five to six times each month for their community, and, in return, receiving a partial rent stipend and a programming budget, along with training and staff support.

“My hope is that our Moishe House will be a home for everybody that comes to visit us in our community whether you are from Israel or abroad,” says Moishe House resident Tal Megera. “I want our home to be a welcoming place that can show young people cool and new sides of Judaism.”

The Israeli Moishe Houses serve a different function to those in the Diaspora, where finding a Jewish community to connect with might be more difficult. Nonetheless, the Beersheba residents and community members feel that their Moishe House fills a vacuum. “Because of technology, our generation looks for community, to sit with people at the end of the day... a community that’s open to everyone, girls guys, religious, secular, locals, internationals.” says Treves. “In general people are alone,” agrees Itamar. “They work alone, in front of computer so then you look for a framework to just sit around the table with people.” Beersheba is known for its large student community, but Itamar says there is the desire to socialize beyond the university setting. “If students want do things inside the university they can, but this house connects both students and non-students,” he adds. “My vision is that the walls between students and non-students will fall.”

The young adults also note that in addition to a social platform, the house provides the community with content, be it spiritual lectures, Jewish learning, songwriting workshops, yoga, or talks by politicians and city leaders. Each resident brings their own interests to the House, making for a diverse range of activities.

"It's a Jewish community, and when we have non-Jews come fro Friday night dinner, it shows them the warm, open embracing side of Judaism," says Rechnitz. "Moishe House deals with Judaism in a pluralistic way and I think is special and rare."

The Beersheba Moishe House crowd has ranged from Breslov Jews to atheists. “The idea of Moishe House is to make a connection to Judaism and to make it fun. We create fun activities around the Jewish calendar. Moishe house allows you to do something positive and challenging in your life,” Treves adds earnestly.

They also note that it’s a non-profit endeavor, so those who are strapped for cash don’t need to think twice before attending.   

Moishe House activities are not restricted to the 20-30s crowd. Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, for instance, the House hosted round-tables with Holocaust survivors. The residents and community members also step outside the house and volunteer for others. To celebrate one of the residents birthdays, they painted a women’s shelter. They look for ways to volunteer and to take on the Jewish value of tikkun olam (repairing the world). “There are a lot of young people here who want to take responsibility and help change the city,” emphasizes Rechnitz.




Engaging Jewish Young Adults

Posted 06/28/2016 at 03:51PM

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 17 – Engaging Millennials with Jewish Peoplehood What Does It Take? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.]

By Alejandro Okret

I am not worried. I am almost certain I am not worried.

In reading about sustainability and how we humans react to the term and relate to it pragmatically, I started to think about the Jewish community. To make a long story short, I’ll cut to the chase and focus on young adults, fashionably called “Millennials.”

Through my job at Moishe House, out of the London office, I am very lucky to interact on a daily basis with Jewish young adults as close as Argentina and as far as New Zealand. I learn from them, adapt and update my weltanschauung. A Pew Research Center report from 2012 titled, “Nones on the rise,” highlighted how Millennials are less religiously affiliated than ever before; however, in my opinion, this in no way means less communally engaged. A revaluation of beliefs and practices is central to emerging adulthood. The traditions and communal customs used by previous generations have certainly morphed, but not the eagerness to participate and activate.

The lack of a communal space that positively engages young adults has meant that this cohort has looked elsewhere, as described in a recent publication from the Harvard Business Review, “How we gather.” That ‘elsewhere’ has often been with their peers in informal settings. Young adults in the Jewish community are increasingly resorting to peer-built communities. This is their time to experiment, and most importantly, to fail. Failure carries a huge burden, but it embodies great potential for success and empowerment. I want to see young adults assume responsibilities and show us the way. At the end of the day, they are the next generation of communal leaders and it is now when they need to be given the opportunity to earn the trust from the Jewish community. However, is the Jewish community ready to give them that trust?

At Moishe House, we pride ourselves for acknowledging that our residents, the Jewish young adults creating meaningful Jewish programming for their peers across the world, are the real specialists. We are there to support and help them, but they are the doers and innovators.

In Europe, where I am based, anti-Semitism is growing and the sense of building resilient communities is increasingly urgent. I could not imagine partnering with a better core of individuals. Young adults are flocking in by the tens of thousands to participate, create vibrant and invigorating communities, and assume their role in their Jewish communities. All we need to do is adapt our mindset and learn to meet them at their junctions, where they know what works for them and not what adults tell them will work for them.

I am not worried. As long as we keep investing in Jewish young adults and let them lead, I am not worried.

Alejandro Okret is Moishe House Chief Global Officer and a member of the ROI community

Fears of terrorism turn Moishe Houses into a lifeline for young Paris Jews

Posted 06/07/2016 at 04:00PM



Noemie Grausz showcasing board games for her guests at Moishe House Beaubourg in Paris, May 18, 2016. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Noemie Grausz showcasing board games for her guests at Moishe House Beaubourg in Paris, May 18, 2016. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

PARIS (JTA) — When David Harroch moved from his native Morocco to France 12 years ago, he found a vibrant Jewish scene with a plethora of activities for young adults like himself.

The social circle was something of a lifeline for Harroch, 30, an introverted finance executive who left home to study in France. With neither childhood friends nor family here, he relied on community events to find companionship and the occasional date.

But he arrived at a time of change for Parisian Jewry, as many community members started skipping cultural events out of fear of increasing anti-Semitic attacks. France saw a 10-year record of 851 incidents in 2014, and several deadly shootings by Islamists.

As recently as four years ago, “there was a social event for young Jews in Paris every other night,” Harroch said. “Now this scene for people my age has taken a huge step backwards.”

Partly to deal with the problem, leaders of French and European Jewry are preparing to open an $11 million community center in central Paris next year.

But on the ground, young French Jews like Harroch are already taking part in efforts to restore the Jewish cultural scene through Moishe House, an international project offering subsidized housing to young Jews willing to turn their home into a social hub for other Jews their age.

The newest Paris Moishe House is a sunny three-bedroom apartment overlooking a large boulevard. The organization subsidizes half the rent for the three residents of the Beaubourg home, which could easily cost $3,000-$4,000 a month on the market. In exchange, the residents, all females in their 20s, need to host at least six events each month.

Established 10 years ago in California by David Cygielman and the late philanthropist Morris Squire, Moishe House has made France and Belgium priority areas, according to Josh Moritz, Moishe House’s regional director of global communities. A third France Moishe House is planned to open this year outside Paris with funding from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, UJA-Federation of New York and local French partners, including Fonds Social Juif Unifie. Additional French locations being envisaged include Marseille, Lyon and Strasbourg.

The expansion is part of a larger growth by Moishe House, which has used funding from U.S. Jewish communities as well as organizations like the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and others to grow into a global network comprising 86 homes in 20 countries. But it has an added impact on France’s at-risk communities, Moritz said.

Approximately 20,000 French Jews have immigrated to Israel since 2011. Of those who remain, most avoid wearing Jewish symbols in public frequently or habitually, according to a European Union survey from 2012. A third are too fearful to attend Jewish community events. The slaying of four Jews at a kosher supermarket last year did not help matters.

France’s first Moishe House opened in 2014. Since then, more than 2,500 Jewish young adults have attended some 130 peer-led Moishe House programs in Paris.

“It’s an intimate setting that lets you really get to know people. We don’t have much of that here,” Harroch said at a recent board game-themed soiree at Paris’ new Moishe House, or MoHo, which the organization opened in March in the 3rd arrondissement, near the Beaubourg Complex and the Georges Pompidou Center.

If not for the subsidy, “there is no way I could have afforded to live here,” said resident Carole Bouzaglou, a 25-year-old online sales specialist. “It’s much better than a tiny student apartment.”

But balancing family, friends, career and Moishe House duties can be challenging, says MoHo resident Noemie Grausz, a physician training to become a gynecologist. Rushing home from the gym, she got off to a late start preparing the board game evening but made up for lost time by preparing a quick salad and ordering pizza.

Pointing with dismay at the bare light fixtures, she said: “And then there’s interior decorating that still needs to happen.”

Her guests for the board game event didn’t seem to mind. An eclectic crowd of 15 mostly single men and women in their 20s and 30s, they trickled in alone or in pairs. Some men looked synagogue-ready in cologne-drenched designer clothes and kippot. Others sported a stubble and plain T-shirts.

Noemie chatted up the guests to make them feel less awkward — a knack she’s perfected working as a doctor. The first game, she explained, gives players 30 seconds to name a randomly chosen celebrity described to them. She replaced the game’s celebrity cards with handmade notes featuring Jewish personalities like the late Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, the philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and comedian Gad Elmaleh.

Other Moishe House Beaubourg events include jam sessions featuring Israeli music, Israeli Independence Day parties and even yoga classes.

Terrorist threats notwithstanding, Paris’ 350,000 Jews have no shortage of community events. Less than a mile away from Moishe House Beaubourg, the Edmond Fleg Jewish Community Center offers not only yoga classes but Jewish meditation and study groups.

But the regulars there are much older than the Moishe House crowd, said Louigi Hayat, a 32-year-old accountant. Like Harroch, Hayat said he came to Moishe House activities to make friends, but also in the hope of finding a date.

“So, honestly, it’s not very a very attractive option for me,” he said of the Fleg center.

Despite their amorous agendas, Harroch and Hayat largely ignored the group of attractive single ladies in attendance during the board-game event. Instead they engaged in a fierce two-man battle of Stratego rather than the main celebrities game.

Like most other guests, Hayat and Harroch learned of Moishe House Beaubourg through word of mouth or on Facebook. They had to pass a short interview with organizers to get the address, which is neither listed nor published online for security reasons. There are no Moishe House signs on the building or the apartment door. The apartment’s slot on the intercom board bears the name of the previous tenant.

Despite these precautions, the absence from Moishe House Beaubourg of soldiers and police, who are guarding other Jewish institutions across France, makes some guests reflect nostalgically on better days.

“The way this Jewish institution is set up means that coming here gives you a measure of normalcy,” said Gabriel Saban, a 30-year-old television composer. “You just ring the bell and walk in, like it used to be when we were children.”

Russians in the house

Posted 06/07/2016 at 03:58PM

From left: Eman Banakh, Gabi Hodge and Ariel Singer.

From left: Eman Banakh, Gabi Hodge and Ariel Singer.
AUSTRALIA will soon have its first-ever Russian-speaking Moishe House, which will play host to various events for young adults in a bid to unite the Russian-Jewish and mainstream Jewish communities in Melbourne.

Called Kangarusski Moishe House, the initiative will see three young Melburnians – Gabi Hodge, Eman Banakh and Ariel Singer – living together in a share house and organising fun and exciting events to offer the community.

The trio are alumni of the Kangarusski Birthright program, which saw young Russian speakers from around Australia explore Israel. They are now keen to engage fellow Russian Jews in a relaxed and social environment in their new home.

“Our aim is to make a house where everyone will always be welcome, even if it’s just to join us and enjoy a Shabbat dinner,” Hodge told The AJN this week.

“We have had many ideas for some fun events and classes that could be hosted by our Moishe House, including fire twirling lessons, challah baking sessions and even a Shabbat weekend away.”

Other plans include barbecues, Limmud-style events with different speakers and High Holy Day parties.

Hodge said Kangarusski Moishe House will be “a fantastic opportunity to unify the Russian Jewish community as well as the mainstream Jewish community in Melbourne, and hopefully in the future, all of Australia”.

“We are very excited to find a place to move into so we can start putting our awesome plans into action,” she enthused, adding that the first major event will be a housewarming party.

Jewish Agency shaliach to the Zionist Federation of Australia Rami Teplitskiy said Kangarusski Moishe House is “one of the most exciting initiatives” for the Russian-speaking Jewish community in Australia.

“It shows that our community rises to the occasion, and we are now having a full set of events, from Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) to Kangarusski Birthright, and we are excited that the young adult community is growing bigger and bigger,” he told The AJN.

Ellie Epstein, 24 Connecting the Generations

Posted 05/24/2016 at 06:22PM


Steve Lipman

An intergenerational program centered around electronic devices grew out of one intergenerational conversation during which only one electronic device was discussed.

Epstein, who works and lives in Brookline, Mass., spending weekends on the Upper East Side, was sharing a meal here with her grandmother last year.

Epstein’s grandmother, in her 80s, mentioned problems she was having with her iPhone. Epstein offered some high-tech advice, and a thought occurred to her — there are probably other seniors encountering similar problems with their iPhones, smartphones, etc; why can’t members of her millennial generation tutor their elders? And, why can’t her peers learn from their elders?

Wire the Wise was born.

Epstein, who runs Shabbat programs for the Moishe House on the Upper East Side, approached the 92nd Street Y, proposing a Sunday morning get-together, over bagels, of members of the two generations.

About 20 seniors and young professionals came to the first meeting.

Her project — the “wise” is a recognition of the seniors’ knowledge and life experience — has subsequently attracted more than 300 people to the Y and three other venues.

The post-65 crowd has learned, in 90-minute sessions, about the fine points of the ubiquitous devices. And their partners, in their 20s and 30s, have learned that the older generation’s desire to keep challenging itself has not waned.

“These seniors are unstoppable,” Epstein says — and her peers are “very patient” with people who grew up in pre-wired times.

Some outside friendships have developed, with the intergenerational partners meeting for a cup of coffee or a Shabbat meal.

And Epstein’s grandmother?

She takes the train from Westchester for some of her granddaughter’s programs. She’s become more proficient with her iPhone, Epstein says. “She’s very Facebook-active now.”

Basketball coach: Epstein, who played basketball through her years at the Maimonides School, coached the girls team that represented Greater Boston at the 2012 Maccabi Games in Rockland County. “We did pretty well,” she says. “We got bronze.”

Mets photographer: Following the New York Mets’ appearance in the World Series last year, Epstein spent two days taking pictures of “Mrs. Met” on the team mascot’s hospitality appearances around New York City. “It was a fun job,” she says — but not fulfilling. “I didn’t feel I was making a difference” in people’s lives.



Read more at http://www.thejewishweek.com/special-sections/36-under-36/ellie-epstein-24#WkHd8IeJfbFX6BB6.99

Detroit Moishe House 'enriching a Jewish fabric'

Posted 05/09/2016 at 02:02PM


(Photo: Mark Hicks / The Detroit News)

As the skies darkened and streets quieted in a Detroit neighborhood on a recent Friday evening, a cozy brown brick home swelled with light and sound.

The residents at the newly opened Moishe House in historic Indian Village had invited visitors to celebrate a Shabbat dinner to end the work week. Organizers hope to make the house a hub of Jewish life for post-college 20-somethings “who might not want to join local institutions the way previous generations have,” a leader said.

There, about two dozen guests circled tables, some singing in Hebrew and raising wine glasses as white candles flickered.

Hayley Sakwa, who lives in the house, explained the tradition is about “just trying to refill.”

“Because we spend so much time during the week giving of ourselves constantly to our jobs, to our friends, to our relationships, whatever it may be, and it’s exhausting,” she said. “Shabbat is about setting that all aside and just refilling and relaxing. … I hope this space can be that for you both tonight and throughout the rest of the year.”

That communal spirit guides the five residents as they work to create a grass-roots community by hosting programs ranging from activist activities to religious celebrations. It’s the second site in Michigan — the other is in Royal Oak — and the only one still operating in Detroit for the international nonprofit Moishe House initiative, which aims to double the number of its Jewish young adult, peer-led communities worldwide by 2017.

“We feel like there are so many really great and worthy groups that are functioning in Detroit and downtown and in the neighborhoods,” said resident Paul Green, originally from Huntington Woods. “Why try and reinvent the wheel when we can connect people and, in the simple sense, build community to help people connect, find each other and do great projects?”

Moishe House launched in 2006 after four Jews in their 20s started hosting Shabbat dinners in California. It now boasts more than 80 sites in some 20 countries.

Those sites typically involve “young people who care and want to be involved in something and often find that the existing outlets aren’t meaningful to them,” said Larry Gast, the group’s Midwest director of institutional advancement.

“So we give them the opportunity to create that for themselves.”

Adam Finkel, a partner at Bloomfield Hills-based Orfin Ventures, visited a home and worked with supporters to duplicate the venture locally. He hopes to help young people “become leaders here and be part of the revitalized energy and community service options in the national framework.”

Funding was secured to cover the subsidized rent as well as a programming budget, Finkel said. The first Detroit location, launched in 2011 in the city’s Midtown neighborhood near many cultural attractions, “created such a buzz in the community,” Finkel said.

Those occupants stayed for nearly two years. New Moishe House applicants then formed a site in Royal Oak, which launched in 2013, Gast said.

But, he added, “the whole time, we were like: ‘We want to move back to Detroit.’ We saw this hunger for young adults to live in the city, to give back, to help rebuild the community that was there before. And for us it was something we wanted to be a part of.”

The focus coincides “with a growing presence of young people living in the city” — including Jews, said Miryam Rosenzweig, incoming chief development officer at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. “The whole idea of Moishe is that it’s a house that’s creating a Jewish environment around it. ... It’s enriching a Jewish fabric in the city of Detroit.”

The five who moved into the Indian Village location sought a spot in an area not historically known as having a large Jewish presence.

“For us it was important to have our visitors understand that there’s more to Detroit than just Midtown and downtown — that there are people in this city who have lived here years and years,” said Gabe Neistein, a graduate student from West Bloomfield Township. “We wanted to be part of more of a community.”

So they chose a five-bedroom house nearly a century old and spacious enough to accommodate the frequent gatherings the tenants are tasked with coordinating. Those events — some involving other groups — fall into categories such as social, holidays, Jewish learning and giving back.

Detroit Jews for Justice recently met there to advocate for paid sick leave in Michigan; on another night, costumed guests noshed on hamantaschen treats during a Purim party. At a backyard brunch on a sunny Saturday, more guests congregated near the custom-made raised beds in which residents plan to grow a community garden.

“Our greatest goal is to create a space that was flexible,” said resident Abby Rubin, who grew up in Ohio and attended the University of Michigan. “We’ve created a really great community already and it’s only going to expand as we move forward in our programming. I’m excited to be that connector for people who are coming in.”

At the recent Shabbat dinner, guests breezed past the entryway’s mezuzah, which features a Hebrew prayer to bless homes, and into a front room full of sofas and photos showing Detroit destinations. Conversation mingled with the wafting scent of warm chicken laid out amid platters of gefilte fish, homemade vegetable salad and other dishes.

Seated at a table with new acquaintances, visitor Matt Friedrichs of Detroit relished the scene. “It’s wonderful that they have this attitude, no matter who you are, where you come from: ‘Come eat with us, be with us,’ ” he said.


For more information



Introducing: Jewish Summer Camp for Adults

Posted 05/05/2016 at 04:30PM

6picShrug off the “shoulds” of your grown up life and come back to a place where what you do for a living doesn’t define who you are, or how you live. A place where you’re never on your own, where play is important and a mid-day nap might just be the best way to spend the afternoon.

Come back to the curious and courageous days of childhood. When every day held the mysteries of new friends, fantastic discoveries and audacious adventures. When we played with reckless abandon that left us with skinned knees that were always worth it.

Come to Camp Nai Nai Nai and be a kid again.

Camp Nai Nai Nai is a true summer camp experience. We are talking counselors,Maccabiah (color wars), lanyards, camp fires, big communal meals and even bigger song sessions. With an all-camp talent show, over twenty classic and innovative camp playshops and an all-camp dance, at Camp Nai Nai Nai, we are reliving our best memories and making new ones along the way. Trade in your cell phones and digital devices for a deeper connection and Jewish community. Get ready for four days of pure, unadulterated camp fun. Together we’ll go back and relearn the truths that we left in our childhood.

Camp Nai Nai Nai is a summer camp for adults. Leave your children and pets at home.

Where: Waynesboro, Pa. (Capital Camps Retreat Center)

When: Sept. 2-5, 2016

Brought to you by: Camp Grounded, Moishe House and Digital Detox
with support from Maimonides Fund

To learn more: visit campnainainai.com

Young Jews in Paris Get Hub for Jewish Life

Posted 05/05/2016 at 04:27PM

Moishe House Paris-Beaubourg

Moishe House Paris-Beaubourg provides a welcoming place for Jewish young adults.

Life in Europe today presents stark challenges for the Jewish community. For young Jewish adults just starting out on their own, the hurdles can be daunting. But Moishe House, now expanded to two residences in Paris thanks to support from UJA-Federation of New York, offers a place for Jewish 20-somethings to find a lively community on their terms. A third Moishe House in France, also supported by UJA, is in the planning stages.

Other supporters include UJA’s beneficiary the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, as well as Fonds Social Juif Unifie, Fondation pour la Memoire de la Shoah, Fondation du Judaisme Francais, and Moishe House’s Global Community Fund.

Moishe House, which has 86 houses in 20 countries, is based on a simple model. It brings together three to five young adults to create a home that becomes a hub of Jewish life for their peers through hosting about five diverse events a month.

“We’re developing a safe place to be creative and explore our Jewish identity,” says Morane, a resident at Moishe House Paris-Beaubourg, which opened this March. “We’re reaching people who might not otherwise be reached by the Jewish community.”

Recent activities Morane and her fellow residents have hosted include yoga classes and a Purim celebration.

“A number of young Jews are choosing to leave the country,” she says. “We’re trying to create something so people staying in the country will find a place that’s welcoming and open, and where people can be Jewish and French.”

In just a short time, Moishe House Paris residences are already well on their way to empowering young Jews to fight fear and create a meaningful Jewish life.

Our Healthy Obsession with Reaching the Unengaged

Posted 05/05/2016 at 04:23PM

The most effective strategy is to empower our young people to host and run quality programs and to invite their friends.

unengagedBy David Cygielman

Completely unengaged young adults make the best poster-children. I’m talking about those 20-somethings who never imagined themselves becoming active Jewish leaders until they participated in our program. When we find these unicorns, we make flyers, send emails, introduce them to donors and have them shout from their rooftops. But where do they really come from and how do we effectively reach them?

Let’s start with a brief diagnosis of our healthy obsession with engaging the unengaged. It stems from a good place of deep passion for the future of the Jewish community and a fear that our numbers will greatly diminish without some type of meaningful personal or communal connection. This fear does not mean we should just throw our hands up in defeat, but simply saying that we are targeting the unengaged population will not actually reach them or accomplish any of our communal goals. The key here is that they are unengaged, uninvolved, and for the vast majority, not looking for their first step in a lifetime of Jewish communal involvement. Fortunately, the answer to how to best find, engage and create exciting opportunities for the unaffiliated right in front of us: it is those who are already actively engaged.

There is a silver bullet and the data shows us it exists; however, the majority of us have been looking in the opposite direction. Watering down programs, coming up with catchy taglines, offering free food or paying big bucks for famous headliners is not the solution. The learning from our evaluation has illustrated that it takes two engaged young Jewish adults to reach one unengaged. When we saw this data, it made sense. How else would we, sitting in our offices, be able to connect with people who aren’t even looking for us? The answer: we cannot. But, the thousands of people having great experiences with their Moishe Houses can invite the unengaged to participate in our programs. But, we must ensure the program is strong and that we are encouraging the active participants to bring others along with them. We live in a viral society where word of mouth spreads faster than ever thanks to social media. From high school through their 20s, the number one reason someone participates in a program is because they are invited by a friend. Our data shows that 82% of young adults show up to programs when they are invited by their friends, far more than other reason.

So what does this mean for our organizations? It means that we should continue to focus on finding more unicorns. But, in order to make that happen, the most effective strategy is to empower our young people to host and run quality programs and to invite their friends. If we ignore those who are already deeply engaged, we will miss out on all their friends and even more importantly, friends of friends. By having great experiences and feeling a sense of ownership, we know those who are engaged will find their peers at work, at a bar, on a sports team, online or wherever else people younger than me hang out these days, and bring them into the dynamic Jewish communities we are collaboratively building.

David Cygielman is Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Moishe House.

Moishe House, Young Adults and Jewish Community

Posted 05/05/2016 at 04:21PM


A shifting band of young adults who have been not-so-quietly building grassroots Jewish life for themselves and their peers for nearly a decade will have space for a new face come May.

Portland Moishe House opened Jan. 1, 2008, joining 13 U.S. and eight international houses designed to help young, innovative Jews create their vision of an ideal Jewish communal space. Now 86 Moishe Houses in 21 countries are giving young adults a place to explore Jewish life with their peers. House residents receive subsidized rent and a monthly programming budget to host events for other young adults. Since its creation, the Portland house has signed up for the top tier of activity, putting on seven or more events each month.

When three-year resident Eli Gregory moves on to new adventures after Pesach, Kenneth Gordon, 28; Aaron Kaufman, 29; Rochelle Schwartz, 28; and Sarah Philips, 25; want another 22- to 29-year-old to share the five-bedroom, three-bath house in Southeast Portland.

The new housemate must “be willing to commit to at least one year with a weekly average commitment of eight hours, an interest in offering their passions and interests to the community, and be able to organize, attend and clean up events,” explains Rochelle.

Sarah adds, “We want a community builder who will take whatever they’re passionate about to share and enrich” Jewish life for young adults in Portland.

Sarah, an environmental educator at the Oregon Zoo and a preschool teacher at Congregation Beth Israel, shares her passion for the outdoors, as well as the challah she bakes for Moishe House Shabbat dinners. An apprentice with the Jewish Theatre Collaborative for two years, Kenneth brings artists and arts events to his peers. Aaron, a grad student at Portland State University in public administration, has hosted a series of gatherings to watch the presidential debates. Rochelle, a mental health therapist and Oregon native, shares compassionate listening as well as hiking, camping and kayaking in the outdoor beauty of her native state. All four enjoy cooking and gardening, but admit they are enthusiastic though not especially skilled at the latter.

Housemates must be willing to live in a “mostly kosher” home (they have two sets of dishes for dairy and meat and serve only kosher foods at all events). Observing kashrut at events was instituted by Portland Moishe House founder Jodi Berris, who wanted to be sure events were open to everyone in the community, whether they keep kosher or not.

“In our community, the vast majority don’t keep kosher, but for those who do, it is important,” says Rochelle. “We never know who will arrive, and we want them to feel welcome if they keep kosher.”

In addition to a new housemate, the foursome also wants to meet more young adults interested in helping create or experience events. Most events are free, though if Moishe House organizes a group to attend a performance or sporting event, every person pays their own admission. Regular events include at least one Shabbat dinner a month, game nights, meditation events, homesteading workshops and parties for all the holidays.

This month, residents will once again cook and lead a Passover seder, but it won’t be at the house. Last year the 82 attendees took up every available sitting surface, so this year’s event will be offsite. “It will still be home cooked and brought to you by Moishe House,” says Sarah.

Rochelle notes they are very grateful to the funders who make Moishe House possible. Funding for each Moishe House is 70% local funding and 30% national funding. The Schusterman, Jim Joseph and Leichtag foundations are major national donors. Local support for each house comes from individuals, foundations and federations. Portland house donations can be made through the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland (jewishportland.org) or through moishehouse.org/donate  (select the Portland house).

While residents must be in their 20s, some people in their early 30s still fit the target audience of post-college, pre-kids. The grassroots community the housemates have built connects people with Jewish experiences, friends and even partners. Several people who have met at Moishe House have formed groups for other activities. And at least two couples became engaged after meeting at Purim parties in the past three years.

“I wouldn’t have been involved with the Jewish community without Moishe House,” says Kenneth, a three-year resident. “So call us.”

Jewish Texas of the Week - Brandon

Posted 05/05/2016 at 04:11PM

Jewish Texan of the Week – Brandon



 – APRIL 27, 2016

12967449_10209167730252616_2211697954412842074_o  This week I had the oppurtunity to interview Brandon! You may know Brandon as a resident of Moishe House   Capitol Hill but I had the oppurtunity to learn much more about him.

  Know someone who you think should be the Jew of the Week? Email me!

  Jackie: So you are originally from Texas, what do you miss most about your home state?

  Brandon: I miss three things most of all (excluding family and friends):

  1) Tex-Mex food – specifically breakfast tacos.

  2) Summer was a lot longer and winter was a lot shorter.

  3) It is socially acceptable to wear boots with pretty much anything down there.

  Jackie: When did you learn to speak Yiddish?

  Brandon: I learned to speak Yiddish at the University of Texas. It was a unique program lead by eminent Yiddish scholar Itzik Gottesman. There was even a CBS Sunday Morning segment about it.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 7.44.42 PM  Jackie: You celebrated Belgian National Day this year in the small town of Bruges, what were you doing there?

  Brandon: I was travelling this summer and lazing around in Antwerp. I was supposed to be going to   Brussels but switched my train   ticket on a whim per the recommendation of a buddy I met in my hostel.   Bruges is a beautiful and historic city. I would   highly recommend it to anyone who is ever going through   Belgium.

  Jackie: Reading anything good currently?

  Brandon: I am currently reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.

  Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

  Brandon: Moishe House Capitol Hill (where I am a resident) is always my first choice. If we are not hosting, I usually like to do one   of two things: either go to another one of the great Shabbat dinners happening around the city or go to an evening candle lit Yoga   class on H street.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Brandon: you can count me in!

Meet Brandon in person at Moishe House Capitol Hill events, learn more here.

Detroit City Moishe House

Posted 03/04/2016 at 04:26AM

Indian Village location can create a hub of young Jewish life in the city.

Detroit City Moishe House residents: Dan Hacker, Hayley Sakwa, Paul Green, Gabe Neistein and Abby Rubin.

Detroit’s Indian Village neighborhood has had a Jewish presence going back to its earliest years. Noted lawyer and philanthropist Leo Butzel, who began a legal firm to represent Great Lakes shipping concerns, lived there. The legal firm he founded, now known as Butzel Long, exceeds 140 lawyers in its 160th year.

Architect Albert Kahn’s daughter, Lydia Malbin, a major collector of European art, lived on Jefferson Avenue. Benjamin Gladwin, prominent in business and social circles, lived at 866 Iroquois, a mere four-minute drive from 3460 Iroquois, where Moishe House opened its 86th location in late January.

The location in Detroit’s historic Indian Village is designed to create a hub of Jewish life for post-college 20-somethings and help revitalize the city, which has seen a recent influx of young graduates and new energy.

Detroit City Moishe House (DCMH) is home to five dynamic residents: Gabe Neistein, Hayley Sakwa, Abby Rubin, Paul Green and Dan Hacker. These young adults, ages 23-28, are eager to build and create their own grass-roots community by hosting at least 60 programs annually that will ultimately reach more than 1,000 in total attendance over the course of their first year.

The new launch is part of a major Moishe House international growth initiative that aims to double the number of Jewish, young adult, peer-led communities worldwide by 2017. Residents of the new Moishe House in Indian Village will provide young adults in their 20s a home where they can connect with each other locally and also build off the continued successes of the Moishe House already thriving in Royal Oak.


Resident Goals

A spacious living area

Hayley Sakwa, originally of West Bloomfield, is now a community associate at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Sakwa is drawn to building meaningful community partnerships and hosting Shabbat dinners that inspire others.

“I was inspired by people around me in Jewish spaces who were actively involved in community, and I was lucky enough to have a lot of opportunities in the Jewish community that allowed me to gain professional skills and encourage my peers to get involved in something meaningful.

“I’m excited to be partnering with great friends to kick off the Detroit City Moishe House,” she said. “I believe in the power of communities to create positive change. I’m passionate about enacting that change in the city of Detroit, and I’m constantly learning and working to achieve that goal.”

A large dining room off the kitchen

A large dining room off the kitchen

Gabe Neistein has been a fan of Moishe House since it originally opened in Detroit five years ago. The Tamarack Camps alumni director said, “My first-ever Moishe House experience was at the first Detroit Moishe House on Ferry Street. I had just moved to Detroit in Midtown and knew many of the residents. It was my first real, engaging Jewish experience living in the city and one that I attribute to why I continue to stay involved.” Neistein’s commitment to Detroit is inspired by the energy and resiliency of Detroit residents.

“The Detroit Jewish community gave me so much growing up and continues to do so,” he said. “I feel a responsibility to the next generation. I have had the pleasure of working with so many great leaders in the community, and I am motivated to follow in their footsteps.”

Paul Green sees the new Moishe House as “a place in which individuals and organizations can coalesce for social and service-based events.” Green, an assistant manager at Moosejaw in Detroit, grew up in Huntington Woods. He’s drawn to making the community a “better, more vibrant, more equitable place.”

As a child, the only exposure Green had to the city was through the occasional trip Downtown to a Tigers game or for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. When Green realized he’d have an opportunity to be part of an intentional community within the city limits, he wasted no time. Even with the imperfections within the city, Green feels it is an incredible place to be right now.

Abby Rubin is the only resident who did not grow up in Michigan. The Cleveland native feels right at home in the new house.

“Detroit has welcomed me with open arms, and there is so much opportunity here,” she said. “I grew up hearing about all of the problems in the city, but after living here for more than a year, I know the amazing things that are already happening, and I want to be a part of it.” The former Repair the World Fellow is now a volunteer coordinator at Arts & Scraps, a nonprofit organization in Detroit.

The fifth resident, Dan Hacker, is a 23-year-old music producer and student. Hacker said his excitement around being a resident is drawn from his desire to “help cultivate a sense of community” in Indian Village.


Community Support

Residents show they know how to have fun: Dan Hacker, Paul Green, Abby Rubin, Hayley Sakwa and Gabe Neistein.

Moishe House is fortunate to have the support of local community members and philanthropists and an initial investment from the Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies to open the Downtown location and several other locations in North America.

Philanthropic giant Mandell “Bill” Berman recently visited DCMH and met residents to share stories of his own charitable work and to learn about their vision for giving back to the community. That week, Berman and the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation elected to provide charitable support for DCMH.

“Detroit has a proud Jewish history — and rightly so,” said Berman, a graduate of Detroit Central High School and a tireless advocate for Jewish life in the Detroit area. “Initiatives like Moishe House are inspiring Jewish young adults to spend time in Detroit and give back to Detroit. There is no ceiling to what these young people can achieve in this city we all love so much.”

Detroit’s Jewish Fund also stepped up to support Moishe House’s work in the Detroit community.

“The Jewish Fund is very pleased to support Detroit City Moshe House’s programming, which will provide creative and meaningful engagement opportunities for young Jewish adults within the city of Detroit,” said Margo Pernick, Jewish Fund executive director.

The residents have already hosted a housewarming event that included Havdalah and the installation of their mezuzot. Sakwa has spoken at a Jewish Learning Series about how Judaism informs her work around food access in Detroit.

In early February, DCMH hosted a group discussion with friends titled “How We Live Matters” about how they intend to have a positive impact on their community and the city of Detroit.

It’s not all serious stuff at the spacious new Moishe House, which seeks to welcome native and new Detroiters alike. At 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26, the residents will host a Purim party — celebrating the joy of Judaism in Indian Village.

To learn about upcoming events, go to moishehouse.org/houses/detroit-detroit-city.

By Adam Finkel | Contributing Writer

Learning From Jewish European Community Builders: Reflections and Inspiration

Posted 02/04/2016 at 09:28PM

MH Prague LRBy Alejandro Okret

The narrative and harsh realities coming out of Europe are far too familiar. Anti-Semitism is prevalent and terrorism around the globe has cast a wide shadow. Yet even during these precarious times that have given many reasons to hide or leave, I have had the privilege of seeing young Jewish adults in Europe and beyond stand up proud, eager and excited to create Jewish community for their peers.

I recently spent a weekend in Prague with twenty-nine young, primarily European Jews who have signed up to create a community for their peers. Through a three-day Moishe House Jewish learning retreat, we explored Shabbat ritual and tradition. We learned together with the help of several dynamic Jewish educators, and from one another. After the retreat, these young Jewish leaders dispersed as they returned home to France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and a handful of other countries with more confidence in their ability to facilitate and lead meaningful and joyful Shabbat experiences.

These young adults represented a wide range of educational and engagement backgrounds. I met participants who came in with little to no Jewish education, including some who had only recently discovered that they are Jewish. Others were Jewish community professionals and alumni of yeshivot. But, they all shared a desire to turn their homes into gathering places and hubs of Jewish activity and were excited to gain skills and a network to do that better. I was inspired by them, and by the Shabbatexperiences that they couldn’t wait to facilitate. It became clear that these twenty-nine young adults would return home and very naturally bring their peers into the experiences through their creative community building.

One participant, Sara Moon from Manchester in the UK shared that she struggles to find a welcoming space to actively celebrate Shabbat and incorporate her Jewish identity into her daily life. Following the retreat, Sara shared that she “fell in love with Shabbat all over again and am taking home so many fresh ideas and dreams.” From just one weekend experience with her peers, Sara now feels more connected to the global Jewish community and is better equipped to be a community creator, hosting innovativeShabbats with confidence.

At Moishe House, we have learned that many young adults are eager to facilitate Jewish rituals and traditions that they might not have grown up doing in their own homes, or have not practiced in a long time. Every month we hold one or two Jewish Learning Retreats in locations around the globe, to provide a space for hundreds of young adults to gather, learn and gain the confidence to facilitate for themselves and peers.

During the weekend, though, I realized there is another important reason we do these retreats: to build a supportive community for these incredible leaders. One young woman, Eva Wichsova, shared her excitement in welcoming the other participants to her city: “It is always great to have people from outside our city come visit and show them we are small, but alive. I was proud to showcase our small community of Jewish young adults who run creative programmes each month – from Shabbat dinners to Israeli movie nights to local artistic exhibitions and workshops.”

Eva, mission accomplished. We are proud of the community you have created and excited to be a part of this with you.

These Jewish learning retreats are made possible by Genesis Philanthropy Group, LA Pincus Fund for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, Maimonides Fund, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jim Joseph Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York an anonymous donor, and many other wonderful partners, Jewish young adults around the world can become confident and knowledgeable leaders and motivate others to be part of their creative Jewish community building process.

Alejandro Okret is the Chief Global Officer for Moishe House, based in London.

You should know… Tiffany Harris

Posted 02/04/2016 at 09:27PM


Morocco is a long way from Seattle, but Tiffany Harris is used to traveling far from her hometown, having visited 55 countries. The 29-year-old resident of Moishe House Columbia Heights served as a Peace Corps community health volunteer in a Berber village in the North African nation’s Anti-Atlas mountains from 2010 to 2012.

Harris is employed at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington as a country desk officer. Her portfolio includes Jamaica, Eastern Caribbean, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Palau.

A 2008 graduate of Seattle University with a bachelor of arts in communication studies and business administration, Harris holds a master of political science in security and diplomacy from Tel Aviv University, which she attended after volunteering in Morocco.

In addition to living at Moishe House, Harris sits on the organization’s board of directors. Her involvement in the Jewish community also includes co-chairing Shalom Corps, the Peace Corps’ Jewish employee resource group; directing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) peace advocacy group YaLa Young Leaders USA; and founding the website You Don’t Look Jewish that showcases Jews of color and provides resources for Jews from diverse backgrounds.

We recently caught up with Harris to talk about working for greater cooperation and understanding in the Middle East and North Africa, growing up surrounded by Washington state’s natural beauty and her passion for CrossFit.

How did you get interested in international relations and specifically the Middle East North Africa region?

Growing up Jewish I had an interest in the Middle East, specifically Israel, but when I signed up for Peace Corps you couldn’t choose what country you went to. I actually wanted to go to West Africa, but I ended up being placed in Morocco. I said I had very few requirements, but one of them was that I didn’t eat pork, and so I think that’s why they sent me to a Muslim country. I was pretty nervous about going, actually, knowing the complicated history of the Jewish community there, but I went. While I was there I learned how to speak Arabic, and I got a lot of exposure to life in the foreign service, and international relations and security challenges as they relate to international development and cultural diplomacy. I framed that within my passion for Israel and wanting to bridge these two cultures.

 Tell us about your Peace Corps volunteer experience in Morocco?

I was the only volunteer in my entire province. No one in my village spoke English. The village had about 200 people in it. There was one really bad road up this really steep mountain to get to my village and it was a tough experience. Before going in, I definitely romanticized the idea of being a development worker and living in a village and farming the land and all of this stuff. It was difficult. Really harsh weather. I saw kids get sick. Some people would die of diarrheal disease. Women would die in childbirth. It was tough, but I had a great experience. I started a mobile vaccination clinic. We would drive out, me and this ambulance driver, we would go out to the tiny villages with just a box of vaccines and administer these vaccines and teach women about nutrition, encourage them to come to a local clinic when they’re pregnant. Talk about family planning options and different things like that. I also built a well while I was there because, like I said, people were dying of diarrheal diseases — so getting people access to a clean water source was really important and [I was] teaching them about how they can boil their water. I also taught English and women’s literacy while I was there.

What is the most memorable experience from your travels around the world?

I did a backpacking trip around the world when I was 22 or 23 and my brother joined for part of it. His girlfriend at the time was from Uzbekistan and didn’t have the proper paperwork or something. We were on the border of Hungary and Romania. It was right after they joined the EU so it was still a very tough post-Communist region. I’m not sure what the issue was with her paperwork because nobody spoke English, but they put us in jail for a night and we were sitting in this jail on the border of Hungary and Romania where it was just like three drunk guys passed out in the corner. They interrogated us one by one but eventually my brother paid the guard 200 euros and they let us out and put us on the next train.

You founded You Don’t Look Jewish. What is that about?

I did a fellowship with Gather the Jews, which is an organization based here in D.C. One of the components of that fellowship was to have conversations with people in the community. As I would talk to more and more diverse Jews or Jews from interfaith households, people who had converted, I got the sense that they felt like outsiders in the community in a lot of ways, especially not looking like the traditional idea of what a Jewish person is supposed to look like. My idea was to create this website. I wanted it to be a place where people could go and see pictures of Jews who look different, just to sensitize people. I’m half African-American and Native American, and I walk into a synagogue and people think that I’m visiting a friend or that I’m a Jew by choice. So [my idea was] to sensitize people that Jews can look like any race possible — and so you don’t get those stares and those questions when you go to synagogue and it just feels a bit more welcoming.

What are the differences between Seattle and D.C.?

Seattle’s beautiful. I grew up in an area where it’s hard to be standing in one point of the city and not see the water somewhere and not see a chain of mountains. I really miss seeing the mountains and the water, and I love the outdoors. I grew up hiking and skiing and everything like that, so just being surrounded by that natural beauty is amazing. It’s so green and people are very relaxed. I also love music. I really miss the music scene out there. I miss coffee, of course, and I miss my family. But in D.C. you have this amazing influx of people coming in and out of the city, so the Jewish community is very vibrant and robust and innovative. People come to the city and they are fresh and they maybe don’t have friends in the community. They are really outgoing and looking to meet people. We have an interactive sukkah map this year during Sukkot and something like that would never happen in Seattle, there aren’t maybe enough people willing to do that. There are more opportunities out here and a bigger Jewish community.

Do you have a favorite pastime?

I’m kind of embarrassed to say it because I know that there are a lot of stereotypes that come with this, but I love CrossFit. I got really into CrossFit when I was in Israel. CrossFit Tel Aviv was where I started. I didn’t know that many people in Israel, and that was the place where I made friends and established my first community and it became a little mishpacha.


Moishe House Thrives in Second Year

Posted 02/04/2016 at 09:25PM

Written By Blaire Ginsburg, Contributing Writer

The three residents/program managers of Moishe House are Stephanie Pollack (from left), Elizabeth Willens and Sarah Freyman.

Little more than a year out from its establishment, the local Moishe House is thriving. Current residents Stephanie Pollack, Sarah Freyman and Elizabeth Willens live in one of the 83 houses found worldwide sponsored by the organization. The non-profit is designed to engage Jewish adults ages 22-30 by creating and providing meaningful experiences through a variety of cultural, educational, social and service events.

“The Kansas City Moishe House strives to create networks, build friendships, encourage leadership, give back and have fun,” Willens said. 

In its first year the house, located just south of KU Medical Center, opened its doors to a group that often struggles to find a place in the Jewish community — 20-somethings falling into the middle ground between college Hillel groups and congregation memberships. 

Pollack, who also lived in the house last year, said, “The first year of Moishe House Kansas City was very successful in terms of attendance, engagement and programming.”

Willens, an active participant before she moved into the house, added, “Stephanie, Jessica Joffe and Seth Miller did a great job establishing Moishe House. The community broadened and a stronger Jewish culture surfaced in the Kansas City area, growing our Jewish young adult presence.” Joffe and Miller lived in the house last year when it first opened and helped run it with Pollack.

The success of the house continues to grow as it enters its second year. Since the beginning of 2015, Moishe House KC has hosted 58 programs with 683 participants in total attendance. The Moishe House residents host five to six programs per month, each of which fall into categories laid out by the Moishe House organization at their determination: Jewish culture and holidays, Jewish learning, repair the world and social.

“We typically get anywhere from 10 to 30 people at a program. Our social programs do very well, ranging from pumpkin carving to happy hours. Our Shabbat dinners also get many individuals looking for an inclusive place to celebrate the Sabbath,” Freyman said.

Moishe House also regularly partners for events with other local leaders and organizations, such as the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City and Jewish Family Services, to increase involvement and promote existing programs for young adults. A recent event that included all three organizations was a Young Adult Mitzvah House Build. This collaboration between Habitat for Humanity and the Kansas City Jewish community let Jewish young adults contribute to their community by helping build a house for a family that otherwise couldn’t afford one.

Another joint event between Moishe House and Jewish Federation’s Business and Professional Division for young adults occurred at the Up-Down Bar and Arcade in downtown Kansas City, bringing out over 100 Jewish 20-somethings for an evening of games, beverages and good company.

Often events are simply hosted at the house, with catered Shabbat dinners or homemade brunches provided by the three Moishe House residents and those willing to lend a hand. There is always a homey, casual atmosphere to be found inside, something the three residents believe contributes to their success with the local community.

“Generally speaking, we found people our age aren’t necessarily ready to be formally involved with any organization. That’s a huge motivation for us to have informal events that are focused on having fun,” Pollack said. 

“Last year was more driven toward the program being brand new to the area, and now I think it’s more successful in terms of people wanting to come back and really grow relationships that build the community,” she continued.

KU Hillel Executive Director Jay Lewis also believes in its success and its potential for the future. Lewis had a major hand in the establishment of Moishe House KC after taking a group of KU Hillel students to the Moishe House in Sofia, Bulgaria, on a European leadership trip in January of 2014. For him, seeing the local house grow and flourish both contributes to Kansas City’s pull for Jewish young adults, and provides an entity to connect KU Hillel alums to the immediate Jewish community.

“It’s a different world than a few years ago, when people felt they had to go to Chicago or somewhere else, that you don’t have to leave Kansas City to have a great life as a Jewish 20-something,” he said.

Moishe House is still relatively new, so Pollack, Freyman and Willens are looking for the program to continue to grow in popularity and eventually grow a new group of young leaders.

“I think Moishe House has a ton of potential and is in the process of building an awesome community. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is the Kansas City community. It takes time, effort and participation,” said Willens.

“We’re looking to grow our programs with more community partnerships and more participants. We want to keep giving the gift of Moishe House to Kansas City!” Freyman added.

Upcoming events include Moishe House KC’s partnership with Jewish Federation for the annual Bagel Bash, hosted this year at Westport Ale House on Dec. 24. (See box for details.) The event is known for its great turnout and lively atmosphere as Jewish young adults enjoy the designated space to socialize on an otherwise quiet holiday’s eve. Moishe House also collaborated with K.C. Chabad on a Hanukkah celebration.

The three current residents also look forward to events focused on Jewish learning, and are enthusiastic about the open-mindedness and diversity Moishe House brings to young adults in the Kansas City area.

“Moishe House is looking to bring new and old Jewish tradition to life in our area. This includes planning meaningful and creative events that people want to come to,” Willens said.

One such event includes a recent “Coexist Shabbat” thrown at the house on Nov. 20. The event description broadcasted to all 155 members of the group Facebook page read:

“Moishe House is a Jewish organization, but that doesn’t mean it’s exclusive! Please bring a non-Jewish friend to this month’s Shabbat. The goal of Coexist Shabbat is to let others experience our culture while we learn about theirs!”

The inclusivity expressed to people of all religions truly emphasizes the good intent and outreach the women at Moishe House KC wish to contribute to the community.

“Anyone is welcome to attend programming. Moishe House can be whatever the community wants it to be; we are flexible, optimistic and very open-minded to new and unique programming. We are always up for suggestions and feedback, and welcome anyone who wants a leadership role.” Willens said.

The three women are looking forward to the idea of Moishe House KC sticking around for years to come.

“I’m really excited to see people make what they want out of Moishe House. Elizabeth and Sarah came in, and they brought their creative bones and their new networks, and I thought that was a really great start, but I’m excited to see more people come in and take it in their own direction and really sustain the excited participants,” Pollack said.

To learn more about Moishe House KC, visit moishehouse.org/houses/kansas-city or facebook.com/MHofKC. To get involved with programming email [email protected].


A Moishe House brings two midwestern dog lovers together.

Posted 10/08/2015 at 04:34PM
Jewish Week Online Columnist

image: http://www.thejewishweek.com/sites/default/files/images/david_and_jackie_jw.feature_580x320.jpg

David Elias and Jackie Medintz. Tristan Scobie
David Elias and Jackie Medintz. Tristan Scobie

They were both looking for community.  “That’s what we found at Moishe House St. Louis,” says David Elias, 30. And that’s where they found each other.  In the words of its founders:  “Moishe House is a place for young Jews to connect post-college. Moishe House is a community.” 

David, a St. Louis native, lived in Houston, Kalamazoo, and Kansas City before returning to St. Louis, where he co-founded “Next Dor STL,” a community driven-space, somewhat like Moishe House. "At the time, I was always hosting or attending events,” says David.

Jacqueline (Jackie) Medintz, 29, a Florida native, moved to St. Louis in 2010.  She recalls: “Though I came with my family, I was still looking for a community of peers.” A message on Facebook alerted her to a Halloween event at Moishe House, where she and David had their first conversation. The connection came six weeks later.

It was New Year’s Eve, 2011, and David was hosting a celebration. Jackie came to the party with three of her sisters. “Not only did I click with Jackie that evening, but I also introduced Jackie’s younger sister to my good friend. As it worked out, they got married a year before Jackie and me," David said. For the Medintz family, it was a very happy New Year.

Both David and Jackie are passionate dog people.  “It was a good omen when David connected with my beagle, Lexi, on our first date,” said Jackie. “Lexi ran out the front door, through the snow, and David raced two houses down to catch her.”

David remembers two other things from their first date. “I felt bad that the phone kept ringing, but I noticed how Jackie took it in stride.  On the back of a napkin, I wrote in Hebrew: Ani ohev otach, which translates – I like (or love) you.”

Soon after they started dating, David moved into Moishe House St. Louis, where the residents receive a subsidy in exchange for hosting a number of programs each month. Some of the residents are grad students, some are young professionals and they are all Jewish leaders.

David, who works as an accountant, has a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in Jewish studies from Miami University of Oxford, Ohio, and a double master’s degree in accounting and business administration from Lindenwood University.

When there was an opening for a new resident at Moishe House, the roommates asked if Jackie could move in. Generally, residents of Moishe House don’t date.  But there was some precedent.  “And since David’s roommates initiated the move, I was happy to accept,” explains Jackie.

Jackie’s resume met the criteria.  She has a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from the University Of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio, as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas. She recently completed her master’s of science in nursing from Maryville University and currently works as an oncology nurse.

David is a sentimental guy. Before proposing in August 2014, he asked his prospective father-in-law for permission. At their formal proposal, David showed Jackie the napkin he had saved from their first date.

After their wedding, Jackie and David would like to visit Quito, Ecuador, where Jackie’s mom was born. Jackie’s grandmother still lives there – a 104 year-old Holocaust survivor.

Jackie and David are to be wed in St. Louis on September 6, 2015. Mazal tov.

How Moishe House is helping turn social lives into Jewish life

Posted 10/08/2015 at 04:28PM

by Aron Chilewich

Posted on Aug. 26, 2015 at 10:18 am

Moishe House Silver Lake residents Ben Feldman, top left, and Andrew Cohen, far right, eat and socialize with guests during a Shabbat picnic event at the Silver Lake Recreation Center. Photo by Carmel Diamant

Moishe House Silver Lake residents Ben Feldman, top left, and Andrew Cohen, far right, eat and socialize with guests during a Shabbat picnic event at the Silver Lake Recreation Center. Photo by Carmel Diamant

“Are you all from Moishe House?” Ben Zauzmer asked as he approached a circle of about 15 young adults, all in their early to mid-20s, who were eating sandwiches on the lawn of the Silver Lake Recreation Center on a recent Saturday morning. They were, so he joined the group, appearing a bit nervous doing so. 

Andrew Cohen, 23, immediately and warmly introduced himself, and asked how Zauzmer had heard about the “Shabbat Picnic in the Park” event. 

“My sister was a resident of the Moishe House in Washington, D.C., and since I just moved to L.A., she suggested I check it out,” Zauzmer said, adding he had recently graduated from college and has a job doing data analytics for the Dodgers. 

“Cool!” nearly everyone responded in unison, noticeably easing Zauzmer’s demeanor. People introduced themselves, and Carmel Diamant, 22, offered food to Zauzmer and some other new arrivals. 

From across the circle, Ben Feldman, 23, explained that he, Cohen and Diamant are the three residents of the newly opened Moishe House Silver Lake, and this was their second event. 

Moishe House is a well-subsidized experiment whose goal is to ensure the future of Jewish engagement among young adults through interpersonal — not virtual — social networking. The organization offers housing subsidies and grants to groups of young adults, who agree to turn their homes into centers of Jewish life.

Founded in 2006, the nonprofit Moishe House organization currently subsidizes 77 such residences in 18 countries, including seven in Los Angeles. By the end of 2015, Moishe House plans to have 85 houses operating globally, with the goal of doubling its reach in the next three years. The Silver Lake house, a three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath house tucked away in the hills above one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, is the most recent to launch.

The three Silver Lake residents have known each other since high school; all were students at New Community Jewish High School (now called de Toledo High School) in West Hills. Moishe House pays for 50 percent of the $3,750 monthly rent of their new residence, located near the recreation center where the picnic took place, and the nonprofit gives them an additional $375 monthly — as well as access to a variety of grants — to offer programs to their 20-something Jewish friends and an ever-expanding network.

In late July, two weeks after moving in, Cohen, Feldman and Diamant threw a welcome barbecue at their spacious, two-story home. They’ve since offered three more events — the Shabbat picnic, a game night with another upstart group in the area called East Side Jews, and a get-together before Echo Park Rising, a free music festival that took place nearby in mid-August. Many more are planned for the coming weeks and months. 

Most — but not all — attendees at Moishe House events are Jewish. Emily Pott, who came to the Shabbat picnic, for instance, is not. She was there, she said, because Diamant invited her when they met a week before, at orientation for the Keck School of Medicine at USC, where both are students. For Pott, it was simply a chance to connect with her new friend. 

None of this — the rent on the house, many of its communal contents, the food for the events — would be affordable to most recent college graduates, with their various (and, at times, precarious) states of employment. But that’s precisely the point of Moishe House — to provide young Jewish adults between the ages of 22 and 30 with the financial means to build meaningful communities during a phase of life when there isn’t a natural institutional network. 

A simple idea

For recent college graduates, life’s lack of structure can feel overwhelming and alienating. To keep them engaged on campuses, Jewish students are offered an array of options spanning the religious and cultural spectrum — Hillel, Chabad, AEPi, AEPhi, Challah for Hunger bake-ins and much more. After they graduate, however, that’s all gone, yet the traditional next step of joining a synagogue can seem too grown-up or culturally removed, and marriage and family life are usually years away. At the same time, they face new stresses: employment, housing, independence. 

Even within this period, there is an incredible diversity of experience and maturing, and each life decision can feel deeply consequential and formative. The social and spiritual needs of a 25-year-old, too, can differ greatly from those of a 22-year-old. 

David Cygielman, the founder and CEO of Moishe House, served as Hillel student president at UC Santa Barbara, graduating in 2003, and later as executive director of the Santa Barbara-based Forest Foundation, which helps high school and college students to grow as leaders while pursing their individual passions. He originally conceived Moishe House as a project of the Forest Foundation but turned it into an independent nonprofit in 2008. 

“Moishe House started when four Jewish 20-somethings began hosting Shabbat dinners in Oakland, Calif., for their friends and networks,” Cygielman said. 

At the time, Cygielman saw very few organizations built to serve this population on a national or international level. 

“I think the reason for this is that most of what exists is staff-driven … an expensive model that is difficult to grow or scale,” he said. “Moishe House focuses on a peer-to-peer model that uses an existing home, so it is able to both create a warm atmosphere and bring down costs.”

From left: The three residents of the new Moishe House Silver Lake are Carmel Diamant, Ben Feldman and Andrew Cohen. Photo by Andrew Cohen

Organizationally, Moishe House is designed to fill the void of post-college life while enabling participants to have as much flexibility as possible to design their lifestyle and programs. The nonprofit subsidizes housing and events but allows participants to actively recruit and shape their communities, and to learn from other like-minded communities. 

The idea caught on quickly: In 2006 alone, houses opened in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Washington, D.C., Uruguay and Nigeria. By the end of 2007, 20 houses were operating globally. Today, Moishe Houses across the globe host more than 5,000 programs annually, reaching an estimated 90,000 participants, at a cost of $6.1 million to the organization.

Unlike most Jewish institutions that function on a hierarchical leadership model, Moishe House empowers individuals to build community but does not employ them. One house might dedicate itself to social-justice issues, while another might have a weekly Torah study group. And because Moishe House works outside the traditions of Jewish life, even when participants celebrate Shabbat and traditional holidays, they are free to do so from a consciously “nondenominational, pluralistic Jewish” point of view.

“Being Jewish means something different for everyone. To some it is a religious focus, for others a cultural one and, for most, it is some combination,” Cygielman said. “We are providing a space, people and programs to explore and experience both. Our focus is on creating Jewish community; the residents are defining that for themselves and providing a space for others to join them in participating in it.”

Finding new meaning in old connections

All the residents of the Silver Lake house were raised in Jewish families in the western San Fernando Valley: Diamant in Tarzana by Israeli émigré parents; Cohen in Agoura Hills in a Conservative household; and Feldman in Woodland Hills by parents active in the Union for Reform Judaism. They grew up learning about their heritage, but, like many young Jews, they didn’t always feel personal connections to it.

“We grew up in families where it is expected of you to be engaged and participate in community, and have leadership roles,” Feldman said during the first of a series of interviews throughout July and August. Feldman embraced those opportunities at the time, and they imbued him with a strong Jewish identity. But as he got older, Feldman said, he wanted to explore other interests outside of the Jewish world.

The three are very different from one another. Feldman is the most introspective, quiet but rarely shy, and when he speaks, his thoughts seem fully formed. Cohen — who, at 6 feet 4 inches, towers above the others — is casual and jovial. His bedroom, a loft-like space down a spiral-staircase from the kitchen, allows him little privacy — something of which, his roommates pointed out, few people would be so accepting. 

Diamant is the most direct and assertive of the three. Although outwardly warm, her go-getter attitude at times borders on impatience. “Abrasive, some might say,” she said of herself, before adding, “but I’ve been working on my abrasiveness.”

The three friends also know when to laugh at one another’s eccentricities. During a recent trip to Target, Diamant sarcastically poked fun at Feldman as he made an ironic but impassioned speech on the merits of one spatula over another, before turning his attention to a countertop composter, which he criticized for not being airtight. 

A few weeks later, asked how the house was coming along, Feldman responded, “Good, except for Andrew [Cohen].” Cohen chuckled.

In high school, Feldman was co-founder of a campus chapter of the BBYO youth movement, named Kavod, which Cohen joined soon after. Both served terms as president of the organization. 

“Until I went to college, everything I did except for soccer was in the Jewish community: the camp I went to; the extracurriculars that I did; the school that I went to; and most of my friends were Jewish,” Feldman said. “That’s just how it worked.” 

Diamant said the opposite was true for her; she never sought out the Jewish community because it was already intrinsic to her life. “When I was in high school, the only Jewish thing that I did was go to Jewish school. I never went to temple; I never was part of any BBYO thing. It was soccer and school, and that was it,” she said. 

But because she went to a Jewish school, most of Diamant’s friends were Jewish, and she often traveled to Israel to visit family. She also participated in and then coached soccer in the JCC Maccabi Games.

Organizationally, Moishe House is designed to fill the void of post-college life while enabling participants to have as much flexibility as possible to design their lifestyle and programs.

In college at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Cohen joined and later served as president of AEPi and majored in film studies. (Full disclosure: This writer was in the same class as Cohen at Wesleyan, although not a close friend.) Diamant attended UC Santa Barbara and was part of a loosely formed Jewish community. She studied cell and developmental biology, and for two of her four years, she lived in an off-campus home with 15 women, many of them Jews from Los Angeles. They celebrated Shabbat together and attended events at the campus Hillel. 

Feldman, however, consciously sought to distance himself from being a leader in Jewish life while studying philosophy and public affairs at Claremont McKenna College. “I really wanted to step out of that role,” he said.

Feldman founded his school’s garden, spent a semester studying in Washington, D.C., and did summer research in India and Bangladesh. The only Jewish program he participated in was Urban Adamah in Berkeley, spending a summer working on an organic farm.

All three graduated in 2014 and moved back into their parents’ homes. While Diamant found an interim job assisting in clinical research in the oncology department at UCLA, she immediately began applying to medical school. Cohen sought and struggled to find work that merged film with Jewish leadership, but has since found employment as a publicist, which he said he is enjoying. Feldman turned from the global to the local, volunteering, and later working for pay, on a Los Angeles City Council campaign. He is currently looking for employment.

During their difficult first post-college year, all three missed the communities they’d known in high school and college, and in particular, the Jewish community. 

“The thing that I really missed the most about Wesleyan was those regular communities that you have, whether it’s seeing those same people in your class, or a club, or a lunch group, whatever it is — that is something that is difficult to experience in the post-college world,” Cohen said. 

“All my friends were Jewish in high school because I went to a Jewish private school, and then all my friends were Jewish in college,” Diamant said. “So it was weird coming back to L.A. When I was working during my year off, I was one of the only Jewish people in my whole office. I really enjoyed that, and I want to keep those connections.”

After college, Feldman asked himself, “What do I really miss?” He had two clear answers: “One was soccer, which I had stopped in college, and the other was my Jewish life.” 

Cohen and Feldman, in particular, wrestled with how to balance professional ambitions with the desire to move out of their parents’ homes — and with the cost of independence.

It is an increasingly common narrative. The percentage of young adults living with their parents in the United States has increased rapidly in recent years, with more than 19 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds living at home in 2012, as compared to slightly above 11 percent in 2001, according to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders. 

Additionally, 2014 study by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs found that Los Angeles is the least affordable housing market in the country. 

After learning about Moishe House from Cohen’s mom (who had heard about it at a Federation conference), Cohen and Feldman attended a few Moishe House events in West L.A. and the Valley. They enjoyed themselves, and so about six months ago, they put in an application, with a different friend, to live in Moishe House Venice Beach, which at the time was just opening and was seeking three residents.

“We were talking about moving out together, and we each had what we considered a well-touted Jewish resume,” Feldman said. “That, coupled with the fact that we also wanted, professionally, the leeway to explore what we want to do, and we knew that that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an early large sum of money. So we thought, this is a way where we can do what we want to do socially and Jewishly, as well as being able to pursue our professional interest without having to live at home forever, which I think made our parents very happy.”

That first application was denied, however. In retrospect, Feldman thinks that was fortunate, because they probably weren’t ready yet to take on the responsibilities of the program. “I think we had a lot in theory down, but we didn’t really know what we wanted to be and what that would look like,” he said. 

“But we still had the idea that we really wanted to do Moishe House,” Feldman said. “When we started looking at the areas where we could do it, it was about the time I was working for the campaign. I was hanging out in Silver Lake a lot, and it fit us a little bit more.”

The pair’s initial third roommate went on to find a different living situation, but Diamant, who had committed to attending medical school at USC, signed on to the idea. They applied to open a new house in Silver Lake.

“At that point, Andrew [Cohen] was pretty much leading the charge,” Feldman said, before adding in a joking tone typical of the trio’s rapport: “I’ll give him that credit, but don’t expect me to give him more credit than that.”

This time they were accepted. Moishe House had not planned financially on opening another house in Los Angeles, but the organizers were won over by the trio’s application and decided they would make it work. The organization has set the goal of funding between 70 percent and 80 percent of the costs of each house from each local Jewish community, although it often uses nonlocal funding to expedite getting a house up and running before looking for additional local backers. Moishe House Silver Lake is in this situation, so Cohen, Feldman and Diamant were asked to help fundraise, using their networks in order to try to draw in more money from the L.A. area.

In all, Moishe House spends between $50,000 and $65,000 annually on each house. To do so, it receives significant funding from the Schusterman Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, the Jewish Federations of New York and Greater Los Angeles, and the Leichtag Foundation, as well as many other organizations and individuals. 

If residents of a house commit to throwing five to six events each month, Moishe House pays 50 percent of their rent and provides $375 per month for event expenses. If residents commit to six to seven events per month, they receive a 75 percent rent subsidy and $500 monthly. The Silver Lake house is on the lesser plan.

In addition, the Silver Lake residents receive $300 per year for cleaning supplies and are eligible to apply for numerous holiday-specific grants, including $180 per Shabbat up to twice a month, and $100 for different celebrations throughout the High Holy Days — all from the larger Moishe House organization.

Upon moving in, the Silver Lake house also received a $3,000 “beautification” grant through The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to assist in furnishing the residence for daily life and events. 

In addition to grants and subsidies, the international organization stages an annual conference and monthly retreats for residents, paying room and board and providing as-needed travel assistance. This September’s retreat, titled “Living Lifecycles,” will take place in Boston; in December, Moishe House community members can travel to Los Angeles for a weeklong retreat on “Jewish Mindfulness.”

Although the organization requires residents to plan one program every three months in each of five categories — one social; one in partnership with another local organization; one Jewish learning program; one community-service program; and one Jewish culture and holiday program — the guidelines are minimal. House members can organize whatever kinds of programming appeals to them.

Moishe House’s funders say they appreciate that the program’s adaptability has proven well-suited to the needs of young adults. 

“I was very impressed by the fact that the young adults themselves were coming up with the programs,” said Simone Friedman, executive director of Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and a member of Moishe House’s board of directors. “It wasn’t a top-down approach. It wasn’t people telling the residents what they should be doing. It was really a perfect match for the millennial generation.”

Friedman’s foundation first funded houses in the Washington, D.C., area, where its offices are based, but has since become one of Moishe House’s core groups of funders, assisting in paying costs for opening new houses around the world. Freidman Philanthropies is one of the out-of-town funders supporting the new Silver Lake house. 

Guests relax on a deck overlooking the nearby hills at a welcome barbecue at the new Silver Lake Moishe House.  Photo by Andrew Cohen

Among Moishe House residents, Friedman said, “There is a willingness to sort of explore and make connections between different types of programs, different types of activities, that older people might not think are Jewish. There is more of a willingness to experiment, and less desire to deal with organizations that have more bureaucracy. Also, there is a desire to take leadership roles. And a lot of the older Jewish world doesn’t create those opportunities for millennials.”

Lisa Fields of the Fields Family Foundation, a local funder of the Silver Lake house, echoed that idea, and said she thinks that the autonomy Moishe House gives its residents and participants — those who attend Moishe House events but are not residents — enables the houses to be tolerant and inclusive environments — both things, she said, that older Jewish institutions should strive for.

And it appears to be working. Two separate independent evaluations, in 2011 and 2015, concluded that Moishe House was largely achieving key goals: The 2015 evaluation found, in part, that “almost two-thirds (65 percent) of residents have adopted new Jewish practices since getting involved with Moishe House.” Almost one-third of participants reported the same. More than 75 percent of residents and participants said they viewed Moishe House as a hub for young adult Jewish life, and 45 percent of all respondents reported an increased connection to the global Jewish community. 

The 2015 report concluded, “Moishe House is helping young adults become stronger leaders in the Jewish community, particularly for house residents.”

Planting the seeds of interest

On a recent Tuesday evening, a board game night co-hosted with East Side Jews at the Silverlake Independent JCC was winding down, and about 15 people were milling around, chatting, snacking on chips and drinking beer. The various conversation groups had divided by age. Three women in their early 30s were filling in one another on their lives; Cohen and Feldman were explaining Moishe House to a pair of women in their early 20s. Diamant sat off to one side, taking a break from conversation, visibly tired after a long day. 

“What are your phone numbers?” Cohen asked the women. “We have a Facebook page and an email listserv where we announce events. We are having something before Echo Park Rising this weekend, actually, and a lot more after that.” The women, who are roommates, happily handed over the information. 

Although genuinely enthusiastic, Cohen’s open invitation sounded a bit like he was reading off a script. All three roommates had repeated the invitation, or something like it, countless times over the past few weeks. Recruiting new participants into their community is part of their charge; they aren’t supposed to just entertain friends.

Of the game night’s 15 attendees, only five — two if you don’t include the residents themselves — had come via Moishe House. But given that this was only the trio’s third event (and one was on a Tuesday evening), Diamant and Feldman thought the turnout was pretty good.

The main problem they are working through is, “How do we get people to come? How do we get people to come regularly? And how do we get people to come that aren’t already our friends?” Cohen said the next day, sitting with his roommates in his large, light-filled bedroom.

Upstairs is Feldman’s bedroom, as well as a joint living room/dining room/kitchen, where, adjacent to a dining room table, two oversized beanbag chairs and a few long couches face a newly mounted television. Diamant’s room is down a short hallway from the kitchen, where a steep spiral staircase descends into Cohen’s loft-like space. Outside a set of French doors, a large hillside deck faces west onto the Silver Lake hills.

“So far it has been our college friends, our high school friends and Carmel’s med school friends at the majority of our events,” Cohen added.

They see their biggest challenge as expanding their network. When they schedule events, “It’s really hard to hit someone up, and then hit someone up again, and then hit them up again that month. And it’s not like you are going to their things,” Feldman said. 

Diamant, who is currently finishing her first month of medical school, is a bit more selective than Cohen about who she gives the Moishe House pitch to. 

“I’ve been trying to limit myself in school, only because I don’t want to be known as the super-Jewish girl of med school,” Diamant said. “People who have come over, I’ve told. Like Jolie, who came to the Shabbat picnic, she expressed interest.”

These days, almost every time Cohen meets a 20-something Jew, he jumps into gear.  “Andrew [Cohen] is the best networker I have ever met,” Feldman said. “He is definitely the most easygoing of the three of us.” 

To that end, Cohen has started devising a small public-relations campaign. He is considering creating business cards with the house’s information on the front and a list of two months’ events on the back. 

Facebook, of course, also plays a role in spreading the word, and Cohen is looking into paying for Facebook advertising to publicize Moishe House Silver Lake to people outside of their social networks — specifically directing ads to young adults in and around Silver Lake who identify as Jewish. He is still trying to convince Feldman and Diamant that paying a little out of pocket for advertising would be worthwhile.

Of all of their events so far, the three roommates say the welcome barbecue was their favorite. More than 50 people attended. Although most were friends from high school, college and Diamant’s medical-school class, a good number of strangers also passed through their doors, many invited by Ashley Sullivan, an outreach coordinator at Wilshire Boulevard Temple who none of the residents had previously met. 

Sullivan, 29, had heard about the Silver Lake open house at an event for Federation’s Next Gen Engagement Initiative, which brings together young Jewish community leaders and organizations that cater to Jews in their 20s and 30s to network; she invited many Jews from the neighborhood — mostly in their late 20s — who she thought should be involved in the new Moishe House.

Sullivan began attending Moishe House events after moving to Los Angeles from Haifa about a year ago. After applying to attend a Moishe House retreat as a nonresident, Sullivan began hosting Shabbat dinners under the umbrella of another program, called Moishe House Without Walls, which enables active participants to host their own events outside of the residences. 

Most of the people she knows who are involved in Moishe House are on the older end of the program’s spectrum and tend to want different things from the events than do younger residents. 

“I’ve noticed that as people get into their later 20s, whereas a spiritual expression of their Jewish identity may not have been important earlier, they start to want that,” Sullivan said. 

But, she added, that’s precisely why the Moishe House model works: A Shabbat dinner or a Seder can be more, or less, religious, depending on the preferences of a house’s residents and active participants.

The Silver Lake residents echoed this sentiment. 

“I am not a really religious person, so for me Judaism is about community, completely,” Diamant said.

The ideal Moishe House community, Cohen said, would be one with a core group of regular participants who, though not residents, feel similarly invested in creating meaningful programs. That passionate, tight-knit group would be a base around which new and occasional participants could circulate. 

Additionally, all three friends stressed that they want their Jewish community to be embracing of their non-Jewish social circles as well. 

Upcoming events at Moishe House Silver Lake reflect its residents: a Shabbat dinner; a Dodger game; in October, during Sukkot, a sushi and sake in the sukkah (which they will build on their deck); taco trivia night at Angel City Brewery; and a charity poker game. 

“We have had all these Jewish communities set up in a way that don’t necessarily allow us to make decisions about how we want to do Jewish things. And now that we are having our own Moishe House, we are able to be in control of those things. We can say we aren’t going to do anything for Rosh Hashanah, because we don’t want to, or it doesn’t work with our schedule,” Cohen said. They will be spending the High Holy Days with their families before hosting the Sukkot event together.

“It is sort of a Jewish community, but it’s also sort of the A-B-C, Andrew-Ben-Carmel community,” Cohen said.

How Moishe House Looks Different Post Evaluation

Posted 10/08/2015 at 04:23PM

August 26, 2015

By Jen Rosen

As a former foundation professional, I have always enjoyed perusing organizations’ impact studies. I know, I know; nerd alert … I love data! Needless to say, when we had the opportunity to conduct our first external evaluation in 2011, I was a bit giddy. What came out of that process was fantastic: a clearly stated vision of Moishe House’s intended impact, data confirming effectiveness of the model, and most importantly, findings that enabled us to better understand our actual audience, their needs and the opportunities to maximize the program’s impact on them.

Repeating and enhancing the process this past year was a real privilege, again, not just to confirm that what we are doing is working (and overall it is!), but more importantly, to be able to continue tweaking and improving our model to maximize impact. In case you have not seen it yet, check out the findings of our evaluation. In short, the survey, which included more than 1,500 residents, participants and alumni, further informed us about the impact of our various models, and more importantly, about how Jewish 20-somethings identify. Some key findings about the cohort included:

  • Increased Jewish involvement does not necessarily mean higher affiliation. While the Jewish practices and reported connections of our young adults are growing, their identification with specific denominations is actually decreasing.
  • Young adults are interested in frequently participating in a range of program offerings (with Shabbat dinners and general social gatherings being the most popular), and more than 60% of participants are attending at least one program each month. They are also adopting new Jewish practices into their lives, especiallyShabbat related traditions and rituals.
  • Understanding how participants plugged into Jewish life prior to Moishe House(e.g. 87% have been to Israel, of which 59% are Birthright alumni).

Now, all of this information is fine and good, but the real question is, what are we doing with it? As David challenged us in his recent piece, how are we pushing ourselves to use this information in our decision making and ensure that it actually impacts our behavior as an organization? While certainly a work in progress, a few key learnings that we are already translating into tangible action items include:

  • Moishe House Without Walls is an effective extension of Moishe House with a similar reported impact. With this knowledge, we are aggressively building out the model as our alumni strategy (for former residents and Retreat participants), to young adults in a few specific metropolitan areas and to select alumni of Moishe House partner organizations.
  • We can strengthen the support we provide to our residents. As compared to 2011, residents reported a slight decrease in how useful they found the resources and support offered by the organization. We are committed to ensuring these residents feel fully supported in their work, and are ramping up our mechanisms to do so, including: a regular resident newsletter, training around intra-house issues (conflict resolution and team building), additional financial support for rent subsidies in major metropolitan cities with more competitive rental markets, and the roll out of an online app for residents that will make the reporting and reimbursement process simpler and faster.
  • We need to assess the longer term impact on residents and participants. As a relatively new organization, the data we have collected has been helpful, but as we near our 10 year anniversary, it’s time to begin assessing the longer term implications of involvement in Moishe House. During the recent study, roughly 900 respondents agreed to be contacted for follow up within three years in order to begin a longitudinal study.

This is all just a start though. A couple of big pieces raised by this study, that remain on our minds, include identifying the types of community that young adults are looking for post-Moishe House and helping to enhance those avenues and connections. Also, by finding compelling ways to ensure a broader base (including participants and Moishe House Without Walls hosts), we feel excited and equipped to adopt new Jewish practices in a similar fashion to Moishe House residents. With a nimble model and the findings of this recent evaluation, we are challenging ourselves to let the learnings truly influence the way Moishe House looks.

Jen Rosen is Chief Operating Officer of Moishe House.

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Empowering the Next Generation of Community Builders

Posted 10/08/2015 at 04:21PM

September 24, 2015

Moishe House group hug[Over the next few months, eJewish Philanthropy will be sharing a thought-provoking series of articles written by Schusterman Fellows in an effort to offer a glimpse of leaders in our midst who are approaching work in the Jewish sector with inspiring levels of care, strategy and heart. You can read the framing piece here.]

By Jordan Fruchtman

We need to change the way we help Jews in their 20’s grow as leaders – or better yet, as community builders.

In today’s lexicon, leader has become overly ambiguous. By contrast, a community builder is someone who brings people together around a common interest or cause in order to foster stronger bonds and relationships.

The Jewish community can grow tremendously so long as we find more ways to activate community builders from the ground up, putting the power in the hands of the next generation.

So what does this look like? At its core, helping young Jews develop as community builders means allowing them to use their unique passions, experiences and skills to engage their peers and bring young Jews together. Imagine the effect if Jewish organizations shifted focus from investing in general “leadership development” programs to opportunities that strengthen individuals’ capacities to create community. I believe that a shift like that would better engage a generation of young adults so that they might profoundly expand the depth and breadth of Jewish life.

Community builders need support to succeed. Working for Moishe House has taught me that community builders feel the most empowered when organizations do the following:

1. Allow passions to thrive.

Passions can come in many shapes and sizes so taking this approach can feel like a risk, but with the right structure, community builders will bring about unexpected, new and positive results. This means creating opportunities to support (financially or otherwise) a young adult in taking something they already love to do and making it beneficial to the Jewish community, even if – and this is the hard part – it is something the organization has never seen or thought of before. When given the opportunity, and I continue to see this every day in my work, community builders can be truly inspirational. We have to trust in that process.

2. Offer resources to support those passions.

Providing young adults with resources to pursue their interests is not a new concept and certainly there are plenty of examples we could draw from. However, I would argue that organizations find it especially challenging to truly “let go” and offer resources that will enable a community builder’s passion to lead to permanent change.

3. Follow their lead.

Our challenge as professionals is to follow. I find myself on conference calls at least once per month with an organization developing an “innovative leadership program.” Each time, and I wish I was exaggerating, the program is simply designed to complete work already being done in the organization. I offer that if the path is already set, then the program is not actually a leadership program.

A good litmus test for a leadership program has to ask the following questions: Is there a possibility that things will look different after this program? Is there a willingness to allow leaders to exercise creative freedom? Will leaders have the chance to put their stamp on the program?

We have a major challenge ahead: a cultural shift that gives real leadership opportunities to young adults. Meeting young Jews “where they are” means that they are encouraged to turn their passions into programs that engage their peers. It helps me to think of that form of leadership as community building leadership. Using this term, for me, means that leaders are able to put their unique stamp on their community of peers, because each community looks and feels a bit different.

If you ask me what that looks like, I would point to a recent example from our Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW) program. MHWOW is an online platform with a clear and open structure that supports community builders with funding and resources. It is the alumni engagement tool for Moishe House (and two of our partners) as well as a successful pilot in three major U.S. cities. The majority of programs organized by hosts must have meaningful Jewish content, but how they foster their Jewish community is entirely up to them. As a result, some really wacky but totally powerful ideas have come to life.

In particular, I recall one Passover in which Joel, a host from San Diego who is passionate about food sustainability, created a distinctly unique Seder. The Seder plate and much of the dinner was made up of food foraged locally from public properties, friends’ backyards and even the ocean. He also used elements of the traditional PassoverHaggadah and added his own food justice twists to it. That holiday, 25 Jews in their 20’s had a powerful Passover experience together, and Joel had a true leadership experience in its development.

Joel was able to work within the flexible framework of MHWOW and use his passions to create Jewish community. Furthermore he opted into creating a Seder, which was not something Moishe House necessarily expected of him. In other words, Joel used theresources MHWOW offered him to support and bring his peers together around hispassion. We followed, he led.

If I can leave you with final thoughts, I’ll pose what I think are three important questions for us as Jewish professionals to ponder: How might Jewish organizations ensure leadership development programs activate community builders? What is preventing us from trusting young adults to drive new kinds of programming? And finally, are we ready to follow young leaders wherever they may take us? Whatever the answers, I look forward to doing my best to foster a culture that allows for and helps leaders to leave their mark on our community.

Jordan Fruchtman is the Chief Program Officer for Moishe House and a Schusterman Fellow.

Tracing Poland’s Past, And Its Future

Posted 10/08/2015 at 04:19PM

A young couple makes meaning, and a living, turning mezuzah traces into new mezuzahs. And they’re helping push the country beyond revival.


image: http://www.thejewishweek.com/sites/default/files/images/2015/09/przem.jpg

Mystical quest and serious business: Alexander Prugar and Helena Czernek.
Mystical quest and serious business: Alexander Prugar and Helena Czernek.

It was the last workday before Passover, and I was at my desk when the receptionist interrupted my menu planning to tell me my guests were here. I was expecting no guests. I almost never have guests. So I tiptoed out to the waiting area, embarrassed, curious and, yes, a little scared about Charlie Hebdo.

Fortunately, I had never seen these people in my life, and they were reading our newspaper. Even the most devious terrorists would surely be too angry to read The Jewish Week.

“Helen Chernikoff, meet Helena Czernek!” the man announced.

What? Her name is … and my name is … Could she be my European relation? And she has such a nice smile, and is wearing such adorable yellow shoes!

But: No. This was no family reunion. They wanted me to write about them. This couple, they revealed to me, spent their time prowling around Poland like a pair of Indiana Joneses, tracking the traces of long-ago mezuzahs.


A little over two years ago, my doppelganger Czernek told me, she was walking through Krakow’s Old Town when she glimpsed the trace of a long-gone mezuzah raised in the paint of a nearby doorframe. Then she saw another, and then another and then still more.

The sight inspired her. Czernek is a designer. Her boyfriend, Alexander Prugar, is a photographer and studied film. She pulled out her phone and called him at home. They talked about how they could “do something” with these traces, something more than just documenting their existence. Out of that excited conversation emerged an exhibit of new mezuzahs created from bronze casts of seven mezuzah traces.

And then a funny thing happened. People wanted to buy them.

Today, Czernek and Prugar are on a mission to turn mezuzah traces back into mezuzahs. Their project is both mystical quest and serious business: It’s a powerful part of their process of conversion to Judaism, and their livelihood.

“During each mezuzah trace trip something special happened,” Czernek said, recalling scrolls preserved and unfurled, a prewar door rescued from the dump, interfaith connections made. “We recognize these situations as miracles.”

Czernek and Prugar, both 30, met cute during a Havdalah gathering at a Moishe House, in 2012. Moishe House is the international organization that helps Jews in their 20s build community by subsidizing their rent and facilitating programming and education.

Czernek was living in the Warsaw house and Prugar hung about constantly, calling himself an unofficial member. She has a Jewish grandfather who fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and became involved in Jewish life when she started to study in Warsaw at age 20; she went on a Birthright Israel trip and also studied for a year at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.

Czernek and Prugar’s work with mezuzahs is like other public art projects that map the places where victims of a tragedy once lived, but it also does more. Every year on March 25, volunteers chalk the names of garment workers who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire onto the pavement near their homes. In Europe, people embed in the ground “Stolpersteine,” or “stumbling stones,” bearing names and dates — birth, arrest, deportation and death — of those killed in the Holocaust. Czernek and Prugar are also making a map, and memorial objects. But instead of leaving something at the site, they take something, reclaim it and use it.

Prugar came to Judaism through a sudden epiphany much like that described by Nathan Englander in “For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges,” when WASP-y Upper East Side finance guy Charles Luger suddenly realizes that he’s Jewish and feels compelled to share the news with his taxi driver: “‘Jewish,’ Charles said. ‘Jewish, here in the back … Oddly, it seems that I’m Jewish. Jewish in your cab.’”

Like Luger, Prugar has no Jewish ancestry. But he experienced a similar moment about a decade ago when he was sitting alone in his room. He kept his realization a secret. Instead, he read about Judaism. He felt that what he read was already a part of him.

He bristles a bit when people ask him how he became interested in Judaism, because the question itself makes his journey sound unserious, like he watched “The Pianist” too many times, or pursues Judaism the way some dilettante would hunt butterflies with a net.

“It’s not a hobby,” he said. “I was keeping this feeling in secret because I didn’t want to be rejected.” 

Still, his interest led him to Moishe House, and Czernek. They went on Moishe House retreats together, and are now studying for conversion under the rabbi of Etz Chaim, one of four synagogues in Warsaw.

They take classes and celebrate the holidays with their community. When they are ready, their rabbi will send them to the Abraham Geiger Kolleg in Berlin for their official conversion. They find it funny in light of history that they must go to Germany for this, and shrug.


On non-holiday weekends, Czernek and Prugar hit the road. They’ve made 26 new mezuzahs from traces found in 21 towns in Poland, from Warsaw to tiny Krynki on the Belorussian border. A Jewish town of almost 10,000 before the war, Krynki now numbers less than 3,000. On the eve of the Nazi occupation, more Jews lived in Poland — 3.3 million — than in any other country in Europe. Three million died during the war.    

“Krynki was 85 percent Jewish, and there is no one left,” Prugar said. “This is something that gives me motivation to rebuild this Jewish life.”

But Prugar is emphatic: Their mezuzah work is also their livelihood. He and Czernek are entrepreneurs in the classic millennial mold, crafting a meaningful living that sustains them financially and spiritually.

“We are doing what we are,” Prugar said.

After members of their community began expressing interest in buying the mezuzahs from the exhibit, Czernek and Prugar started “Mezuza z Tego Domu,” or “Mezuzah From This Home.” They started adding mezuzahs to the original line by accepting commissions from Poles like Katarzyna Markusz, a Jewish journalist who wanted a mezuzah from a building Sokolow Podlaski, a small city about 40 miles east of Warsaw.

When they arrived at the building on a summer Sunday last year, a resident of the building told them that the door had been replaced on Friday, and would be hauled away on Monday. Czernek and Prugar decided to save it, carrying it home by bus, bicycle and on their backs. Now it lives with them. While we were Skyping one night for this story, Czernek scurried out of the frame and dragged it back to show me.

Mezuza z Tego Domu grew into “Mi Polin,” which means “From Poland” in Hebrew. Mi Polin offers other Judaica, like candlesticks and menorahs, in a sleek, modern style.

Indeed, the strongest demand for the mezuzahs comes from outside the country, from the descendants of Polish Jews, like Julie Hermelin, an Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles. For her, Czernek and Prugar traveled to Lowicz in central Poland, where Hermelin’s great-grandfather grew up in a small apartment with 11 brothers and sisters at Zdunska 25. They couldn’t get into number 25, but found three traces in a nearby building.

Czernek and Prugar “go the extra mile to find the story and do their best to not just create an artifact but build a story around the artifact. What they do is give you another way to add to that story of your heritage,” Hermelin said.

Hermelin discovered Mezuza z Tego Domu through a friend who carries their mezuzahs in one of his quirky L.A. shops. From there, word of mouth carried the small company to Stacey Zaleski, buyer for the gift shop at The Jewish Museum in New York.

“I haven’t come across any people coming out of Poland producing Judaica, so it was exciting to see that rebirth of the Jewish-Polish ceremonial object,” she said.

The price of the mezuzahs cast from traces varies depending on their size and who is selling them; at The Jewish Museum, they cost about $300. 

Jewish museums in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Warsaw also carry Mi Polin Judaica.

Before the war, of course, Poland had been producing Judaica for hundreds of years. Jews started to settle there not long after the country itself was founded in the 10th century. For most of that time, a Jew in need of candlesticks, say, would commission a silversmith, sometimes also Jewish, sometimes not, said Jonathan Greenstein, the founder of an eponymous Judaica gallery and auction house in Cedarhurst, on Long Island. Some noted artisans survived the war, but none stayed, Greenstein said.

Mi Polin also has another line of business: event design. Czernek and Prugar have created ecumenical “Trees of Light” with hundreds of mirrored ornaments to celebrate Christmas and Chanukah in a Krakow square; they’ve conducted Judaica-making seminars. Czernek designed the official logo and paper daffodil for the Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Daffodils are a symbol of Polish Jewry; Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the uprising, would place them at Warsaw’s Monument to Ghetto Heroes every year on the uprising’s anniversary. Hundreds of volunteers hand out hundreds of thousands of Czernek’s paper flower, which evokes the yellow stars the Nazis forced the Jews to wear, on the anniversary day.

Many say it must be a new era in Poland when thousands of ordinary citizens will go about their business wearing Jewish stars on their jackets. The Museum Historii Zydow Polskich, or The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, opened in Warsaw almost a year ago after decades of well-documented resurgence of interest in things Jewish that put gefilte fish on restaurant menus and klezmer in nightclubs.

This mainstream fascination with Jewish culture helps make Czernek and Prugar’s work possible, said Karina Sokolowska, the Joint Distribution Committee’s country director for Poland. The JDC estimates Poland’s Jewish population at about 25,000.

“The Jews are less afraid,” she said. “There are so many Poles who are embracing Jewish history, Jewish culture, trying to understand. When I was in school you would be afraid to say the word ‘Jew.’ My children can say that, and they don’t go to Jewish school.”

The community’s culture has transcended the “revival” stage into a new period of growth and creativity, and Czernek and Prugar’s work is an example of this, Sokolowska said.

Still, some of the couple’s mezuzah-tracking trips reveal disturbing traces of Poland’s past. In Ostroleka, a city of about 60,000 in the northeast, a woman told them that she’d found a mezuzah scroll, and burned it.

She just said, “‘It’s funny that Jews wrote something like that,’” Czernek said, sadly; Prugar injecting a sardonic “Ha, ha.” “It wasn’t: ‘Let’s destroy anything that was Jewish.’ She just didn’t know that she could do something with it. She just wasn’t interested … We felt emptiness. Something bad happened in this home.”

Over a third of Poles harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, like believing that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust, or have too much power in international financial markets, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s 2015 poll of 100 countries. 

But Czernek, Prugar and other young, hungry Jews have created in Poland a new scene, said Alejandro Okret, Moishe House’s director of international development. 

“Jewry is not about what happened in the ’40s,” he said. “And I don’t want to be disrespectful, but there is a very different story happening right now.” 

Czernek likes to tell the story of a friend whose husband is Jewish. Her friend is studying Judaism, and together with her husband is giving their son a Jewish education. When he was small, he thought all the Christmas lights around him were for Chanukah.

But back in April, as we were talking, I started to fret that these two so far from home might not have a seder to go to. I decided that I would somehow magic up enough food and space if they needed a place.

I need not have worried. Czernek and Prugar were flying to California the next day, and of course they had a place for Pesach, with a teacher from their Moishe House days who now lives in the Bay Area.

“We want to give our children the chance that we missed, to live as a normal Jewish family,” Prugar said. 

Jews in Middle America fret about attracting Millennials

Posted 11/18/2014 at 03:04PM

DES MOINES, Iowa — Before she visited Drake University, Lilianna Bernstein never had set foot here, let alone imagined that she would one day settle down in this city of more than 200,000 residents.

But a job offer in 2006 to be a Drake admissions counselor led the Chicago-area native to put down roots in Iowa's capital. And one of those roots was joining a synagogue.

"Once I decided to stay in Des Moines, it was a no-brainer that of course I was going to stay involved in the Jewish community," Bernstein said.

Now, Des Moines' Jewish community is hoping more Drake students will do the same.

The area's Jewish federation recently bought and renovated a 1910 craftsman-style house near Drake to become a gathering space for Hillel, the Jewish student organization found on campuses around the world. Bernstein is Drake's Hillel adviser.

The goal is to make Drake so attractive to incoming Jewish students, that they'll stay in Des Moines after graduation and help fill in a widening age gap among participants in Jewish life here, community leaders say.

"If our kids want to run away and not be in Iowa, then let's get someone else's kids to live in Des Moines," said Stuart Oxer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines.

Faced with an aging population and lack of engagement among young people, Jewish communities across the USA are ramping up efforts to recruit Jewish Millennials.

A 2013 Pew Research Center study found that while more than 9 in 10 American Jews ages 18 to 29 say they are proud to be Jewish, a third don't identify with the religion. That set off alarms in Jewish institutions such as synagogues, which need youth and their promise of longevity.

"Engagement of young people is almost a preoccupation in the Jewish community," said Pearl Beck, a demographic researcher and lead author of several Jewish population studies.

Max Lasko and Anna Gertsberg hang out in the new Hillel

Max Lasko and Anna Gertsberg hang out in the new Hillel House at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.(Photo: Mary Willie, The Des Moines Register)

In small- and medium-size cities that may not have the Jewish infrastructure or the social and cultural draw of major metro areas, worry about the future is even greater.

"It's a very real fear. And the smaller the community, the more significant it is," said Matthew Boxer, a researcher at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. "It's really difficult for them to do anything that's going to attract young Jews."

Nearly 80% of Jews live in the 20 largest metro areas, compared to 38% of Americans on the whole, said Ira Sheskin, a geographer at the University of Miami in Florida.

And while Des Moines has a lot going for it — this year Forbes magazine ranked it America's best city for young professionals — many of the students attracted by a state-of-the-art Hillel house "aren't going to find in Des Moines what they could find in a New York or a Chicago," Sheskin said.

Still, investing in attracting college students with a house stocked with games, television, free laundry and food in addition to Jewish-themed activities could pay off in the long term, said Steven Bayme, director of contemporary Jewish life at the Washington-based American Jewish Committee.

"Who is likely to come to a university taking into account the quality of Hillel? Those attracted to more Jewish life," he said. "Down the road, these are the people who are going to be involved."

The earlier that link is established between college Jews and the local Jewish community the better, experts say. (In addition to footing the bill for Drake's new Hillel house, members of the Des Moines Jewish community host dinners for students and financially support all Hillel programming.)

"When you create relationships with the Jewish federation, you can actually do a smooth hand-off from college student to young leader in the community," said Aaron Weil, who as Hillel director in Pittsburgh partnered with the Jewish federation there to expand offerings to young adults up to age 29.

Over a decade, he saw retention of young Jews in the area multiply. Now the director of University of Central Florida's Hillel, he's been brought to Orlando to work the same magic.

Rabbis in Memphis were hoping to do something similar three years ago when they approached a group of young professionals about finding a way to draw more of their peers to the city.

Students from Hillel, Drake University's Jewish student

Students from Hillel, Drake University's Jewish student organization, enjoy a toast with grape juice in the kitchen of Hillel House.(Photo: Mary Willie, The Des Moines Register)

"The rabbis told us, 'If your age group doesn't move back and we don't fill those people from elsewhere, the Memphis Jewish community a generation from now is going to be kind of a shell of its former self,' " said Jeff Dreifus, 26.

"We literally had to create something that meets our demographic where they are," said Dreifus, who grew up in the Memphis suburbs and now lives downtown. "We have to provide them exactly what they are looking for. The fact that it's Jewish isn't enough."

And what Millennials are looking for is jobs, they found.

Together, they established the TI Fellowship, affiliated with Memphis's Reform synagogue, Temple Israel. The program sets up college-age Jews and recent graduates with internships and housing in Memphis's hippest neighborhoods, with Friday night Shabbat dinners thrown in.

After two summers of the program, a handful of participants already have relocated to the city, including Sarah Fenderson, a 24-year-old Nashville native who got a job in communications only a few months after her fellowship.

"I was like, I think I want to stick around a little more and experience Memphis at this time and age," she said. "I had nothing to lose, and it offered me an opportunity, so I decided to stay."

Affordable housing is another way to reach that age group.

A program called Moishe House sets up communal living spaces in cities around the world. And on the condition that the residents host Jewish-themed programs, the organization provides up to 75% subsidy toward rent.

“Engagement of young people is almost a preoccupation in the Jewish community.”

Pearl Beck, demographic researcher

Since its founding in 2006, it has expanded to more than 70 houses in 17 countries.

The idea was born when David Cygielman, Moishe House's executive director, realized soon after college that few Jewish programs were targeted to him and his friends.

"We were involved in Jewish life in high school and college," he said. "But now that we were graduated, we were too old for anything on campus, and we were too young for anything for young families."

However prized Millennials are to the continuation of Judaism, the lack of attention to the post-Hebrew school, post-college crowd is still a hurdle for communities.

Soon after joining a Des Moines synagogue, Bernstein felt the age gap, especially when she became one of the synagogue's youngest ever board members at 28.

"It would have been so awesome to have been synagogue shopping and actually seen a ton of young people at synagogue. That would have played in my decision a lot," she said.

For Oliver Housman, 25, the decision to stay in Des Moines after graduating last year from Drake also came down to a job. But he quickly got involved in the Jewish community, doing photography for the Orthodox synagogue and attending occasional services.

"Normally, I'm the youngest one there," Housman said. But other than wondering how slim his chances are of meeting a Jewish girlfriend, he's not bothered by it.

"It doesn't feel bad because the members know who I am and I know who they are," he said. "Some of them are in their 70s. I'm in my 20s. We're all adults."

Sharyn Jackson also reports for The Des Moines Register.

Students from Hillel, Drake University's Jewish student

Students from Hillel, Drake University's Jewish student organization talk Oct. 28, 2014, about their day at Hillel House, a home near the Des Moines, Iowa campus.(Photo: Mary Willie, The Des Moines Register)

Finding Moishe House

Posted 11/18/2014 at 02:51PM

by Sabrina Merage

When I was a kid, my parents decided to make a big move. My mother and father both left Iran at the age of 15 and settled in Los Angeles where they established their home over the span of 20 years. The Iranian Jewish community of Los Angeles—which had grown dramatically just before and immediately after the 1979 Iranian Revolution—is an insular and tight-knit one. That’s why, when my parents decided to relocate the family to Denver, Colorado in the summer of 1994, it was a really BIG move.

Finding a Jewish community in Denver was an interesting challenge for me when I started at a Catholic school that fall. I didn’t have the advantage of the daily curriculum of Jewish learning, traditions, and heritage that most Jewish day schools around the country offer. However, throughout the years, I was able to retain my Jewish identity through local Jewish organizations, my family’s connection to the community, and my individual desire to learn more and find my place in the ever-evolving Jewish world.

That’s why, when I moved back to Los Angeles in 2008, I decided to take a deeper personal interest in the Jewish community in a number of ways. I served on committees, went to events and educational seminars, and became involved in a number of Jewishly-focused organizations.

After doing a good amount of research on the vast spectrum of L.A. Jewish life, I was disappointed to find that options for young adults were sparse, and those that existed felt dated and irrelevant. More and more, my single friends in their 20s and 30s were floating away from their Jewish identities. The institutional structure that had existed and thrived for over a hundred years, now felt archaic in relation to their nimble and amorphous lives.

This is why when I was finally introduced to Moishe House, I was ready and willing to embrace it. It all happened so quickly. Three touch points simultaneously introduced me to Moishe House in different and unrelated ways, and from that moment on, I was hooked. One minute I’d never heard of the organization, and the next, I was serving on its international Board of Directors.

Though I never lived in one of the over 70 (and growing) houses around the world, and I wasn’t a frequent participant in the more than 2,500 programs that are organized annually, I saw what these thousands of young adults around the world were doing, and I knew it was working. I wanted to be part of the movement.  

After being on—what I consider to be—the most functional board in the young adult Jewish world for 2 years, I quickly realized that we were onto something big, and my experiences in the changing Jewish world were not unique. More and more, young 20-somethings are seeking their Jewish identity through experiences that are peer-driven and appeal to their lifestyle. And yet, the question arose, how could a concept that works in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Kansas City, Atlanta, and Cleveland, also be effective in Beijing, London, Odessa, and Sydney? Are these not different countries with vastly diverse cultures, traditions, and Jewish communities?

We soon realized that the Moishe House model is completely universal. Why? Chalk it up to globalization, the explosion of social media, or the World Wide Web, generally, but the truth remains; young adults all over the world are seeking connection to their Jewish identity through their generational peers. This is why I helped to launch a new initiative through Moishe House called the Global Community Fund. This Fund ensures that groups of young Jews in communities all over the world will have the opportunity to open a Moishe House in their city without having to worry about the challenging task of raising local support.

The truth is, some countries outside of the U.S. have different cultures of giving. This should not be an obstacle for young people who are dedicated enough to come forward and say, “Yes, we are ready to form a family under this roof and be the heart of Jewish life and camaraderie for our communal peers!”  It takes dedication, hard work, and a ton of time to be a Moishe House Resident. If you’re willing, I, and many others, will support you.

Welcome to the new age of Jewish life. It’s beautiful, it’s booming, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.  

Sabrina Merage, founder of the Sabrina Merage Foundation

Connecting With Young Jews, Wherever They Are

Posted 07/08/2014 at 08:09PM
Matzo Cover Making in Encinitas; courtesy Moishe House.

Matzo Cover Making in Encinitas; courtesy Moishe House.

by David Cygielman

My first car was a 1971 red Volkswagen Beetle convertible. It was the car my mom bought when she was in her 20s and took the daring drive from New York to San Francisco, a trip her family and friends thought she was crazy to make since it was so far from home and she didn’t have a job lined up.

Today, these moves happen far more frequently. What at that time felt like a jump off a steep cliff is now an expected part of life’s journey. Beyond just moving from city to city, young adults are also relocating to new countries, quickly facilitating new global networks along the way. Whether for work, friends, family or adventure, mobility is at our fingertips and Jewish young adults are taking full advantage by picking up and traveling the world.

This phenomenon has created new opportunities for building and supporting Jewish community. As young adults become more transient, we have to understand that even if we live in Dallas, ensuring Jewish life in Chicago or even Beijing will actually end up directly benefiting your local community in the long run.

During the recent Board of Directors meeting at Moishe House, where I am the founder and executive director, our top leaders grappled with this. We discussed the amazing applications we recently received from Berlin, Cape Town, Paris, Prague and Sao Paolo. Each of these cities have groups of young adults eager to build upon their own Jewish life because of what they experienced in other communities. As a result, they want to build their own peer-led communities.

Looking back 20 years ago, it was highly unlikely that Jewish young adults located in five completely different cities on three far-reaching continents would share similar experiences and yearn to create such a strong and connected Jewish network. As global networks are built, information and life is exchanged in a way that creates a flat world.

For the first time, there are more similarities than differences in Jewish life for young adults no matter where they are. This poses a terrific opportunity to scale our engagement of these growing networks; yet, will also force us to think differently about how we make a tangible impact down the road.

In one of the many recent applications Moishe House received, a young woman in Prague wrote, “Through Moishe House, we can approach young people on a more personal level. This is exactly the thing that my community is longing for and I strongly believe that we can create a nice, friendly and welcoming environment. This platform would help us make the community more accessible, open and stronger.”

While the demand to create Jewish communities continues to expand, it will take a partnership with funders to support these young leaders in their work. We are not in this alone, and luckily there are other like-minded organizations such as ROIJDCPardes Institute of Jewish Studies and others who share a vision of supporting and connecting young adults creating Jewish community. Together, our Jewish organizations can transform these requests into a practical reality with the assistance from donors, federations and foundations.

With global demand so far outweighing supply, Moishe House recently launched a campaign to support these international communities. Spearheaded by a $50,000 challenge grant through the Sabrina Merage Foundation, we have created the Global Community Fund, with a dollar-for-dollar match. The time is now to embrace these changes and support young adult Jewish life in cities throughout the world the same way we do in our own backyards.

This sense of urgency is only the beginning. These global networks will continue to grow and the opportunity to support them is enormous. It may take a 26-year-old from Los Angeles visiting Latvia for them to engage in Jewish community, but in today’s fast-paced world, that may become the norm. That is why we cannot ignore young adults like Alina, Artur and Oleg who opened a Moishe House in Latvia’s capital of Riga three months ago.

David Cygielman is the founder and CEO of Moishe House, a pluralistic international organization that provides meaningful Jewish experiences to young adults in their 20s.

Adapted from a presentation at the Jewish Funders Network 2014 Conference

A House That's a Home

Posted 07/08/2014 at 07:57PM

Story and photography by Michael C. Butz

On a dusky spring night in June, there’s constant motion inside Moishe House. Ben cleans up after returning home from a softball game before logging onto his computer, Mandy pours herself a glass of water as she starts to pack for a trip to Israel she’ll embark on days later, and after a long day at work, Josh sits down for a late dinner consisting of a sandwich, chips and hummus.

And yet for these 20-somethings, this is a relatively relaxed evening.

Other nights, they’re hosting 20 to 30 people for Shabbat dinners at their namesake Cleveland Heights house, planning poker nights or other social activities the proceeds of which will benefit Jewish charities, or partnering with area synagogues or Jewish institutions for programs that build ties and strengthen bonds in the community.

Of course between all of that, there’s still time for impromptu games of foosball – with house bragging rights on the line– and the exchange of lighthearted jabs at one another.

“She’s the boss,” Josh says, rather businesslike, about Mandy. “We’ve had a running joke since Day 1 that Mandy is the ‘CEO of Moishe House.’”

With her breezy smile, she counters, “It’s because they both moved out of their mothers’ homes. Now, they’re both essentially trained.”

“Whatever she says, goes,” Josh concedes.

It’s that familiar, comfortable, sharp-yet-cozy family dynamic that’s at the core of Moishe House Cleveland’s early success. But this family is a different type of family – one providing millennials a sense of place and purpose in the Jewish community at a time in their lives when structure is often lacking and they’re susceptible to straying away.

Migrating to ‘The Moish’

Ben Sattin, 27, and Mandy DuBro and Josh Kramer, both 26, moved into Moishe House – a recently renovated 1924 Colonial on Idlewood Road affectionately nicknamed “The Moish” – in September 2013.

It’s a three-story, four-bedroom affair with hardwood floors, a working fireplace and plenty of open space to move around chairs, couches and tables to accommodate large gatherings. That said, one room tends to be more popular than others.


Moishe House Cleveland

“Everyone congregates in the kitchen,” says DuBro, laughing, acknowledging that sometimes hampers her ability to prepare and serve meals for guests. “But it’s where the food is, so I guess that’s where I’d be if I was coming over.”

“Moishe House” doormats welcome visitors at the front porch and back deck, and Judaica – mezuzah, kiddush cups, Shabbat candles – and Cleveland-centric decorations help give the residence an identity.

But it’s the residents who are Moishe House’s most interesting feature.

Sattin and Kramer are native Northeast Ohioans. Sattin, an attorney, was born and raised in Cleveland Heights, his family members of Congregation Shaarey Tikvah. He earned an economics degree from Washington University in St. Louis before returning to Cleveland to earn a law degree from Case Western Reserve University. Between stints in higher education, he spent nine months volunteering in the Jewish community in Berlin.

“When I was in law school, I was removed from the community by choice (due to studying),” Sattins says. “(Otherwise) I’d been active in a Jewish community in one way or another.”

Kramer grew up in Shaker Heights and is a fifth-generation member of Park Synagogue. Now a government-relations consultant, he graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in political science and international affairs (and minored in Yiddish). When he lost his first post-grad state government job due to a political regime change, he landed a job with Army Continuing Education Services that sent him to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan for seven months.

“I blogged about my Jewish experiences while there,” he says, “and the Jewish experiences were some of the most interesting.”

DuBro grew up in Dayton and graduated from Miami University in Oxford before moving to Cleveland to earn her master’s degree in social work from CWRU. She now works as an in-home child and family therapist. With no nearby family of her own, she felt she was fortunate to move in with a roommate who was already plugged into the community here.

“I met so many people through her,” DuBro says. I’ve never had so many Jewish friends – just because wherever I lived, there weren’t that many Jews.”

Sattin, Kramer and DuBro all were involved in Jewish life as teenagers and college students, and because that involvement carried over as young adults in Cleveland’s Jewish community, they became familiar – and friendly – with one another by way of attending a lot of the same events.

When word spread that a Moishe House would be opened in Cleveland, the three applied to live there. Sattin and Kramer threw their hats in the ring first, along with a mutual friend who encouraged them to do so. When that friend dropped out of the process, DuBro stepped in. After a vetting process that spanned several months, the three were chosen to lead.

 Open-door policy

Since moving in, they’ve organized 60 events and entertained 959 guests – 302 of whom have been first-time guests. They’re averaging 17 attendees per program, and their largest single-event draw was 60 people.

They’ve also partnered with other groups 39 percent of the time – a figure that signifies more collaboration than at most other houses, says Jason Boschan, Moishe House’s director of marketing and communications at the international level. There are 64 houses across 14 countries worldwide.

“They’re doing great,” Boschan says of Cleveland. “From what I can tell from the programs I’ve seen and the results coming through from their efforts, they have a pretty solid dynamic working there in a short amount of time.”

Erika Rudin-Luria, community development vice president for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, which is a partner and local funder of Moishe House, says Sattin, DuBro and Kramer have done a “tremendous job of engaging their peers as well as partnering with Jewish institutions.”

“There’s a great want for involvement and activity among young people in Cleveland, and Moishe House has tapped into that,” she says, adding that Federation’s backing stems from its desire to provide as many avenues as possible for engagement in the Jewish community.

“We recognize that different aspects of Jewish life are interesting to people at different points in their lives, and that different things appeal to different people,” she says, explaining that young people who aren’t yet married and don’t have kids are less likely to join membership institutions like synagogues. “We’re always looking for new ways to attract people to Jewish life.”

Comfort zone

In the demographic himself, Kramer acknowledges the potential gap in structured Jewish involvement between childhood and starting a family.

“It’s a bell curve from bar mitzvah to having kids. (Structured involvement) drops and comes back up,” he says. “It’s probably even more pronounced after college. Colleges have Hillel and Chabad, and they’re catering to you. After that, there’s nothing – unless you’re lucky enough to live in a place like Cleveland.”

foosFederation’s Young Leadership Division and Cleveland Hillel’s JCLE help bridge that gap, as do synagogue-affiliated young professionals groups. Moishe House does the same by emphasizing peer-to-peer connections in a home-based community with programming that falls into one of four categories: Jewish culture and holidays, Jewish learning, social, and community-based service. While Moishe House partners with other Jewish organizations, it’s ultimately free of institutional ties or hierarchy that might intimidate or alienate some 20-somethings.

“The whole idea of taking a synagogue and becoming a member is a decision a lot of my peers aren’t ready to make right now,” Sattin says.

And Moishe House gives those peers a home.

“It’s important to me that our programs and the atmosphere of the house be very inclusive,” DuBro says. “While our personalities come through in our programming, people can feel comfortable attending regardless of background – and you can see that in the house. There are Jewish themes, but they’re not overwhelming. Whatever background you have, you should be able to feel at home here.”

But it’s those personalities DuBro mentions – the chemistry among the three of them – that really gives Moishe House its inviting, homelike environment and its guests a sense of belonging.

“We’re all very different, interests-wise, and the way we function in life is completely different,” she says, “but together, it’s a really good match.”

Check out our new video - Watch and Learn about Moishe House!

Posted 02/06/2014 at 07:55AM
In celebration of their 25th anniversary year,  the Schusterman Family Foundation partnered with us to create a brief video to capture the stories of Moishe House residents. Schusterman wanted to give their broader audience a peak at the work we do to support Jewish young adults as they find and build community. We love it and are thrilled to share it with all of you!

Click here to watch!


Moishe House selected for the 2013/14 Slingshot Guide!

Posted 10/24/2013 at 06:20AM
Moishe House has been named one of 17 “standard bearer” organizations in the ninth annual Slingshot Guide. The standard bearers are listed alongside the larger group of 50 innovative up and coming Jewish organizations. The Guide has become a go-to resource for volunteers, activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects that, through their innovative nature, will ensure the Jewish community remains relevant and thriving.

The organizations included in the Guide are driving the future of Jewish life and engagement by motivating new audiences to participate in their work and responding to the needs of individuals and communities – both within and beyond the Jewish community – as never before. Click here to find out more!

Congrats to Moishe House of the Month

Posted 10/09/2013 at 08:52AM
Congratulations to Moishe House of the Month: Melbourne! Check out their page.

Moishe House Opens in Arlington!

Posted 09/18/2013 at 12:09PM
The sukkah is up at the newest gathering place for Jewish young adults in Northern Virginia.
By David Holzel
Senior Writer

On Sunday, the sukkah went up at the newest gathering place for Jewish young adults in Northern Virginia. Moishe House Arlington opened on Sept. 1, the third house in the Washington area operated by the international organization created to provide a community for Jews just out of college.

Moishe House Arlington residents and friends build their sukkah. The house opened Sept. 1 as a hub for young adults in Northern Virginia. Courtesy Moishe House Arlington

Moishe House Arlington residents and friends build their sukkah. The house opened Sept. 1 as a hub for young adults in Northern Virginia.
Courtesy Moishe House Arlington

Moishe House Arlington’s three residents are just beginning to put their stamp on the house and its activities.

“It will have a unique personality,” said resident William Cubberson, 28, a doctoral student in political science at George Washington University. “I just can’t tell you what it is. We’ve lived together now for two weeks.”

In exchange for a room, a rent subsidy and a small program stipend, Cubberson and his housemates will organize five-to-six programs a month for their friends and peers. Some will be strictly social, like a trivia night the house had at a local bar. Others will have Jewish content — on Rosh Hashanah, the housemates and their friends ate dinner together. The goal is to build an informal Jewish community.

“We have a bucket list of things we want to do around here,” said resident Orly Halpern, 28, who is beginning law school at George Mason University. Like Cubberson, she’s new to the Washington area.

The house is actually a three-story townhouse near the Clarendon Metro station. The residents will keep a kosher kitchen. “In planning what the house would be, we didn’t want people to feel excluded,” Cubberson explained.

The Maryland-based Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies has provided $50,000 to support the house’s operation, according to the foundation’s president, Simone Friedman Rones.

The foundation, which supports initiatives for young Jewish adults, also provided $33,000 to support the Moishe Houses in Rockville and Adams Morgan in Washington, and $25,000 for an initiative by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to support the local houses, she said.

Moishe House has “a very exciting model of having young adults reach out to each other in a peer environment,” Rones said. “They’re innovative and can actually show their impact.”

Although it is early in the life of Moshe House Arlington, everything seems to be on target. A new Moishe House generally takes a half year to get up to speed, said Rebecca Bar, senior regional director of Moishe House. “What we’re looking for is consistent growth,” she said.

That goal and all the other ingredients that go into a Moishe House are on the new housemates’ minds, Halpern said.

“All we think about is the house.”

Jet-Setting Rabbi

Posted 09/09/2013 at 11:14AM
It’s safe to say he’s racked up a few frequent flier miles. As rabbi and director of immersive learning with the international group Moishe House, Daniel Horwitz, 29, doesn’t stay in one place (or one time zone) for long.

The West Bloomfield native and son of JN Publisher/Executive Editor Arthur Horwitz and his wife, Gina, currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area. But, his travel log reads like this: January, Miami; February, Los Angeles; March, San Francisco; April, Warsaw, Poland; June, Philadelphia; and the list goes on. In March, he also taught at a leadership summit in Israel; in May, he served as rabbi at a community-led synagogue in Beijing, China.

Somewhere along the way, Horwitz also found time to propose to his fiancee, Miriam Ganz, a freelance sign language interpreter he met at a Moishe House event.

Moishe House has 59 communal houses in 13 countries. Each one, including a now-closed house on East Ferry Street in Detroit that operated from June 2011-July 2013, is designed to serve as a hub of Jewish activity for 20-somethings. Each house hosts about six programs a month.

Moishe House is currently recruiting residents to start a new Moishe House in the suburbs or the city. 

(The other local Moishe House — a service-based site piloted by the Repair the World organization — was opened south of the old Tiger Stadium in October 2011. It is now winding down in favor of a new Repair the World residential fellowship.)

“Every month, we’re running a weekend learning retreat at a Moishe House in a different
U.S. or international city,” Horwitz explained. “I design the educational curriculum for each retreat, with input from my team. I lead the majority of them and oversee those I do not attend.”

The three-day retreats are open to about 30 Jewish young adults. Themes vary and have focused on everything from leadership development and repairing the world to meditation and spirituality to “how to do Shabbat” and other holidays. They’re designed to motivate, inspire and empower participants to do things like lead their own Shabbat and holiday celebrations. In two years, there have been more than 450 participants, including a group in Detroit. Grants and private donations have helped expand the program.

“Immersive learning means learners are physically placed in a context to ‘immerse’ them in a learning experience,” Horwitz said. “For example, at our ‘how to do Shabbat’ retreats, we’re not just studying abstractly, we’re studying while actually celebrating Shabbat and putting into practice the skills being learned.”

Future retreats are planned for New England, Dallas and Kiev; a weeklong event will take place in Los Angeles in December.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dan on several of these retreats in content planning, co-facilitating and recruiting,” wrote Yoni Sarason, Midwest regional director of the Chicago-based group NEXT, a division of the Birthright Israel Foundation. Birthright provides subsidized educational Israel trips to Jewish young
adults. “The retreats allow Moishe House to both provide knowledge to residents and community members and position those residents as leaders. Giving them the tools to ‘do-it-yourself ’ means more young Jews who can build meaningful experiences for themselves and their peers.”

Love Of Learning
Horwitz’s own love of learning started early as a student at Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit in Farmington Hills. After graduating from West Bloomfield High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and went on to earn three master’s degrees (in Jewish studies from Philadelphia-based Gratz College, sport management from the University of Michigan, and Jewish education from Boston-based Hebrew College) as well as a law degree from the University of

He was ordained as a rabbi in June 2011 by Mesifta Adas Wolkowisk, a nondenominational
rabbinical academy based in Woodmere, N.Y.

“I’m an outreach rabbi,” Horwitz says. “My goal has nothing to do with traditional
mitzvah observance and everything to do with helping people find the connection points to lead rich, Jewish lives.”

The Moishe House retreats are one connection point, according to Jordan Fruchtman, chief program officer at the group’s Oakland, Calif., headquarters.

“We are training leaders who can then go back to their communities and spread exciting and relevant Jewish practices,” Fruchtman said. “Dan consistently gets positive comments on surveys about his ability to create welcoming, pluralistic environments for retreat-goers.”

Josh Kanter, 27, of Huntington Woods is a community outreach associate for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. He was living in the Repair the World Moishe House when he took part in a Shabbat retreat last fall.

“It was a full Shabbat experience with 20 other young adults,” Kanter said. “We went through how to host a Shabbat meal, the prayers and what they mean, how to prepare a dvar Torah (explanation of the weekly Torah portion) and how to lead a Havdalah service. The retreat gave me some great tools to use personally and professionally.”

Planning and developing content for these retreats also has been a learning experience for Horwitz. He recently wrote an article in eJewishphilanthropy.com about the insights he’s gained.

“Young adults are interested in learning — but even more so, they’re excited about building relationships and community,” he said. “Follow-up opportunities are
crucial. There has to be a vehicle in place for people to put what they’ve learned into action.”

Horwitz will continue to travel, and trips back to Metro Detroit are on his itinerary. He’ll be home for the High Holidays and will lead services at Michigan State Hillel for the fourth straight year. In October, he and Ganz will be married in upstate New York. At some point, he says he’d like to land back in the place he grew up.

“Detroit is home, and I’d love to be able to settle in the Detroit area and raise a family there,” he said. 

No doubt, that makes his parents smile.

What We Have Learned About Jewish Learning

Posted 08/01/2013 at 09:58AM

by Daniel S. Horwitz

In late 2011, Moishe House received the results from a two-year external evaluation by the TCC Group. Two major findings included:

  1. Young Jewish adults in the Moishe House network were seeking additional content-rich and skill-building Jewish educational experiences; and
  2. The majority of Moishe House residents did not grow up doing the types of Jewish rituals and experiences that they are now leading.

In short, while the Moishe House model created the demand (tens of thousands of young adults participating in Jewish life every year), in order to enhance the quality of the Jewish content, it was critical that the residents receive the tools and resources to be effective peer educators.

With generous funding from an anonymous donor through the Jewish Funders Network, Moishe House designed and implemented four pluralistic, experiential, Jewish empowerment weekend Learning Retreats. In late 2011 and early 2012, we brought over 120 young adults together from across North America to learn “how to do” Shabbat and the holidays of Sukkot and Passover. Each Learning Retreat of 30+ young adults was filled to capacity (with a waiting list), with more than half of all attendees being Moishe House residents and the others being comprised of alumni and select Moishe House participants.

The Learning Retreats were designed to motivate those in attendance to feel authentic, inspired, and empowered upon leaving to return home and lead Shabbat and holiday celebrations in their home communities. In addition to Moishe House’s in-house Jewish education team, each retreat featured stellar outside educators, such as Dr. David Bernstein, Dean of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann of Mishkan Chicago, Rabbi Michael Knopf of Har Zion Temple in Philadelphia, and Torah scribe Julie Seltzer. We found that by providing multi-day, topic-specific training retreats, young adults not only showed up, but they were excited to take home new skills and put them into practice.

As a result of the pilot Learning Retreats, 35% more houses built a Sukkah than did the previous year, 36% more houses hosted Passover Seders than did the previous year, and Shabbat-related programming such as Havdallah and weekly Torah portion studies increased significantly.

Residents shared with us feedback such as, “I’ve heard many Dvar Torahs but never learned how to give one until now!” and “I am going to bring back insights and tools that will enhance the overall Shabbat experience of people in my Moishe House community.”

Building upon the success of the pilot retreats, in 2012, with generous funding provided by the Maimonides Fund and additional support through the Alan B. Slifka Foundation, Moishe House, with its partners Repair the World and NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, hosted an additional 6 Learning Retreats, also all filled to capacity. Expanding upon the pilot, we included a service learning retreat and an extended 5-day retreat the last week of December billed as “An Introduction to Jewish Civilization.” Our outcomes from the pre- and post-retreat surveys looked like this:

Percentage of attendees who describe themselves as “confident” in specific Shabbat-related skills:

Leading Shabbat dinner rituals69%85%
Leading a Shabbat oneg39%89%
Navigating the siddur43%86%
Preparing and giving a Dvar Torah29%86%
Leading Shabbat lunch rituals39%89%
Leading Havdallah56%89%

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision

For 2013, thanks to the continued generosity of the Maimonides Fund, the Alan B. Slifka Foundation, as well as a number of local foundations and Federations who invested in retreats in their specific regions, we set the ambitious goal of hosting a Learning Retreat each month. We hosted our first international Learning Retreat this past April outside of Warsaw, Poland for our European community. In response to our residents expressing a desire to develop not only their Jewish ritual skills, but their general leadership skills as well, with the support of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation we piloted our first Leadership Development Learning Retreat, focusing on communication and conflict resolution skills through a Jewish lens. Due to the great success of the pilot, we were able to secure a generous multi-year grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation to significantly expand our leadership related offerings.

We hope to continue growing our immersive learning offerings and that our partnerships in the field will expand. As an organization that benefited from the wisdom of others when developing the content of the Learning Retreats, we want to share some of the critical insights that we have gained along the way:

1. Immersion is Key

  • Young adults are interested in learning – but even more so, they are excited about building relationships and community. By taking people away in a retreat setting, the learning not only resonates on a deeper level, but the individuals are able to become part of a cohort as well.

2. Be Transparent About the Topic and Goals

  • Many participants have shared that they have signed up for programs, and then showed up to find them being “not as advertised.” By being topic specific and sharing the schedule for the weekend ahead of time, people know what they are signing up for, know that the weekend will contain significant amounts of “learning,” and allows for all present to rally around the same objectives.

3. Find the Right Number of Participants and Educators

  • Our goal is for young adults to take home the skills they have learned and apply them in their own homes/communities. To that end, we have found that 25-30 participants is the attendance figure that both allows for meaningful personal connections to be formed, and for educators to be able to comfortably facilitate their sessions. We do not want to be the “authorities” on how something is done; rather, we want to share with them a variety of traditions so they can find what resonates best for them. We have found that having 3-4 educators allows for a variety of perspectives without giving anyone the “authority.”

4. Follow Up Opportunities are Crucial

  • There has to be a vehicle in place for people to put what they have learned into action. While a group coalescing over the course of a weekend is wonderful, it is an entirely different effort to ensure that the highlighted skills are being put into practice once attendees return home. An equal or greater investment must be made in providing the platform and resources for participants to put their new-found (and/or polished) skills into practice. By providing holiday incentive grants and building Moishe House Without Walls, we’ve developed a way to meaningfully provide a follow up platform for all Retreat attendees.

There is great power in immersive, experiential education. Together, we can provide the tools and empower this generation of young adults to live vibrant, joyous and confident community-centric Jewish lives.

Daniel S. Horwitz is the Rabbi and Director of Immersive Learning at Moishe House.

Moishe House Australia Says Thank You

Posted 07/05/2013 at 08:28AM
The first Moishe House in Australia has said thank you to its backers.

 Moishe House, a not-for-profit pluralistic organisation founded in the US in 2006 and now in 13 countries, opened its doors in North Caulfield, Melbourne in April and last week hosted a function to thank their funders and supporters. Moishe House’s mission is to “provide meaningful Jewish experiences to young adults in their 20s as they create vibrant home-based Jewish communities.”

Their innovative and scalable model has seen it grow to 58 houses worldwide, engaging with over 65,000 young Jewish people per year. The houses take on a style and form as diverse as the residents who live within them. Some houses are kosher, others not. Some are based on religious practices while others are centred on social action. The common thread amongst all houses around the world is that the Moishe House residents ultimately decide how to run their house.

In Melbourne, Australian Jewish Funders and Jewish Care Victoria have partnered to help facilitate the establishment and operation of Moishe House Melbourne. David Werdiger, Director of Australian Jewish Funders says, “There is immense power in peer-driven programs like Moishe House. When we create the space for them, magic happens, and this is only the beginning.”

The basic premise is that local community members sponsor and fund the house which subsidises the rent and cost of activities, as long as the residents organise and host five Jewish activities and programs each month for their peers. Because the house is not owned by Moishe House it is the responsibility of the residents to source a property to rent.

Brett Nathan, Yosl Cylich and Galit Klas are amongst the first residents of Moishe House Melbourne. All of them in their 20’s view this program as a positive way to nourish and connect with young Jewish adults, locally, and internationally. From hosting Shabbat dinners to games nights, learning retreats to an intimate performance by singer Debra Conway, residents find ways to connect their peers with community.

“It’s a privilege to be living in Moishe House Melbourne,” Klas said. “The response to our programs has been overwhelming. I’ve seen the effect Moishe House is having on people; new friendships formed, leaders coming forward and young people feeling free to express their Judaism in an open space.”

Fellow housemate, Brett Nathan concurs that the program is a space for young Jews to connect in a way that’s relevant to them. “We are so grateful to the Melbourne Jewish community who have been incredibly receptive to the Melbourne Moishe House and its activities. We have had so many opportunities for community participation and to provide a platform for young leadership within the community.”

 Bill Appleby, CEO of Jewish Care believes, “These young adults are uniquely placed at Moishe house to not only shape their own futures, but help their peers positively shape what type of life they want to lead.”

Jerry Silverman: We have to be one Jewish community

Posted 06/20/2013 at 07:37AM
In order to meet the acute challenges facing an increasingly fractured Jewish landscape, organized communal institutions are finding ways to evolve and adapt, Jerry Silverman, president of the Jewish Federations of North America, said on Wednesday.

Speaking with The Jerusalem Post at the President’s Conference in the capital’s International Convention Center, the chief executive of the umbrella body representing the largest Jewish communities in the Diaspora explained that new and creative steps must be taken to combat the balkanization of an increasingly culturally and religiously fractured community.

Discussing the lack of formative experiences that could bind contemporary Jewish youth with Israel and religious expression, Silverman said that “we are dealing with a generation that did not grow up with the founding of the state, did not grow up with the miracles of ’67 and ’73, that didn’t even grow up with the incredible operations of Exodus and Solomon or Moses.”

According to Silverman, young Jews “don’t have the sense of history of the state,” resulting in “real challenges in how we are connecting young people today and young adults to Israel and to the State of Israel. How we overcome those challenges is really critical in creating the concept of connection.”

Despite his assessment that the experiences that gave previous generations of Jews common causes can no longer provide the same impetus for communal involvement, Silverman said that he remains a “cautious optimist.” Jewish federations have an “opportunity to be social innovation hubs within their community,” he said.

While the traditional institutions of communal affiliation are still important, he argued, there are new forms of engagement and “new inventive organizations and places to enter the tent that just aren’t as well known.”

Silverman cited initiatives such as Moishe House – a self-described “pluralistic international organization” that operates, in a manner reminiscent of Chabad’s network of outreach centers, 58 houses worldwide – as a key to creating new opportunities for Jewish expression in the future.

Moishe Houses are “growing like crazy. Federations are supporting Moishe Houses all over,” he said.

“You have these young people who are setting up these households and they are inviting others to come [and participate in their] programming with them peer-to-peer.”

Those involved in such projects as Moishe House “are engaging people” and “creating new communities” all over North America,” he said.

Silverman described the opportunity before the Jewish community to take traditional institutions such as synagogues and Jewish Community Centers and integrate them with newer organizational constructs to create “entry points” that could encourage young unaffiliated Jews to connect with their heritage.

According to Prof. Samuel Heilman, a sociologist at the City University of New York who studies the Jewish community, the fastest-growing groups within American Jewry are Russian speakers, the ultra- Orthodox and the unaffiliated.

Heilman describes the Jewish identification of many unaffiliated Jews in the US as a “symbolic ethnicity” that does not necessarily imply a primarily Jewish cultural orientation.

Silverman acknowledged this changing reality, noting that the “UJA-Federation of New York has created a Moishe House specifically for the Russian community,” as well as leadership programs for young members of this growing sector.

The federations system, he said, is involved in developing “specific outreach culturally” so that “there can be significant engagement with various people of various ethnicities” and denominations.

While the federations are not separated from the Orthodox community, they do maintain parallel communal organizations.

As such, in order to maintain a unified Jewish community in the future, Silverman said, the federations have to build “a bridge to the Orthodox community.”

One of the issues facing American Orthodoxy is the rising cost of tuition for religious day schools. “One of the biggest issues they said they faced was the issue of the [fiscal] sustainability” in the educational sphere, he explained. Such an issue, he argued, is best dealt with at the “communal table.”

“We’re beginning to see connections and outreach to the Orthodox community” in cities such as Cleveland, Baltimore and New York, where “you are seeing wonderful outreach and connections being built.

“Those bridges have to be built for us to be successful because we need to be one Jewish community.”

Shore house mixes Shabbat, sun, service!

Posted 06/18/2013 at 07:31AM

What could be better for a 20-something than an inexpensive co-ed weekend at a Jersey shore house — with at least two meals included and free beach passes?

But a formula for fun in the sun is also an opportunity for tzedaka: Weekend participants at the Shore House for Sandy Relief will volunteer to aid Sandy victims while also enjoying a social and Shabbat experience with fellow Jews.

Running from June 21 through Labor Day, the project is being funded by Jewish Federation of Monmouth County and the Jim Joseph Foundation, with programming assistance from Moishe House, of Oakland, Calif., and supported by Jewish Federations of North America.

Since 2006, Moishe House has opened 56 houses and apartments where young Jews get subsidized rents in return for organizing Jewish programming

Located in Long Branch, the Jersey shore summer house will be managed by three full-time coordinators, who are responsible for recruiting weekend participants, planning programs, organizing Sandy recovery work details, doing light housecleaning, and preparing food for the group meals, which will include Shabbat dinner and a Sunday afternoon barbecue each week.

Israeli-born Roey Wieser, 28, one of the three coordinators, said having fun and giving back are the guiding principles for this year’s house in Long Branch. At the same time, he said in an e-mail, “participating weekend visitors will gain social and networking opportunities, an immersion in Jewish atmosphere, and this year, because of the Sandy relief work, a sense of fulfillment through community service.”

And although the house is “pluralistic,” with no agenda of promoting religion, Wieser said, “We will incorporate Jewish traditions that the guests will be able to enjoy while socializing with other Jews.”

Co-coordinator Lindsay Konell, 31, of Southampton, Pa., said a typical weekend will include a Shabbat dinner on Friday night, Saturday spent on the beach, and conversation over Shabbat lunch. Residents who wish to can attend Shabbat morning services.

“The Long Branch location was chosen for its easy reach to a wide range of synagogues — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Ashkenazi, and Sephardi — so that all traditions could be satisfied,” said Ariella Raviv, federation’s director of community impact, who is overseeing the shore house effort.

Sunday mornings will be devoted to community service.

“Although the volunteering events are not yet finalized, I’ve spoken with people who want us to help them organize the varied goods that have been donated, people who want us to help put up new buildings, and others who want us to help destroy old ones,” said co-coordinator Howard Levi, 23, of Ocean Township.

Levi said he expects the weekend visitors to grow spiritually as well as physically. “We are giving them the chance to help people and have an amazing weekend on the beach at the same time,” he said.

The target audience for participants in the shore house program is Jews in their 20s to early 30s, said Wieser. The minimum age is 21.

The fee is $99 per person for each of the two-overnight weekends, $150 for the four-day July 4 weekend (Thursday-Sunday), and $125 for the three-day Labor Day weekend (Friday-Monday), said Raviv.

With six bedrooms and, according to Levi, “a ton of beds,” the house can accommodate about 15 residents each weekend. Additional visitors also are being welcomed for social activities, both on Saturday evening, beginning with Havdala, and Sunday barbecues.

For more information, or to register, contact [email protected] or visitsites.google.com/site/sandyreliefshorehouse/home/signup.

Moishe House Opens in Phoenix

Posted 06/06/2013 at 11:45AM

Last Sunday, at a house in the heart of Scottsdale, Rabbi Pinchas Allouche hung a mezuzah on the entrance of Arizona’s first Moishe House. This June 2 ceremony marked the Valley’s entrance into an international network of peer-based Jewish communities for young adults ages 21-30. 

Moishe House, founded in 2006, started with four friends hosting Shabbat dinners for their peers out of their home in Oakland, Calif., and has grown into an international nonprofit with 55 houses worldwide.

The Scottsdale house, which is actually called “Moishe House Phoenix,” will house five residents. 

Two of the three roommates — Jonny Basha and Blaine Light — have been friends since high school when they were both active in BBYO in Scottsdale. Avi Wolf moved to the Valley about seven months ago and, shortly after, met Basha and Light. All three, who are 23 years old, are active in several local Jewish organizations. Two more roommates, Adam Dobrusin and Dan Shtutman, are scheduled to join them in a few weeks, Basha said.

Although the residents started a Facebook page — “Moishe House Phoenix-Public Page” — the residents do not plan on launching a website anytime soon or sending email blasts about events. “Organic and kind of grass-roots is the method that we’ve chosen,” Basha said. “That’s what we think is going to create meaningful relationships. ... These are people that we’ve reached out to or that we’ve known have been invited by a friend. It’s a very intimate introduction to the Moishe House.”

Moishe House’s vision is to bring Jewish community leaders in their 20s together to form a young community, Light said. Many young adults leave the Jewish community after they graduate school and then return after they start a family and “Moishe House is designed to help you transition” between these two stages, he said. “This is a fun way for young Jewish people to get together and build a community.”

The Jewish young professional community in Phoenix is fragmented, Basha said, and people don’t really know each other. “What we’re here to do is to connect people and bring people together for a greater cause.”

The local Moishe House receives funding from the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation, according to Tamar Raucher, Moishe House’s marketing associate. The residents receive a rent subsidy and a programming budget from Moishe House; they are responsible for hosting five to six programs each month for local Jewish young adults. A partnership with Birthright Israel NEXT provides a budget for Shabbat meals. 

The residents are planning four types of events: Shabbat meals and holiday events (the house is kosher); educational; social; and tikkun olam. The first event is a pool party this weekend. 

Partnering with local Jewish community organizations to plan events is a major priority, all three said. To contact Moishe House, email [email protected].


Moishe House of the Month: Odessa

Posted 06/06/2013 at 11:37AM
Odessa is one of the newest house in the FSU region, but has already established itself as one of the strongest. From the start, residents Aleksandr, Katerina D., Konstantin and Katerina O. have produced innovative and engaging programs, as well as forged a strong partnership in Odessa's Jewish community. In April, Moishe House Odessa hosted a record-setting 12 programs which engaged 195 program attendees!

Moishe House Marina Rounds Out the Bay Area

Posted 05/24/2013 at 06:46AM

After more than 12 months of planning, San Francisco’s third Moishe House opened in Cow Hollow earlier this year.

The Marina Moishe House, at the corner of Green and Webster streets, one block off busy Union Street, has four residents, all women.

It joins the Moishe House in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco and the Russian-speaking Moishe House in Potrero Hill. Moishe Houses in Berkeley and Palo Alto round out the Bay Area’s lineup.

Founded in 2006 by then–Bay Area resident David Cygielman, Moishe House is now an international nonprofit with the goal of creating “meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults” through “vibrant home-based Jewish communities,” as Cygielman, Moishe House’s executive director, told j. last year.

“Shabbat Fiesta” at the Marina Moishe House in March   photo/courtesy marina moishe house
“Shabbat Fiesta” at the Marina Moishe House in March photo/courtesy marina moishe house

The first house was in Oakland; there are now more than 30 in the United States, as well as houses in London, Vienna, Beijing, Mexico City, Warsaw, Budapest and Buenos Aires. Moishe House’s headquarters are on Broadway in Oakland, and there are also offices in Charlotte, N.C., and overseas in London.

The group living in the Marina Moishe House includes Rebecka Handler, a program assistant for BBYO who’s originally from Memphis, Tenn. The other residents hail from Westchester County, N.Y., Portland, Ore. and Los Angeles. They moved in shortly after the house opened Jan. 1.

Handler said the residents are hosting four young adult-friendly events and one Shabbat dinner each month. So far, they have held a “Torah on Tap” discussion happy hour with Rabbi Zac Johnson, yoga classes and Golden State Warriors playoff parties.

She added that the house’s location near Union Street has made for a happy transition for each of the residents. “It’s a beautiful part of the city,” she said. “We definitely can’t complain.”

Funding for the new house was provided in large part by the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund.

The house’s next Shabbat dinner is set for May 31. For more information or to get involved, email [email protected] or visit the “Marina Moishe House” Facebook page. — emma silvers

Moishe House Create Community in Kiev

Posted 05/23/2013 at 10:55AM
Creating Community in Kiev Posted on MAY 23, 2013 Written by Olga Bard

Being a young Jewish adult in a city with many varied ways of spending your free time can easily leave you without a “Jewish” focus. That is why when Moishe House came to Kiev in September 2010, a quiet revolution started. It was the first time young adults were creating programs for their peers, offering a pluralistic space where everyone could find their Jewish identity and explore it in their own way. Moishe House has provided the Jewish hub and home base that neither I nor any of my Jewish friends had growing up. We come from a generation that learned about Jewish tradition at Hillel and JAFI summer camps, and then taught it to our parents. We never went to Jewish day school, but we did conduct hundreds of Shabbat services and Pesach Seders for kids and the elderly around Ukraine during our years at university. Now, as young adults working eight hours a day (sometimes more), it is our Jewish traditions that we draw on to feel nurtured and motivated. We approach Shabbat both as a day of rest set apart from the week and also as an opportunity to celebrate with friends. Before Moishe House, I never cooked for Shabbat – my room could not fit 15 people at one time, and to be honest, I could not afford to spend that much money on just one dinner. Now, together with my three fellow Moishe House Kiev residents, I do it just about every week, inviting peers from across our community to share it with us. At every Chagim, Shabbatot and programs we organize, we see the faces of people who would rarely go to synagogue, would not celebrate festivals at home or who feel too old for youth organizations. But they do want to be a part of Jewish life and traditions, and our home offers a safe, welcoming place for them to do that. As current Moishe House Kiev residents, we have created a space where our peers can be engaged, participate, mold and strengthen their Jewish identity in any way they choose and, most importantly, can take responsibility for their Jewish community. It is a challenge to make each program interesting, but the greatest trick, we have discovered, is to create and maintain an atmosphere where people can share their thoughts, discuss “hot” topics, not be judged for their opinion or beliefs and feel a sense of belonging. Moishe House has become the place where we put into practice our skills as leaders and where the next generation can create a committed community of Jewish young adults who will, in the near future, take responsibility for the decision-making. This year we celebrated Passover Seder at Moishe House during a snowstorm. Among my personal reasons not to cancel, despite the weather, was a 33-year-old friend who was planning to join us. Even with two Jewish parents, he had never before participated in a Seder. We led a service and discussion, which are key elements that contribute to the success of this house. And yet, as successful as we have been, we still have a long way to go to make Jewish life and traditions central to the lives of more of our peers. After all, the very definition of community has a different meaning here, and we are still building the concept, dealing with the past as we work to ensure the future. To do that, we need more spaces where young adults can explore, try, fail, try again and gain hands-on experience and tools for building a community that everybody can feel part of and actively engaged in. Moishe House has helped young adults in Kiev find a place where they can explore their sense of belonging to the Jewish community. We are fortunate to be one of the 54 Moishe Houses in 14 countries, supported by very generous foundations, federations and individuals. Now we have the responsibility to build on this solid foundation by taking a leadership role, empowering others to follow suit and creating a space for young adults to participate and embrace their identity. Olga Bard is a resident of the Moishe House Kiev.

Moishe House of the Month: Chicago

Posted 05/16/2013 at 01:37PM

Moishe House a Place to Call Home

Posted 04/19/2013 at 09:26AM
March 20, 2013

Moishe House a place to call home

A Friday night Shabbat dinner at Moishe House L.A., co-sponsored by Birthright NEXT. Photo by Jon Shoer.

A Friday night Shabbat dinner at Moishe House L.A., co-sponsored by Birthright NEXT. Photo by Jon Shoer.

Before they discovered Moishe House L.A. (MoHoLa), Rodrigo Rodarte had never led a Shabbat dinner, Jon Shoer was looking to solidify his Jewish identity, and Joshua Nathan Finn was searching for a way to create a home away from home for his Jewish peers. 

All three found a place to belong at MoHoLa in West Hollywood, one of 54 houses in 14 countries established by Moishe House.

Started in 2006, the nondenominational organization aspires to bring Jews in their 20s together to celebrate their heritage through social events, Shabbat dinners, volunteer opportunities and holiday gatherings. Its model employs “houses” in which three to five young adults plan and host a wide range of events.

Moishe House boasts serving 60,000 program attendees around the world every year. Locally, there are other houses in the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles. 

MoHoLa, which has a total of five residents, puts together seven events every month. It hosts Shabbat meals every two weeks for an average of 50 people, held a Chanukah quiz night and put together a singles event at a local bar around Valentine’s Day. During the second night of Passover, they are co-sponsoring a seder at Sinai Temple that will focus on social justice. 

Ariela Emery, 24, who worked at her local Jewish community center in Houston and moved here this past July, joined to stay involved in the Jewish community.

She said that what Moishe House does is important because, “Everyone feels Jewish a different way. Some people have memories of grandmas, and others remember Chanukah parties. The good thing about Moishe House is we try to give people a huge variety of ways they can connect to Judaism. If they just like to meet other Jews and that makes them feel Jewish, we have purely social activities. We do two Shabbats a month if they like Shabbat. If they like social justice, we volunteer at a food pantry. It’s a great platform for young people to come and [experience] many ways to feel Jewish and connect with people their own age.”

When it started three years ago, MoHoLa received half of its funding from national Moishe House; the rest was split among a few families and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, according to Rodarte. 

In its second year, it reached 75 percent local funding. The annual budget, Rodarte said, is $54,000, not including grants for special events such as Passover seders. Currently, it is sponsored by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles and The Kallick Family. 

Tamar Raucher, marketing and development associate for Moishe House, which is headquartered in Oakland, said a new house can be approved at any time. If a group of devoted friends is willing to hold a certain number of Jewish-themed events per month and there is a need in a community, they have the chance to receive funding. What they are looking for in a candidate is someone who is an outgoing leader and passionate about building a Jewish community.

Dave Cygielman, CEO and founder of Moishe House, said that having houses in Los Angeles is important for two reasons: There are many young adults who want to be part of a community, and there are transplants “who are brand-new to the area and have to figure out who they are and what kind of life they are going to live. Moishe House gives that opportunity for Jewish life.”

Cygielman said the model of his organization is effective in its outreach efforts because it relies on its young residents.

“By doing it peer-to-peer rather than staff person-to-the-program recipient, we find that a lot more people come. Recruitment and engagement is easier and much more simple,” he said. “It becomes very cost effective, and it takes on the personality, interests and needs of the generation taking on the programming, which is key. We don’t have to continually figure out what young people want because it’s being planned and created by young people.”

Rodarte, 26, said for the first one and a half years that he lived in Los Angeles, he didn’t feel like he belonged to any Jewish community. When he attended Moishe House events, though, he started to feel the bond to his religion and heritage once again. 

“There were people my own age that I recognized,” he said. “It’s kind of like going to friends’ or friends of friends’ houses at first. That grows and builds. We feel like we’re part of our own community.”

Because of the house, he said he’s had the chance to get in touch with his Judaism. Growing up, Rodarte never led services or dinners, which he now does regularly at the house. He also never had a bar mitzvah, and felt like he was missing out. He applied to the organization’s scholarship fund, received $500 and was able to take classes leading up to a bar mitzvah last summer. 

“The experience with Moishe House has been really great,” he said. “I’ve been able to do things I never would have done.”

Shoer, 25, decided to get involved in the summer of 2011, when he met Rodarte at a bar and learned about the program. He had returned only a few months prior from Israel, where he said he found his Jewish identity and was inspired “to continue that feeling I had in Israel.” 

He ended up staying in Los Angeles for more than drinks and joining MoHoLa. Because of Rodarte and the other members, he didn’t feel out of place after moving, he said. 

“It’s really tough for a person of post-college age to find a social group or a place to feel comfortable and meet new people,” he said. “We provide that opportunity. I was in L.A., and I didn’t know anybody. Moishe House became my entire world. I met everyone I know through it. It’s a great tool and opportunity for people once they are out of college to be a part of that community.”

Just like Shoer, Finn, 25, found that Moishe House helped him settle into his new city. That, in turn, led him to want to get involved.

He explained, “I wanted to pay it forward, so to speak, and give people new to L.A. the same sense of welcoming that I received when I met people there.”

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A version of this article appeared in print.

Moishe House has been awarded a 2013 Natan Core Grant

Posted 04/03/2013 at 07:22AM
Read all about it here

Check out a Moishe House Passover

Posted 03/24/2013 at 01:57PM
A Moishe House Passover
by Toby Tabachnick Staff Writer

<i>Residents of Moishe House, pictured here with guests and members at a recent Shabbat meal, are preparing for their first Passover seder. (Moishe House photo)</i>
Residents of Moishe House, pictured here with guests and members at a recent Shabbat meal, are preparing for their first Passover seder. (Moishe House photo)
Finish up the chametz. Clean the house. Shop and cook for the seder: it’s the same to-do list each year.

But for the five 20-somethings living at Pittsburgh’s first Moishe House, this season kicks off their inaugural pre-Pesach preparation as a group.

“This is our first Passover together,” said Naomi Fireman, a resident of the house that opened in August to provide a Jewish home-based environment for the young people who live there, as well as other young people throughout the community.

“Saturday night, we are having a chametz party to finish up the beer that we can’t finish before Passover,” she said. “And we are all cleaning our house for Passover on Sunday. It will be all hands in.”

The kitchen of Moishe House, which is kosher year-round, will be specially kashered for the holiday, and different dishes will be used for the week, Fireman said. And everyone will be pitching in to do the shopping and cooking, getting ready for a second-night seder for about 15 people.

“We’re all really good cooks,” she said.

Fireman and her housemate Zachary Demby recently returned from San Francisco where they attended a Moishe House retreat to learn strategies for leading a meaningful seder.

 “It will be a small, more intimate second-night seder,” Fireman said. “We will focus on modern social justice, catering it to what’s going on in the United States or developing countries, and the need for justice.”

Moishe House is an international organization based in Oakland, Calif. The organization, through grants given by local federations and fundraising efforts, subsidizes the rent of its residents and provides a monthly budget of $500 that is used to run programs for the wider 20-something Jewish community.

While there is so far just one Moishe House in Pittsburgh, there are 12 throughout the East Coast, which includes Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C. Each house is responsible for creating its own programming that includes: Jewish culture and holidays; Jewish learning; tikkun olam (repairing the world, or social action); and purely social events, according to Rebecca Bar, East Coast regional director of Moishe House.

“Pittsburgh has met with a ton of success,” Bar said. “The Pittsburgh house has been hosting great numbers, and its diversity of programming has brought in a lot of new people.”

The residents of Pittsburgh’s Moishe House host at least seven Jewish-related programs each month, including the popular Shabbrunch, a brunch on Shabbat that typically attracts about 25 people, who then hang out at the house throughout the afternoon.

For the Shabbat that occurs during Passover, Moishe House will host a Matzobreinch, a brunch featuring matzo brei, Fireman said.

The five Pittsburgh Moishe House residents come from various Jewish denominations and form a cohesive group that work together to keep Judaism alive for a demographic that typically does not affiliate with synagogues or other formal Jewish institutions.

“When I graduated from CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) last May, I was looking for a way to remain involved in the Jewish community,” said David Zaidins, a 23-year-old researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Drug Discovery Institute, who lives at the house. “Moishe House has been great. I like the fact that we always have the next holiday and event to look toward.”

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at [email protected].)

Read more: The Jewish Chronicle - A Moishe House Passover

Moishe House LA in the Jewish Journal

Posted 03/24/2013 at 01:55PM
March 20, 2013

Moishe House a place to call home

A Friday night Shabbat dinner at Moishe House L.A., co-sponsored by Birthright NEXT. Photo by Jon Shoer.

A Friday night Shabbat dinner at Moishe House L.A., co-sponsored by Birthright NEXT. Photo by Jon Shoer.

Before they discovered Moishe House L.A. (MoHoLa), Rodrigo Rodarte had never led a Shabbat dinner, Jon Shoer was looking to solidify his Jewish identity, and Joshua Nathan Finn was searching for a way to create a home away from home for his Jewish peers. 

All three found a place to belong at MoHoLa in West Hollywood at 1003 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., one of 54 houses in 14 countries established by Moishe House.

Started in 2006, the nondenominational organization aspires to bring Jews in their 20s together to celebrate their heritage through social events, Shabbat dinners, volunteer opportunities and holiday gatherings. Its model employs “houses” in which three to five young adults plan and host a wide range of events.

Moishe House boasts serving 60,000 program attendees around the world every year. Locally, there are other houses in the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles. 

MoHoLa, which has a total of five residents, puts together seven events every month. It hosts Shabbat meals every two weeks for an average of 50 people, held a Chanukah quiz night and put together a singles event at a local bar around Valentine’s Day. During the second night of Passover, they are co-sponsoring a seder at Sinai Temple that will focus on social justice. 

Ariela Emery, 24, who worked at her local Jewish community center in Houston and moved here this past July, joined to stay involved in the Jewish community.

She said that what Moishe House does is important because, “Everyone feels Jewish a different way. Some people have memories of grandmas, and others remember Chanukah parties. The good thing about Moishe House is we try to give people a huge variety of ways they can connect to Judaism. If they just like to meet other Jews and that makes them feel Jewish, we have purely social activities. We do two Shabbats a month if they like Shabbat. If they like social justice, we volunteer at a food pantry. It’s a great platform for young people to come and [experience] many ways to feel Jewish and connect with people their own age.”

When it started three years ago, MoHoLa received half of its funding from national Moishe House; the rest was split among a few families and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, according to Rodarte. 

In its second year, it reached 75 percent local funding. The annual budget, Rodarte said, is $54,000, not including grants for special events such as Passover seders. Currently, it is sponsored by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles and The Kallick Family. 

Tamar Raucher, marketing and development associate for Moishe House, which is headquartered in Oakland, said a new house can be approved at any time. If a group of devoted friends is willing to hold a certain number of Jewish-themed events per month and there is a need in a community, they have the chance to receive funding. What they are looking for in a candidate is someone who is an outgoing leader and passionate about building a Jewish community.

Dave Cygielman, CEO and founder of Moishe House, said that having houses in Los Angeles is important for two reasons: There are many young adults who want to be part of a community, and there are transplants “who are brand-new to the area and have to figure out who they are and what kind of life they are going to live. Moishe House gives that opportunity for Jewish life.”

Cygielman said the model of his organization is effective in its outreach efforts because it relies on its young residents.

“By doing it peer-to-peer rather than staff person-to-the-program recipient, we find that a lot more people come. Recruitment and engagement is easier and much more simple,” he said. “It becomes very cost effective, and it takes on the personality, interests and needs of the generation taking on the programming, which is key. We don’t have to continually figure out what young people want because it’s being planned and created by young people.”

Rodarte, 26, said for the first one and a half years that he lived in Los Angeles, he didn’t feel like he belonged to any Jewish community. When he attended Moishe House events, though, he started to feel the bond to his religion and heritage once again. 

“There were people my own age that I recognized,” he said. “It’s kind of like going to friends’ or friends of friends’ houses at first. That grows and builds. We feel like we’re part of our own community.”

Because of the house, he said he’s had the chance to get in touch with his Judaism. Growing up, Rodarte never led services or dinners, which he now does regularly at the house. He also never had a bar mitzvah, and felt like he was missing out. He applied to the organization’s scholarship fund, received $500 and was able to take classes leading up to a bar mitzvah last summer. 

“The experience with Moishe House has been really great,” he said. “I’ve been able to do things I never would have done.”

Shoer, 25, decided to get involved in the summer of 2011, when he met Rodarte at a bar and learned about the program. He had returned only a few months prior from Israel, where he said he found his Jewish identity and was inspired “to continue that feeling I had in Israel.” 

He ended up staying in Los Angeles for more than drinks and joining MoHoLa. Because of Rodarte and the other members, he didn’t feel out of place after moving, he said. 

“It’s really tough for a person of post-college age to find a social group or a place to feel comfortable and meet new people,” he said. “We provide that opportunity. I was in L.A., and I didn’t know anybody. Moishe House became my entire world. I met everyone I know through it. It’s a great tool and opportunity for people once they are out of college to be a part of that community.”

Just like Shoer, Finn, 25, found that Moishe House helped him settle into his new city. That, in turn, led him to want to get involved.

He explained, “I wanted to pay it forward, so to speak, and give people new to L.A. the same sense of welcoming that I received when I met people there.”

Tracker Pixel for Entry
A version of this article appeared in print.

Want to Work at Moishe House?

Posted 03/13/2013 at 08:18AM
Moishe House seeks a Director of Development and Community Engagement for the East Coast. Click here to find out more and apply:


Moishe House Dallas Wins the Chili Cook-off People's Choice Award

Posted 03/13/2013 at 08:16AM
Read more about the 20th annual Tiferet Israel Kosher Chili Cook-off below:

Chili Cookoff to Benefit Moishe House Dallas

Posted 03/11/2013 at 12:00PM

20th Kosher Chili Cook-off could be biggest

Posted on 28 February 2013 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

The Kosher Chili Cook-off has been the “meat” of the Dallas Jewish community since 1994, providing a way for people of all streams of Judaism to come together for an afternoon of fun and camaraderie, while also enjoying the food for which Texas is famous.

The 20th edition of the event will take place from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, March 10 at Tiferet Israel Congregation, 10909 Hillcrest Road. Fifty teams are expected to compete this year in the beef, turkey and vegetarian categories, according to Neal Stollon, who is co-chairing the cook-off with Ed Jerome.

This year’s cook-off is anticipated to be the biggest ever, Stollon said, and that’s because of the community support and committed volunteers.

“This is really all about the people and the community,” he said. “Twenty years is a nice milestone, but if we can make the chili cook-off bigger and better than before with more teams and activities, that’s what really matters. We are trying to provide a fun and memorable afternoon to the Jewish community. The fact that the community supports this is heartfelt, and I believe everyone can recognize that they are part of something unique.”

Although new teams and vendors come aboard each year, Stollon believes the chili cook-off is also about honoring the legacy of the event.

Five teams that have either never been at the Chili Cook-off before or haven’t participated in many years will spice up the competition this year. Those are the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, Camp Young Judaea, Dontdodishes.com, the Kleinman Brothers and YJAM/The Dallas Fighting Maccabees.

Not only is the community aspect of the event important, but people also enjoy the friendly competition between the teams, Jerome said.

“There is a certain element of competition that people find exciting, and it’s really fun,” he said. “I love the community nature of the cook-off and that it’s an opportunity for everyone to come, for organizations to represent themselves and for people to socialize.”

In addition to some new vendors, a Carter BloodCare mobile lab will be available for people to donate blood. All of the money raised will benefit Tiferet Israel, the Moishe House, the Dallas Jewish Historical Society and the ALS Association.

The Dallas Jewish Historical Society is excited to be a beneficiary and to be participating in the cook-off for the first time in many years, executive director Debra Polsky said. Not only will they cook chili, society members hope to interview people that day to add to its archives.

“We are thrilled to be recognized and participate in this wonderful community event,” Polsky said. “I believe it’s one of the few events that unites the entire community. The Chili Cook-off is part of Dallas Jewish history and we are happy to have an opportunity be part of that.”

This is also the first time in 15 years that Camp Young Judaea in Wimberley will participate in the Chili Cook-off, according to assistant camp director Yael Kahalnik Twito. CYJ also participated in Houston’s version of the event last year.

CYJ is looking forward to becoming more of a presence in Dallas, and the Chili Cook-off is a great way to make that happen, Twito added.

“That’s really important to us and we are anxious to take part in this event,” she said. “It’s also nice for the camp families who live in Dallas to volunteer at the booth and feel like they are really part of their own community.”

There are explicit rules of kashrut that will be followed. For example, teams need a Dallas Kosher rabbi to check their ingredients, and the rabbis are usually available at about 8 a.m. the day of the event. The winners are announced toward the end of the day.

Admission to the chili cook-off is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-10. For information, call 214-691-3611 or visit www.kosherchilicookoff.us.

Jews Contributing to Music NOW, From Moishe House Philly's Mira Treatman

Posted 12/10/2012 at 10:32AM
As a show promoter and booker in Philadelphia, I am constantly hunting for artists to work with. Along the way, I've come across musicians who also happen to be Jewish. The following are my picks for Moishe House residents and community members to support potentially because they are not only creating cutting edge recordings and performances, but also stand for more than just entertainment value. Across the board, they're single-handedly defining contemporary Judaism for themselves as they see fit. They may not all be particularly Jewish artists in their work, however they're certainly not hiding this part of their identity per se. For one, I do not personally know any of these artists and yet I can confirm that they're all at least Jewish-identifying in some way. Many of the people on this list manifest their Jewish backgrounds in very subtle, almost sexy ways, for example Amy Klein has casually written a song called "Jacob's Ladder" just because she can. This list represents DIY Judaism at its finest.

Judd Greenstein, one of the three co-directors of New Amsterdam Records, is an award-winning, self-described indie-classical composer based in Brooklyn. Not only the creator of contemporary, relevant composed music, Greenstein also promotes his comrades such as Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Annie Clark (St. Vincent), and Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards), among others. He is curator of the Ecstatic Music Festival, an annual event which brings together seemingly disparate artists to create incredible, moving collaborations. Most Jewish in his list of accomplishments is Greenstein's Six Points Fellowship where he spent a year composing the full-length work, Solomon, which was performed by a group he assembled called Yehudim. To learn more about this fellowship, check out http://sixpointsfellowship.org/.

Amy Klein, also known as Amy Rebecca Klein, also known as the front woman of Leda and Hilly Eye, also known as the unofficial founder of Permanent Wave, also known as the former guitarist of Titus Andronicus, is a goddess in Jewish feminism today. Educated, brilliant, talented, literary, and loud, Amy has accomplished so much in her twenty-seven years, including the unofficial founding of Permanent Wave. This non-wave feminist arts collective seeks to "challenge gender inequality as it manifests itself in art, politics, and personal lives." It was inspired in part by violence against women in Amy's immediate environment, in addition to the inequality between men and women in the music industry. Since its founding in late 2010, Permanent Wave has spread from New York to the San Francisco Bay, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, and even Omaha, Nebraska. A hallmark of Permanent Wave is the organization of music shows featuring all female-identifying, queer, people of color, and youth performers.

Mirah, born Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn in Philadelphia, is a singer-songwriter known for writing classic works on K Records in the Pacific Northwest during the golden age of lady rock. While at Evergreen State, Mirah began a fruitful collaboration with Phil Elvrum of Mt. Eerie/The Microphones releasing early solo albums with songs such as "The Garden", "Nobody Has to Stay", "Jerusalem", and "Don't Die in Me". More recently, Mirah has released an incredible collaborative music effort with Thao Nguyen of the insanely popular WNYC Radiolab national tour. An icon in the making known for rocking short Betty Page bangs and kimono tops, Mirah will certainly be remembered for being a cult musical diva as well as the Leonard Cohen of her generation. She was definitely born with the Jewish, eloquent literati gene. 

 Alicia Jo Rabins is a musician, poet, Torah scholar, mother, and slightly obscure folk-rock star based in Brooklyn and Portland. I first heard of her music in the form of her masters thesis (in Jewish Womens Studies at JTS no less) turned band Girls in Trouble. That same year her all-Jewish record label, JDub, unsurprisingly went under. This record label really had no chance at succeeding unfortunately, but at least their artists are still chugging along and releasing work. As a poet, Rabins has been published in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, 6x6, Court Green, anthologies from NYU Press and Knopf, and Artscape Press. Like Judd Greenstein, Alicia Jo is also a recent Six Points Fellow who created "an experimental rock opera about the spiritual implications of the current financial crisis, examining the figure of Bernard Madoff (and the system he represents) through the lens of rabbinic Jewish texts about financial ethics, the meaning of wealth, and the inevitability of cycles." 

              Schmekel is now not only Yiddish for "tiny penis", but also is the name of the first queer Jewcore band ever. Based in Brooklyn, Nogga Schwartz, Ricky Riot, Lucian Kahn, and Simcha Halpert-Hanson are a quartet of transgendered Jews who pen songs about their experiences in a very borscht belt, bathroom humor sort of way. Their songs celebrate their bar mitzvahs, which has been a major marketing tool in their journey (you can buy a t-shirt that says "I survived Schmekel's Bar Mitzvah"), which I find hilarious and really poignant. When the musicians in Schmekel were thirteen, they had Bat Mitzvot, which was not the correct prefix for any of their Mitzvot, then or now. The reason this band is on this list is because of the grace with which Schmekel unapologetically owns their trans and Jewish identities with a strong sense of humor. Schmekel shows are never a pity party or an angst-ridden fest, they always capture the authentic, loud, jubilant personalities of the band mates. 

Are you an amazing Jewish contributor to music today too? Are you not on this very short list? Please holler at me, or challah at me if that's easier, and I'll gladly book you in Philly! In a perfect world, my Moishe House would, can, and has definitely doubled as a welcoming yet cutting edge house show venue.  

Moishe House is Coming to Atlanta!

Posted 12/05/2012 at 09:18AM
Apply now to [email protected]

Check out an Exciting Opportunity brought to us by our friends at the Leichtag Foundation

Posted 12/04/2012 at 09:21AM
You are committed to eradicating hunger. You believe sustainable and healthy options are a right, not a privilege. You seek to understand and create possibilities — and connect Jewish ideas to some of these solutions. You want to build your professional skills and advance your career. If this is you, then you should apply. Click http://jewishfoodjustice.org/

Repair the World Repair Interview: Sonni Bendetson on Moishe House and Repair the World’s Partnership

Posted 11/26/2012 at 03:51PM
Photo courtesy of Sonni Bendetson (pictured). Since 2011, Repair the World and Moishe House have worked together to create a culture of service and combine Moishe House’s communal living model with social action. At the helm of this exciting partnership is Sonni Bendetson, the Director of Repair the World Programming and Alumni Engagement for Moishe House. As an awesome Repair the World partner, Sonni spends much of her days supporting all 50 Moishe House locations in dreaming up, creating and delivering inspiring, impactful service programs for house members and their wider communities. Recently, Sonni took a few moments to share with us where her own passion for service comes from, how she helps Moishe Houses do their work, and why she thinks Jewish tradition and a commitment to the world go hand-in-hand. Tell me more about your background with service. Service was a big part of my college experience, and it played a role in dictating what kind of career choices I made after. I was involved with a lot of education-focused activities including an after-school tutoring program I started for a child with special needs who was not getting the support he needed in school. I was also involved with a writing fellowship at Tufts, helping students with their writing. Through that fellowship, I got involved with the Clemente Course in the Humanities at Bard College, which is a program that enables low-income adults to take classes in literature, art history, philosophy and other humanities courses taught by amazing professors. I worked with students on their writing and did tutoring and small group work. I noticed that lots of the students wanted to write about their own stories – and many of them had these amazing life stories to share. So I started a special course for women that taught essential writing skills through creative memoir writing. I created a curriculum based around short stories by different women authors who had similar backgrounds to the students. At the end of the course, we put together an anthology of their writing – it was a powerful and wonderful collection. Where does your interest in education and working with people with disabilities stem from? They have both always been passions of mine. Education was strongly valued in my family. I think a lot of that comes from Jewish culture’s focus on the importance of education. And I have a brother with a disability – he is hard of hearing – so that likely brought those issues to my attention as a kid. How did you start working for Moishe House and Repair the World, and what drew you to their missions? After graduating in 2009, I worked for a Jewish organization in Boston called Gateways that focuses on increasing access to Jewish education for children with special needs. I worked there on both the programming and communication sides. When I moved to San Francisco this past summer, I wanted to keep working in the Jewish community, and the position with Repair the World and Moishe House seemed like a great fit. I had had such wonderful experiences with service personally, and I loved the idea of opening other people’s eyes to service and how rewarding it can be. What is your specific role? I have a two-pronged job. I’m the director of alumni engagement for Moishe House – it’s a brand new program, and I’m excited to be able to help build it as we grow. I’m also Moishe House’s director of Repair the World programming, which means I support all of our houses in creating service programming. We are working to develop a strong culture of service across Moishe House. So I help all 50 Moishe House locations identify issues they are collectively passionate about, offer guidance to help them create effective service programs, and connect them to one another so they can inspire and help each other. Additionally, two Moishe House locations – in Chicago and Detroit – are specific Repair the World Moishe Houses. They are just like regular houses except instead of doing one Repair the World service program every three months, they put on 5-6 service programs each month. Those two locations serve as centers of service for young adults, and the residents all have incredible service backgrounds. What are some examples of service programs Moishe Houses have done? Our house in Portland recently hosted a three-part program for Sukkot. It started with a build the sukkah event where a bunch of people came over to the house to build, then held a discussion about hunger, homelessness, and food justice. The second event invited people to sleep outside as a way of furthering the conversation about homelessness. Then they partnered with a local organization to put together care packages for people experiencing homelessness in their community. The three-part approach was designed to build on itself, draw connections between Sukkot and these themes, and make the end service action more meaningful. At the Chicago House, which just opened in September, they have already piloted two ongoing direct service programs. They partner with Lydia Home, an organization for children in the foster care system. They also partner with a homeless shelter where they prepare a meal for 40 people and then sit and eat the meal with them. That way it is not just about dropping off food or serving it, it builds real relationships. We definitely encourage houses to do ongoing service programs, so they can make a sustained impact in their community. How do you personally connect Jewish tradition and values with service? For me service and giving back to your community are among the most central themes of Judaism. Everything in Judaism, from the teachings and the customs, to the different traditions, have such an underlying theme of respecting and caring for other people. Being informed, aware, and responsive to the world around me is a big part of my Jewish identity.

A Young Scientist Reconciles His Work and His Faith - How Judaism and science exist together in harmony.

Posted 11/19/2012 at 02:21PM

As both a working scientist and an active Jew, I am often asked how I compromise my commitment to each discipline in order to make the two harmonious in my life. The truth is I do not feel that I have to compromise either. Science is important to me as it helps answer testable questions about the universe: How does the sun “rise”? How do we get rain? Why do peacocks have long tails? Religion, on the other hand, deals with intangible questions: What does life mean? How can I be a more righteous person? How can I connect spiritually with the world? Since religion and science ask different questions, they do not contradict one another. I feel comfortable discussing the story of creation after reading a paper about the big bang theory, because to me the stories in the Bible are much more than historical accounts. They are guides to how we can live a better life; they are lessons about how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things yet how we have the power to change the world. Judaism teaches me that I should try and understand G-d’s world; science gives me tools to do so.

No theme creates a divide between some religious thinkers and scientific communities more than the theory of evolution. Bill Nye, a much esteemed science guy, recently published a statement (it was more like a rant) about how people who do not believe in evolution are willfully ignoring the facts. The nice thing about facts is that they are right, whether we choose to believe them or not. Unfortunately, the reason many people choose to disregard the evidence supporting evolution is that they do not want to forsake their belief in the Bible, which does not mention anything about natural selection, sexual selection, or random genetic drift (the bible also does not mention that pasteurizing maintains milk, or that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, but science has managed to sneak those by our societal filters).

Recently, I had the interesting experience of watching my graduate school adviser, a well-spoken evolutionary geneticist (these things do not always come as a pair), debate a traveling “creationist” at a creationist museum in an area of town where one may expect to find such a thing. The audience was biased from the get-go and the creationist spewed a lot of rhetoric presented as fact with no basis other than a literal interpretation of the bible. My adviser shared much of the evidence that supports the theory of evolution while being very careful to not to offend the audience’s religious sensibilities. In the process, I found out that my adviser is actually a practicing Catholic. Despite the facts presented by my adviser the crowd clearly favored the un-rooted story given by the creationist.

I walked out of the event smugly proud of my Judaism. I reflected on how great it is to be part of a living tradition that encourages rational thought and celebrates modernity while still embracing the past. I can go to shul and talk about my research and not get evil stares from the community—what a privilege. This smugness lasted only until last night when I found a video of a rabbi I used to know as an undergraduate belittling the idea of evolution because it is not found in the Torah. My smug smile quickly became an embarrassed sigh. How could I reconcile his ranting with my ideals? It took me a few moments to realize that I did not have to. 

My connection to Judaism is not affected by the ranting of others, and my acceptance of science will not make me ineligible for a minyan. I find that both Judaism and science feed my curiosity to understand the world and each answers questions that the other cannot. How lucky I am to have them both working in synergy.

Dovi Kacev grew up in South Africa and San Diego and is a resident of the San Diego Moishe House. He is an avid surfer, and he studies sharks.

Don't Peg Me Politically - How Jewish values play a role in this election

Posted 11/19/2012 at 02:19PM

You're Jewish right? Oh! You must be voting Baritt Robamny.

Hmm, interesting theory. But unless we're voting against an evil candidate, say something out of 1930's European Facism, I don't want to be politically pegged just because I'm Jewish. I may share the same religion as you but I intend to make up my own mind, thank you.

However, I do continue to wonder, is there a 'Jewish' position on American politics?

Well, taking off my Party hat for a moment (even though I do enjoy a good party), I'd say yes. But it's very narrow.

And after a good deal of thought, I've only come up with five non-controversial Jewish issues on the national level. Helping the downtrodden, the freedom to practice religious rituals, support of allied foreign countries -- including the State of Israel, electing just judges for our nation, and basic animal cruelty restrictions.

So let's look at our presidential candidates.

Given that both Presidential candidates pay lip-service to Israel, haven't cracked down on their constituents' observance of Yom Kippur, would appoint worthy Supreme Court Justices, personally give millions to charity, support a slew of social programs, and haven't been caught eating a limb off a living animal, I hold that Judaism has no particular preference between President Obama and Governor Romney. The "Jewish View" is largely irrelevant because we live in a good and decent country with good and decent candidates.

Sorry, but in this election, Judaism can't make your decision for you.

That is -- unless you have incorporated your secular preference for a particular government system into your religion. I'll bet that many of you have, thinking that Judaism supports either Republicans or Democrats. But just as we should not establish a Jewish theocracy in this nation, we should not let secular preferences corrupt the teachings of Judaism.

In a modern sacrilegious statement, Jewish issues don't necessarily include tax increases/cuts, pro-life/pro-choice, traditional/same-sex marriage, unemployment, or economic growth. God's voice did not boom at Sinai, "Thou shalt maintain real, per-capita GDP at 3% year over year."

Let's take welfare as an example, an issue that many christen 'Jewish'.

Judaism undeniably says we should help those less fortunate. We are to tithe and we are to welcome the stranger -- regardless of circumstance. But it says nothing about Democrats erecting a federal system to tax those over a certain income and give it to the poor. Nor is there a recommendation that Republicans abolish taxes and encourage people to donate their earnings voluntarily. Both systems, however, help the poor and are therefore Jewishly valid.

And that's the whole point. Two clashing secular political systems can both operate on the Jewish value to take care of the needy.

If you think one system works better than the other, that's great! But it's not a Jewish position. It's your secular belief that one party's approach is better than the other's.

I ask you to be mindful of what your religion says, and more importantly, what it does not. Please do not burden Judaism with your political leanings. Take Judaism's beliefs and  values and figure out which candidates are best applying them. And then respect the viewpoints of your fellow Jews who have a different vision of America.

I think then we'll have a far more peaceful election cycle in our homes and synagogues.

All that being said, I admit I'm voting for Robamny.

Noah Yaffe lives in the Los Angeles-SFV Moishe House, holds a degree in Economics from UC Davis, and thoroughly enjoys life.

Watching Frankenstorm From Inside Moishe House - A Moishe House Resident, gives you her percpective on what it was like to watch Hurricane Sandy was like and how you can help.

Posted 11/19/2012 at 02:17PM

Frankenstorm Sandy brought us New Yorkers a new perception of this city, teaching us about a “New York City is a city that can actually sleep.” This new New York is a city that is under water. It suffered over 30 casualties, the evacuation of 400,000-plus people, the loss of water and electricity.

Losses as a result of the storm will cost New York City over $20 billion, far surpassing the expenses of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The city and boroughs have been described as a “war zone.” In Manhattan, power and water may only come back during the weekend, and parts of Long Island might only get power back in the next four to five days. Northern New Jersey is in a similar situation ... but some there might not get their electricity back for the next 9 days. ConEdison has officially said that power may not be fully restored until November 11.

I was not affected by the storm, but many of my friends were. Via Facebook or text messages, I keep getting updates from friends with different stories. Some are outsideStarbucks, others are cleaning rooms that had been flooded, or crashing friends' or relatives' houses, or wrapped in their blankets at home as the weather gets colder. Conversations led to questions about “What can we do to help?” “What are some of the volunteer opportunities being offered in our areas?” The answer: it is a duty to help others who are not as lucky as us, and who are in dire need. So for those interested in some volunteering options or those of you in need for help, click here for helpful links.

Luanna Azulay lives in the Moishe House in Williamsburg and is pursuing a degree in Public Administration at NYU Wagner School. Born and raised in Recife, Brazil, she can make some mean mufletas. 

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar - A reflection on what women have and what we still have to fight for.

Posted 11/19/2012 at 02:15PM

I have always been aware that I am a woman. But never so much as I was these past few weeks. Starting out with the second Presidential debate last Tuesday night, carrying through the Moishe House Breast Cancer Awareness Shabbat and participation in the American Cancer Society’s annual 5 mile Breast Cancer Awareness walk, to my interactions with the New York Police Department, I have never been so hyperaware of the fact that I am a woman.

Women have been a much larger, and much more blatant conversation in this Presidential race. Part of me thinks this is rightfully so (as we women are AWESOME and deserve to be talked about), but most of me is just saddened and disheartened that in 2012, we are STILL having conversations about fair pay, and whether or not a new mom can be a good CEO, and about legitimate rape. Are you kidding me?!

I grew up in a world believing that anything was possible. That like Sally Ride, my dreams could take me to space and back. And now, I’m being subjected to politicians who believe that my body has some sort of mechanism to shut down pregnancy in the event of rape. It’s offensive, and honestly, appalling. As a young woman voting in her second Presidential election, grappling with issues of career development, education, dating, and financial worries, I don’t have time to also worry that my government, and my public officials, are going to refuse me my basic rights. Believe what you want about abortion, and when life begins, but how are we even supposed to have a legitimate dialogue when just saying the correct anatomical term for a female genitalia gets you kicked off of a senate floor?

I am 23 years old, and for the first time in my life, I feel the different treatment that the genders get. I lost my wallet this past weekend, and I can’t help but think that the extra attention I am getting from the police department may have something to do with my being a woman. And while, yes, I do appreciate the fact that sometimes being a girl gets the door opened for me, or sometimes gets me a free drink at the bar, I’d rather get notice for being a smart, intelligent, motivated PERSON.

Women do have so many opportunities today, many more than we have had before, and I want to keep that trend going, instead of moving backwards. I want to see women CEOs, and women leaders. I want to continue to stand up, as I did this past weekend in Central Park, with hundreds, upon thousands of women and men, marching not just to eradicate one of the top killers of women, but in solidarity and support of our fellow human. 

Rachel Hodes is a second-year graduate student in the NYU Wagner-Skirball Dual Degree Program for Jewish Professional Leadership and a Graduate Student intern at UJA-Federation of New York. She lives in the Murray Hill Moishe House.

Learning Gratitude In Graduate School - Trying to appreciate all graduate school has to offer

Posted 11/19/2012 at 02:13PM

Why is it so hard to feel grateful for our blessings? Wikimedia Commons
Why is it so hard to feel grateful for our blessings? Wikimedia Commons

Last month, hundreds, upon thousands, upon millions of students went back to school.  Although not quite as adorably as my 5th grade neighbor decked out in her first-day-of-school finest, I, too, returned to the world of academia. Starting my second year of graduate school, I was not even a little surprised when on the first day of classes, my peers and I couldn’t even get through the first class without bitching.

OF COURSE, we got screwed over on our class locations, and now don’t have time between classes to fill up our water bottles and go to the bathroom. OF COURSE, the professor didn’t open the online learning site until the night before. OF COURSE, the bookstore ran out of the books we needed. And OF COURSE, it was raining.

Looking back on this year’s first day as opposed to so many others I’ve had before, I’m struck by my, and many of my peer’s, overwhelming lack of excitement. There was no excited showing off of our new shoes, or describing the summer we just had, or comparing whose folder was the most sturdy, but also really cool-looking. The bureaucratic rigamarole has totally and completely jaded us into thinking of graduate school as a tedious endeavor, rather than a privilege.

But in reality, that’s what it is. It is a privilege to have our biggest problems be navigating the institutional hurdles, or to make an extra trip to the bookstore or, *GASP*, to not be able to fill up our water bottles before class. It is a privilege that most of the world will never be able to take advantage of. And often, I lose sight of that.

I lose sight of the unbelievable luxury it is to be able to have almost TWO YEARS of my post-college life reserved just for academic pursuits, when so many of my 20-something counterparts are slaving away at entry level jobs, for more hours than is legally allowed.  I forget that this is something I worked for, that I applied for and had to be chosen for.

My Rosh Hashanah resolution last year was to appreciate my graduate school experience, and take advantage of all it had to offer. And I failed. And as I am in a two-year program, I am fortunate to have a second chance at success. I hope that in the coming 10 months, I remember each and every day, through all of the difficult lectures, monotonous group meetings and stressful final paper- writing, that I am a member of a select, indescribably lucky group of people who are devoting their time, energy and efforts to their education.

I vow to appreciate my professor’s hard work, and understand that they too are people, and may not always know exactly what they’re doing. And I promise, that while I probably won’t stop the complaining, I will always remind myself, that these are the best kind of complaints to have, and I will try to get over it.

I hope that the other jaded, cynical and tired graduate students out there find solace in knowing that I feel your pain. But I also hope that at the start of both of the new years, we resolve to be more grateful and appreciative students, and people. 

For A Good Time, Answer

Posted 10/22/2012 at 12:26PM

10/19/2012 - 10:35
How can a Moishe House blogger relate to the plight of a phone sex operator?
How can a Moishe House blogger relate to the plight of a phone sex operator?

I have no shame admitting that I went to see For a Good Time, Call... on opening weekend. Little did I know I'd have something in common with Ari Graynor's character, Katie Steele.

Katie works days as a manicurist and moonlights as a phone sex operator, but it's not enough to pay the rent for her lavish Gramercy Park digs. Across the city, Lauren finds herself unexpectedly jobless and homeless. A mutual gay best friend matches the two of them up and after a few rocky weeks of balancing each other out, they make lemonade out of lemons. With the business and management skills that Lauren brings to the table, and Katie's expertise on the phone, the girls turn Katie's phone sex side gig into a full-fledged operation that supports both of them, and then some.

While most of us in our mid-twenties pay our rent by a different, more straight-edged means, we can relate to these two focused, and fearless, best friends. Hidden in the raunchy setting of their phone sex line, Katie and Lauren are facing the same fears that a lot of us face in this post-college, welcome to the real world phase: What if it doesn't work out?

On a coffee/dog walking date with a high school friend this weekend, we agreed pretty quickly from our own experiences and those of our myriad of friends across the country: The mid-twenties are a weird time. They're a time of re-evaluation, and if we're lucky, re-evaluation by choice. We graduated from college and we went out and got jobs. We picked a path and we tried something. For some of us, what we started out doing a few years ago still feels right. We're on track to becoming a doctor, or we're climbing the ranks at our social media non-profit job and loving it. But, some of us are realizing that traveling four days a week as a consultant isn't as glamorous as it sounded, or that teaching third grade is most awesome during summer when the kids are out of school. Even those of us that love what we're doing are wondering if we might be able to find something we like even more. Whether we've found the right thing or not, we're all re-evaluating. Fortunately, most of us haven't found ourselves in the same predicament as Katie and Lauren where we're being forced to re-evaluate and make something work, but if we were, hopefully we'd handle it the same way.

I'm fortunate enough to be happy at work. But, there's still a little piece of me that nudges me "Is this it? How can I use what I know and what I'm good at to finagle it into something that feels even more perfect? Or is there something else entirely that is the perfect thing?" I can't help but wonder what my version of Lauren and Katie's phone sex line might be. I guess half the fun (and all the scare) is that I don't know. But I hope when the time comes, it comes because I've chosen it, and that I'll have the courage to take what I know and twist and tangle it into something better.

So, while we're out there worrying about what might happen if/ when things don't work out as we planned, or ruminating and wondering if we've picked the right path, the good news is, we're all on our way there, wherever "there" is. Each of the experiences that we have, whether they're what we expected or a curve ball thrown from left field, are helping us figure out what works and what doesn't so that we'll recognize the perfect thing when it comes along. And the even better news? From what I hear, that perfect thing will change, forever. So, may all of us, mid-twenties or not, have the courage to answer the phone when our personal version of a phone sex line calls.

Forum for the Future: Home Shuling

Posted 10/22/2012 at 12:24PM
Forum for the Future: Home Shuling
by David Cygielman

Age: 30

Profession: CEO of Moishe House

Jewish Childhood & College Experiences: The defining Jewish experience of my youth was a six-week summer teen trip to Europe and Israel in 1997. For 42 days I was surrounded by Jewish friends, who remain some of my closest friends to this day. During the week leading up to Israel, we visited the Theresienstadt concentration camp. I’d grown up hearing Holocaust stories from my grandparents; seeing a camp firsthand and connecting it to my grandparents’ stories deepened my sense of commitment to the Jewish people.

Inspired by that trip, upon entering UC Santa Barbara I joined the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, got involved in Hillel, and became Reform youth group advisor at Congregation B'nai B'rith. By sophomore year I was gearing up to backpack through Europe and take my next trimester in Israel when my father was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Our family’s situation changed dramatically. In order to finish out the year, I applied for a $2,000 loan from the Hebrew Free Loan Association in Santa Barbara; if it was granted, I planned to work over the summer to pay it back. Two interviews later, I received a life-changing phone call: The committee had met with the Jewish Community Foundation of Santa Barbara and decided to pay my final two years of college tuition in full, not as a loan, as long as for those years I continued my Jewish involvement on campus and in Santa Barbara. Then I knew without a doubt: The place I wanted to dedicate my time and energy was the Jewish community.

The following year at Hillel I met Morris Squire, 80, a longtime Santa Barbara resident known for his quirkiness and his adamant opinions on everything. One Saturday morning in the Hillel building he asked me, “If you had a million dollars but could not spend it on yourself, what would you do with it?” I remember rambling on about a whole bunch of ideas until he cut me off, handed me his card, and said to be in touch. When I called him the following week, he invited me to his home. Before I left, he wrote a $10,000 check to Hillel and said I would be in charge of it. What an opportunity! It was the largest check I had ever seen. Each week I would return to his house and share what we did with the money. So, every week for the rest of college and beyond, I visited his home. Over the years we developed 100+ programs in Santa Barbara, including afterschool programs for kids and a teen leadership training workshop. We were running with so many ideas, he was donating $1 million a year! His absolute trust in my leadership and direction, along with his impatience and insistence on immediate results, gave me the audacity to think I could accomplish tremendous change in the world.

Perspectives on Engaging 20s and 30s: Post-college, I discovered I was too old for Jewish life on campus but too young for many local institutions. Then, while visiting my family in the Bay Area, I had dinner with four friends from our 1997 teen trip who were all renting a four-bedroom house. Like me, they felt alienated from organized Jewish life, but had a huge number of Jewish friends, a place to host them (their house), and a desire to be Jewish community leaders.

That’s when the idea hit me: We could create Jewish communities by giving young adults the opportunity to live together and turn their homes into vibrant Jewish communities. I proposed the idea to Morris, and he was on board, so these four guys in their early 20s hosted a Shabbat dinner—and 73 people came! The following week an attendee emailed us to say it was a tremendous experience and asked if he could start a similar home-based program across the bay, in San Francisco. Today 46 Moishe Houses engage 30,000+ young adults in 14 countries, offering 275 different monthly programs. We’re now serving more post-college, 20-something Jews than any other organization worldwide.

The Jewish establishment is working hard to understand the needs of our demographic, but the classic model of hiring someone to run young adult programs to penetrate this population has not produced the desired result. Typically, this is a junior position that demands work during the day and then events on nights/weekends—a very difficult work/life balance that leads to high turnover. More successful in attracting young adults are new approaches to existing synagogue models such as IKAR in LA, Kavanna in Seattle, and Mishkan in Chicago, prayer communities that are built around their age demographic and are not cost prohibitive because they do not have a traditional synagogue infrastructure. Although my wife and I maintain our membership at Congregation B’nai B’rith, which is 300 miles away, we are certainly in the minority.

In order to create strong Jewish communities for the future, established institutions must understand that the infrastructure they have built may not be what my generation is willing to take on. We need to put the needs of potential participants first and foremost.

I am optimistic about the Jewish future. Just as the concerns of today continue to evolve, so will we learn collectively how to address them.

The Boy in the Green Shirt

Posted 10/22/2012 at 12:23PM
The Boy in the Green Shirt

The abandoned synagogue in Ambover, Ethiopia is accessible only by rocky, dirt roads.
The abandoned synagogue in Ambover, Ethiopia is accessible only by rocky, dirt roads.

Here’s how it works with these service trips: They lure you in under the guise of work, telling you you’ll be helping to build a school, volunteering at a clinic, or contributing to the community in some meaningful way, and you get on that plane to incredible fanfare (mostly imagined), feeling like a hero for what you’re about to do.

But the moment you get there, you realize that they actually brought you there to give you something, a gift that you cannot possibly reciprocate in the short duration of your visit. There is no manual labor in Ethiopia that we can do better than the locals can. Trust me, I spent two days mixing cement with a master, and I know I slowed the poor guy down. I was there to receive. The real heavy lifting begins the moment of return - the moment we come home and open our mouths, and begin to formulate our experiences into stories.

Last fall (thanks to generous sponsorship from Moishe House and the JDC), I had the privilege of traveling to Ethiopia with a group of young professionals, on a trip organized by the JDC. On one of our last days in the country, we visited an old abandoned synagogue in the village of Ambover, which is accessible only by the kind of rocky dirt roads that would have had Indiana Jones himself regretting that second serving of injera.

Once you get past the initial shock of visiting town after town with no electricity, water, or even pavement, you then have to digest the fact that, hundreds of years ago, our ancestors built a synagogue here. The small stone temple at the top of a quiet hill sat in stark contrast to the mud-and-stick huts that made up the rest of the town (an architectural style I call retro-eco-chic). There are no Jews left in this village, but the synagogue remains intact, complete with old siddurim in the cabinets and Shabbat candles on the windowsills. It was incredible to be so far from civilization and open a book to find the old familiar words of the Shema waiting inside.

As we were walking back down the hill toward our caravan, a local school let out, and suddenly a hundred children, taking note of the farengies (foreigners) clumsily making their way down the hill, ran down and gathered around us. We exchanged a few high fives and handshakes with the kids, and a few people from our group took photos of some of the kids and showed them previews on our camera screens, eliciting awestruck giggles. But the energy turned from excitement to anticipation as we realized that we all deeply wanted to communicate and none of us knew how.

Most people in rural villages don't speak any English, and, given my knowledge of the Amharic language, the only thing I would have been able to do was ask for a soda, which didn't really seem right in a town with no refrigerators.

Instinctively, I started clapping my hands. Suddenly, a hundred kids were clapping their hands along with me. We all looked at each other. A young boy in a dirty green tee shirt seized the moment and yelled "Ya Ho!" I answered, "Ya Ho!"

Before we knew it, we were all engaged in an escalating call-and-response; everyone chanting and laughing, energy rising. After a few repetitions, it was hard to know who was leading and who was following.

When we say that music is a universal language, we miss the point. It is a human language, a language of connecting eyes and ears and hands and voices; of a guy from California and a boy from a rural village in Ethiopia in a dirty green shirt. Music, to me, symbolizes that great truth our hearts all know, the one we so often forget. Feel that. Listen to that. Let it capture your attention. Regardless of where we were born, where we have come from - right now, in this moment, we are here. That's music.

"Come on, we've got to load up the cars," our guide said. We smiled, waved, and boarded the land cruisers. I rolled down my window. The boy was still there, smiling. He started clapping again. "Ya Ho!" he shouted. "Ya Ho!" I returned through the open window. "They're never going to stop, you know," one of my friends laughed. The cars began moving and the dirt started flying up behind us. We closed our windows and began the trek back to Gondar. A few of the kids - including the boy in the green shirt- followed our cars for nearly a mile, sprinting effortlessly over the rocky terrain, chanting and waving their arms until we disappeared in the dust.

Martin Storrow is a nationally touring singer/songwriter and a Moishe House resident. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

A Twentysomething Jew Wants To Talk To You

Posted 10/22/2012 at 12:22PM
A Twentysomething Jew Wants To Talk To You
Moishe House, and havdalah: a solution to a twentysomething's predicament.
Moishe House, and havdalah: a solution to a twentysomething's predicament.

Here's the predicament.

We're in a place long without any structured Judaism, between college communities and settling down into family life. Where do we find our connection with Judaism? When is there time while we're building careers? Why observe Shabbat with secular life laying claim to Friday nights? And with most synagogues lacking a population of young adults, how do we even find peers?

Let me tell you about one solution.

There is this organization called Moishe House, where a group of twenty-something-year-old adults live in a residential home and put on events for their Jewish peers in the area. Shabbat and seders,  yoga and movie nights, soup kitchen volunteering and beach cleanups. All the intriguing activities Moishe House Residents think up become reality. With 50 Houses around the world, all funded locally by wonderful, generous donors, we're filling the generational gap. And having an awesome time doing it!

Personally, I’m a resident in one of the three Los Angeles area Houses, having just moved from the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was born and raised.  At Moishe House LA: San Fernando Valley, my three roommates and I love putting on Shabbat dinners – our favorite event – where twice a month we clean house, cook up a load of delicious food, and host 20 to 50 guests. While some guests join us for every Shabbat and have become family, we’re always excited to welcome new people to all our events! If you’re in your twenties and ever in LA, check out Moishehouse.org to visit one of our events. I’d love to meet you. Check out http://www.moishehouse.org/houses_a.asp?HouseID=69 to learn more about the community I am a part of.

Now, this new blog is not a non-stop advertisement for my personal life or Moishe House by any means. In fact, some of the twenty-something bloggers on The SchmoozeFeed aren't even connected to Moishe House, but I want you to know a little about my background and involvement in Moishe House, including what we're doing and where we're coming from. Take it or leave it, ignorant or wise, our posts are a sneak peak of the coming generation, the one starting to take positions on synagogue boards, serving as rabbis, and organizing communities. As Moishe House residents, we're highly involved with the Jewish world and closely linked with Generation Y Jews.

For the first time, you get to see what we think and how we think. Maybe some of our ideas are foolish and need to be challenged -- you'll certainly have the opportunity. But we also have cutting-edge insights into our generation that you don't want to miss.

What's in it for us? We're looking to define our place in the Jewish world, to find a role in our larger community, and better know ourselves. Not to mention we're all passionate about writing.

I'm thoroughly looking forward to dialoguing with elders, peers, and youth alike. We will share our world view with our parents, converse with our peers, and provide advice to the up and coming younguns (we survived college … so can you!)

So here we are: A group of post-college Jews that have yet to settle down with spouse and synagogue. And we all want to talk with you.

Let's Schmooze!

Noah Yaffe

The Soul of Service

Posted 10/22/2012 at 12:19PM

I should be long gone from Michigan by now. Like most New Yorkers who move here to attend school in Ann Arbor, I had no intention of staying.

Still, after graduating last December, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. First, I chalked it up to not wanting my college experience to end and not wanting to leave my friends, my house and, of course, Michigan athletics. But as I watched most of my friends and classmates pick up and move, I realized it was more than that. Michigan had become a part of me.

That’s why I’ll spend the next year of my life immersed in helping the heart of Michigan — Detroit — and joining one of the Jewish world’s most innovative new ventures: a residence dedicated to building a community of volunteerism.
This past week, I moved, along with three other 20-somethings, into a Repair the World-Moishe House in the Woodbridge area in Detroit. We didn’t know each other much beforehand, but we share a common desire to make a difference in the world.

The idea is simple, really: We want to build a center for volunteerism for other young Jews like ourselves. That’s why we will be inviting anyone we know — and anyone they might know — to join us for both social and service-related events and activities.

The House is an amazing chance for us to put into practice our ideas about helping others and activism, and to build something concrete around what for many our age may seem like a nice — but abstract — idea.

Devon Rubenstein stands in front of the new Repair The World-Moishe House in Detroit.

I got to understand the power of volunteerism when I was 16. I met Rodney, an 8-year-old boy who had recently lost both of his parents, and I had the honor of mentoring him through the Salvation Army Daycare in Hempstead, N.Y.

Since then, volunteerism has been a constant for me, whether it’s working with preschoolers at Head Start in Ann Arbor or setting up window displays at the Ten Thousand Villages in Austin, Texas.

In college, I learned about Detroit from textbooks and the news. Academically, I understood the city’s ups and downs. But it wasn’t until I took the last elective I needed for my public policy degree that I really embraced Detroit for all these ups and downs and started to connect my past volunteerism with a new passion. I realized that I wanted to help Detroit.

As I learned about incredible service opportunities here, for the first time I saw a career in helping others. I realized that if I really want to follow my heart and actually make a difference, this is the place to be.

This Repair the World-Moishe House project is designed for people like me.
My new friends and I, the residents of the Repair-Moishe House, will each have full-time day jobs. And in our spare time, we’ll work to encourage others our age to volunteer to help Detroit.

At Moishe House, Rosh Hashana reconceived

Posted 10/22/2012 at 12:15PM

COSTA MESA – On Friday evening at Moishe House in Costa Mesa, one of the customs of the first night of Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year that began at sunset Sunday – played out a bit early.

The house's residents – Parker Weinthal, Jennifer Saar and Jeremy Guzik – gathered with several friends for Shabbat dinner, a traditional Friday night affair but with a not-so-traditional approach: blind food tasting.

For dessert, Weinthal said he whipped up "apple honey foam," a mixture of apple cider, honey and xantham gum, with the concoction discharged through a whipped cream dispenser. "It was a joke, like, 'This is not going to work,' " Weinthal said. "And it was delicious."

The foam was Weinthal's take on the Rosh Hashana custom of eating apples dipped in honey, which symbolizes the hope for a sweet new year.

His approach characterizes the energy of Moishe House, a kind of Jewish community center for 20-somethings in Orange County who have finished college, but have not yet married.

"(It's) a jumping off point for bigger things," Weinthal said. "A safe and entertaining space to engage with like-minded people that share your value set that isn't a bar or outside venue."

There are about 50 Moishe Houses across the world. They are each run by three to five residents who are responsible for holding seven to 12 events a month organized around Jewish socializing, learning, culture and holidays, and "tikkun olam," or repairing the world. In exchange, they receive a rent subsidy and program funding.

The funding for the O.C. house comes from community organizations such as the Louise Merage Family Foundation and Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach and individual donors including local philanthropists Katherine Merage and Paul Goldberg.

It's a form of collective living, said Weinthal, who with Saar and Guzik put in 30 to 40 hours a week planning and executing their efforts. They use word-of-mouth and Facebook to market the events.

The house, they say, fills a void in the Jewish community. Not a lot of Jews in their age group want to go to temple, Weinthal said, and "most of the people in the (Moishe House) community are secular or culturally Jewish and not engaged in Judaism at all."

The house and the events, however, provide an alternative of sorts for temple, a setting where people with something in common can explore Judaism how they want to, Saar said.

"That's very important for Moishe House, because a lot of people felt like they didn't have a place to fit in," she said. "Then they found Moishe House and they have all these friends."

Some of those friends might desire deeper religious discussion, and the Moishe House caretakers facilitate that, as they did with last week's Stump the Rabbi event. Rabbi Drew Kaplan, director for Southern California Jewish Student Services, was asked to answer questions about High Holy Days – Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – and the days between them.

The High Holy Days are a time of reflection and asking for forgiveness, a time when, according to Jewish tradition, God decides who will live and who will die in the coming year.

"You get to dig into the holidays and the traditions with someone who really knows what they're talking about," Weinthal said, adding, "It's a way to make the High Holidays more approachable."

It's about learning and discovering and forging a really tight-knit community, he said.

"We're getting the community together and hanging out," Weinthal said. "It is a lot of fun, because we're essentially discovering what Judaism means to us, together."

Moishe House Warsaw Wins Photo of the Month Competition for August - Special Mention to Moishe House Gomel

Posted 09/06/2012 at 01:26PM
This month, the big Moishe House photo award goes to Moishe House Warsaw, whose photo was chosen as the best representation of "Beginnings"

Way to go, Warsaw!

- It's a bit of a Where's Waldo, but can you find our Director of International Programming, Joel Stanley in this photo?! -

Also, Moishe House Gomel's entry got a special mention - this photo is from founding resident Taras's wedding!

PRESS RELEASE: Moishe House and Repair the World to Open First Houses Dedicated to Service in Detroit and Chicago This Fall

Posted 08/09/2012 at 11:23AM
NEW YORK, NY, AUGUST 9, 2012 – Following a national search for outstanding young leaders dedicated to serving those in need, Repair the World, a national organization that works to inspire American Jews and their communities to volunteer, and Moishe House, an international organization focused on building community for Jews in their twenties, will open two Repair the World Moishe Houses to serve as communal residences for young adults in Detroit and Chicago. The houses will act as hubs for volunteer and service activity in each city as their residents engage local young people in addressing pressing social issues and humanitarian needs such as educational inequality, homelessness, poverty, hunger and domestic violence.

The Repair the World Moishe House project builds on Moishe House’s communal living model, which brings together small groups (3-5) of young Jews who turn their homes into centers from which they organize informal Jewish activities such as Friday night dinners and social mixers for a city’s greater Jewish young adult population. There are currently 44 Moishe Houses in 13 different countries, engaging more than 53,000 young people each year. The Repair the World-Moishe House collaboration enhances this model with an increased service requirement, tapping into Repair the World’s expertise in building effective service and Jewish service-learning programs while also bolstering existing Repair the World service projects.

For each house, two groups of four residents will receive a modest rent subsidy and budget to build service-related programming for other Jews in their twenties, as they work to improve social conditions and then relate this volunteerism to their Jewish heritage, history and values. The residents are expected to move into the homes – which they are currently identifying – in August and begin programming by September 1, 2012.

The opening of Repair the World Moishe House represents a growing partnership between the two organizations who earlier this summer co-sponsored a Jewish service-learning retreat in Maryland focused on training Moishe House residents and community members across the country on methods by which to engage their peers in meaningful, effective service.

“The Repair the World Moishe House project will be a tremendous addition to our growing network. We are extremely excited about the opportunity to create a Moishe House that will have a deep focus on promoting community service,” said David Cygielman, Moishe House’s CEO. “We have been working with Repair the World for more than a year to strengthen our service-oriented program offerings at Moishe Houses around the globe. The opening of the Repair the World Moishe House represents the next step in our partnership, cementing our commitment to providing high-quality Tikkun Olam opportunities to Jewish young adults.”

“In our work building a generation of young Jews committed to service, the Repair the World Moishe Houses will play a critical role in inspiring young adults to make a commitment to promoting service, giving residents and their peers an excellent opportunity to make a difference in their local communities,” said Repair the World’s CEO, Jon Rosenberg. “We’re excited about this expanded partnership and its potential to see real impact on the ground,” said Rosenberg.

ABOUT Moishe House Moishe House provides meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults by supporting leaders in their twenties as they create vibrant, home-based Jewish communities. The organization has pioneered a creative and cost-effective model where three to five resident volunteer leaders create a home that becomes a hub of Jewish life for the young adult community. Moishe House has global reach and impact through its network of 45 houses in 13 countries, across North & South America, Europe, the Former Soviet Union, South Africa, and China. In 2011, Moishe House hosted nearly 2,900 programs for more than 53,000 participants. For additional information, visit www.moishehouse.org. View a video of our story at: http://bit.ly/hOZdlU

ABOUT Repair the World Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes Jewish Americans to address the world’s most pressing issues through volunteering. Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful service opportunities to help their local, national and global communities, and enable individuals and organizations to run effective programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit weRepair.org. Follow us on Twitter @RepairtheWorld.

CONTACTS: Jen Kraus Rosen, Moishe House / 980.225.7667 / [email protected] Dara Lehon, Repair the World / 646.695.2700*18 / [email protected]

Moishe House Palo Alto Wins Photo of the Month Contest for July

Posted 08/06/2012 at 02:22PM
Moishe House Palo Alto captured the hearts of the Regional Directors with their interpretation of "Future" for July's Photo of the Month Competition!


Well done, Palo Alto!

The Economist features Moishe House in a short, informational video!

Posted 08/06/2012 at 02:17PM
Some of Moishe House's New York City and London residents and community, as well as our London-based staff have been featured in this short video on the Economist.

Click here to watch the video!

Moishe House San Francisco Wins Photo of the Month Contest for June

Posted 07/09/2012 at 07:05AM


Moishe House San Francisco's photo best captured June's theme of this monthly competition - Service - with a Shabbat-y take .

Congrats to the residents of Moishe House San Francisco for bringing meaningful service - in the religious and the social sense - submitting the winning photo to prove it. Mazel tov!

Moishe House Collaborates to Publish Report on Jewish History in Philadelphia

Posted 06/28/2012 at 08:27AM
Moishe House helped sponsor a report on Jewish life from 1920-1960 in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. The project was funded through a grant from the estates of Frank and Alice Adelberg, and Carol Towarnicky, editorial writer for the Philadelphia Daily News wrote the report.

Please click this link for the full report.

Check out June's Moishe Monthly Newsletter!

Posted 06/27/2012 at 07:40AM
The latest edition of the Moishe Monthly, our newsletter that comes out on the last Monday of every month, is now available online!

To find out the latest from the Moishe world, check out this month's Moishe Monthly, featuring articles on Embracing Organizational Change, an Aufruf in London, Vancouver's Spiritual Weekend Away, and more!

Moishe House is Opening an Additional San Francisco House in The Marina

Posted 06/27/2012 at 07:37AM
Moishe House is thrilled to announce that it is accepting applications from potential residents of a third house in San Francisco, to be located in The Marina.

Interested parties are encouraged to apply in groups of 3-5 and direct any inquiries to Aviva Nan-Tabachnik, Western Regional Director, at [email protected]

Marina Moishe House

Moishe House Denver is Looking for the Next Generation of Residents!

Posted 06/27/2012 at 07:31AM
Moishe House is currently accepting applications for the next generation of residents in Denver, to create their ideal Jewish community in beautiful Colorado.

For more details please contact Matt Weiner, Mid-Western Regional Director at [email protected]

Moishe House Denver

More than 55 Shabbat Celebrations Took Place at Moishe Houses Around the World in May

Posted 06/19/2012 at 06:39AM


Last month, there were 57 Shabbat celebrations at Moishe Houses around the world. Nearly all of the domestic Shabbat programs were co-sponsored with our national partner, Birthright Israel NEXT.

The largest Shabbat event in May was held at Moishe House Budapest, where 80 participants gathered for a lively Kabbalat Shabbat.

Kol Hakavod to all the Moishe House residents for hosting so many delicious meals and meaningful Shabbat experiences!

Holidays at Moishe House: 22 Moishe Houses Celebrated Shavuot in May

Posted 06/12/2012 at 06:43AM
Last month, 22 Moishe Houses around the globe hosted Shavuot celebrations for their communities, representing a 50% increase in Shavuot programming as compared to 2011.

From Asia to Europe and Africa to North and South America, Moishe Houses offered diverse programs such as Shavuot Cheese Tasting and Learning, Tikkun Leil Shavuot, Shavuot Cheesecake Tasting and many more. Additionally, more than 20 North American Moishe House residents and participants attended a compelling and relaxing Shavuot Learning Retreat earlier in the month.

Moishe Houses Around the Globe Engaged In Shavuot Celebrations

Moishe House is Going Down Under!

Posted 06/12/2012 at 06:02AM
Moishe House is seeking applicants who are interested in starting the first Australian Moishe House, to be located in Melbourne.

Please see the flyer below for more details. Any questions should be directed to Joel Stanley, Director of International Programming, at [email protected] MHMelbourne

Moishe House is Looking for Residents for its First House in Israel - Moishe House Jerusalem

Posted 06/12/2012 at 05:59AM
Moishe House is currently accepting applications from potential residents for its first house in Israel!

Please see the attached flyer for more details. Any questions should be directed to Joel Stanley, Director of International Programming, at [email protected] EnglishFlyer HebrewFlyer

Moishe House Philadelphia Wins May's Photo of the Month Competition

Posted 06/11/2012 at 10:07AM
MHOM May Moishe House Philadelphia's photo best captured May's theme of this monthly competition - Welcome

This photo was taken at Moishe House Philadelphia by Benji Holzman, resident of Moishe House NYC: DUMBO, when he traveled to Philadelphia as part of his route for Moishe House Mobile earlier this spring.

Congrats to the residents of Moishe House Philadelphia for creating a welcoming environment and submitting the winning photo to prove it.

Advice for recent graduates: "The graduation speech I wish I could give," by Rabbi Will Berkowitz

Posted 05/28/2012 at 11:39AM
Check out the golden advice of Rabbi Will Berkowitz, Senior Vice President of our partner organization, Repair the World, as he explains his ideal graduation speech, as published in the Washington Post.

Please click here to read the article!

Moishe House Warsaw Wins Photo of the Month Competition for April!

Posted 05/03/2012 at 06:32AM
Moishe House Warsaw submitted the winning Photo of the Month for April. The theme of the month was Freedom and the Moishe House Warsaw residents impressed the Regional Directors with the fantastic photo they sent in of themselves and some participants burning chametz before the start of Passover. MH Warsaw

Mazal tov to Moishe House Warsaw!

Moishe House Mobile Launches!

Posted 04/12/2012 at 08:30AM

Check out traveling Moishe House resident, Benji Holzman, as he criss-crosses the country: video, photos and blogs from Moishe Houses all over the USA can be found HERE

Stay tuned for more details, photos and videos!

Moishe House Collaborates to Publish Report on Jewish History in Philadelphia

Posted 04/12/2012 at 07:42AM
Moishe House helped sponsor a report on Jewish life from 1920-1960 in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. The project was funded through a grant from the estates of Frank and Alice Adelberg, and Carol Towarnicky, editorial writer for the Philadelphia Daily News wrote the report.

Please click this link to view the full document.

Moishe House London Wins March's Photo of the Month Competition!

Posted 04/09/2012 at 07:25AM
Moishe House London has won the Photo of the Month competition for March, as voted on by the Moishe House Regional Directors. MHPOM March 2012 -- MH London

The theme this month was Purim costumes and a record 22 entries were submitted from around the world! Mazal Tov, Moishe House London!

Moishe House Dallas Wins Kosher Chili Competition!

Posted 03/20/2012 at 03:07PM
MH Dallas

Congrats to the boys of Moishe House Dallas for taking first place in the beef chili category at the Kosher Chili Cook-Off in Dallas on March 18th!

The Winner of February's Photo of the Month Competition: A Tie Between East Bay and San Francisco

Posted 03/06/2012 at 09:33AM
Moishe House East Bay and Moishe House San Francisco have tied as the winners of February's Photo of the Month competition, as voted on by the Regional Directors.

Moishe House Photo of the Month February Winners

Residents were asked to showcase what makes their community unique. The winners are entered into the Moishe House Photo of the Year competition for 2012.

Mazal Tov to Moishe House East Bay and Moishe House San Francisco!

Moishe House reaches record number of young adults in 2011!

Posted 03/06/2012 at 09:25AM
We are thrilled to announce that in 2011, Moishe House reached more than 53,000 participants through nearly 3,000 programs at locations around the globe! These statistics represent a 12% increase in Moishe House's total reach and a 13% increase in the overall number of programs, since 2010.

Moishe House Is Accepting Applications For Its First Repair the World House!

Posted 02/16/2012 at 07:58AM
Moishe House is accepting applications for its first Repair the World house, set to open anywhere in the USA. The house will host 5-6 programs every month with at least 3 of the programs including a direct service component. For more info please contact Rebecca Karp, East Coast Regional Director, at [email protected] click here

Moishe House Buenos Aires Launches Video

Posted 01/04/2012 at 03:12PM
Moishe House Buenos Aires created a tribute video in honor of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation! Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89HVEnwAaS0&feature=youtu.be to see what's going on in Buenos Aires!

Moishe House and G-DCAST Launch Three New How-To Videos Featuring: Shabbat, Havdalah and Sukkot

Posted 09/23/2011 at 01:46PM
Thanks to the The New Jewish Innovation Media Fund, Moishe House has just launched a brand new website called MOISHE HOUSE ROCKS! The site features three short G-DCAST style videos that teach about three important Jewish rituals: Shabbat dinner blessings, Havdalah blessings, and Building a Sukkah. The videos were co-produced by G-DCAST and Birthright NEXT. And of course, we thank The Jim Joseph Foundation, The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, and an Anonymous Donor through the Jewish Funders Network for their continued support.

To view the site, please visit http://www.moishehouserocks.com

Below each video you will see a link to My Jewish Learning for further learning and a printer friendly version of the blessing words. If you ever wondered about how to make Kiddush, or what you need for Havdalah or what makes a sukkah “kosher,” all the answers are now one click away! Please enjoy these videos and share them with your community members, family, and friends.

Matisyahu Visits Moishe House Detroit

Posted 08/11/2011 at 11:51AM
By Allison Gross- Moishe House Detroit Tucked away on a rather inconspicuous stretch of Ferry St. in midtown Detroit, the Motor City Moishe House looks quite discreet, save for a few twinkle lights and mezuzah. But, on Sunday July 10, the newly launched pad was transformed into the pre-show party for Matisyahu, the Grammy nominated singer best known for his sanguine lyrics, reggae beats and Hasidic Jewish garb and beliefs. “I was so excited when I found out Matisyahu was coming to the house,” said Danniell Nadiv, 23, a Moishe House resident and native of Huntington Woods, MI. “I thought it was a great way to put the Motor City Moishe House on the map, to have people come down to Detroit, see what we’re doing and to see the new energy in the city.” And down they came. Within 20 minutes of CommunityNEXT announcing the event on Facebook, the guest capacity had been maxed. Those lucky—and quick enough—to score a spot shuffled into the house around 6 pm, in order to mingle and daven with the musician before his show at the downtown hotspot, Saint Andrews Hall. As guests toured the house and took in the downtown sunshine, they easily could have missed the entrance of the modest musician. A lanky man in a white tee and khakis, Matisyahu was accompanied by Rabbi Yonah Brookstein, a Detroit native and founder of Jewlicious—one of the events sponsors—as well as Adam Finkel, the organizer of the event. Kosher-vegan pad thai and Jerusalem pizza was the nosh of choice as the crowd of young, Jewish professionals caught up and caught a glimpse of the singer. Perched at the head of the dining room table, Matisyahu entertained a number of questions before requesting the men to join him in a pre-show daven. “Matis is an inspirational person and to see him lead services in our house was unbelievable,” said Josh Gershonowicz, 27, a Moishe House resident and native of West Bloomfield, MI. Gershonowicz was not the only one who came away with an unbelievable experience. Cari Herskovitz, the owner of Chef Cari Kosher Catering, blew Matisyahu away with her kosher-vegan cuisine. As the singer made his way out the door he stopped Herskovitz. “I’d love to eat your vegan food anytime. See you in Grand Rapids!” he said, before inviting her to cook for him for the rest of the Midwest leg of his tour. “I came with no expectations and here I am two weeks later just coming back from cooking on tour,” said Herskovitz who joined Matisyahu in Grand Rapids and Cincinnati. “I thought the [Moishe House] event was awesome and it was really exciting to be a part of this.” Striking a balance between unabashed glamour and welcoming accessibility, the Matisyahu pre-show gathering is just the start of what the Motor City Moishe House has in store for the future. “The event was not only musically exciting but spiritually uplifting. It combined pop culture with a strong sense of Judaism,” Nadiv said. “I can’t think of a better mix.”

1st Canadian Moishe House Opens in Vancouver!

Posted 07/26/2011 at 08:58AM
Canada’s first Moishe House opened in Vancouver in May, with four young leaders eager to host and organize activities for the 20- and 30-something crowd. The residents of Vancouver’s Moishe House include Jacob Haas, an Oregon student who is working on a degree in education; Kiki Lipsett, who hails from the San Francisco Bay area and works for a community engagement and development organization, and Rotem Tal, an Israeli studying at Simon Fraser University. Huberman, 28, is completing his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.

New Moishe House Overview Video on YouTube

Posted 06/06/2011 at 03:24PM
Moishe House has created a new overview video outlining our progress and vision. We are very appreciative of UpStart Bay Area and Ralph Guggeinheim for making this video possible! See the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AnXtYHKzvM

Former Moishe House St. Louis Residents Wed!

Posted 06/06/2011 at 03:14PM
Moishe House wishes Ross Silverman and Heather Paperner, both former residents of Moishe House St. Louis, Mazal Tov on their recent marriage! Ross co-founded the house in 2008, and Heather moved in during the summer of 2009 and lived there until summer 2010. They were wed May 15th in St. Louis.

62 Moishe House Residents Convene in Austin for 2011 National Conference!!

Posted 06/06/2011 at 03:14PM
On May 13th, 2011, 62 Moishe House residents from across the continent descended on Austin, Texas for the second annual Moishe House North American Conference. This gathering, generously underwritten by Righteous Persons Foundation, is essential to keep residents from being isolated in their individual Moishe Houses. The ultimate goal of these gatherings is to create a global cohort of Moishe House residents that feel as if they are working towards a shared mission of building vibrant Jewish community for emerging adults. What was most apparent during the weekend was how far Moishe House had come since our first gathering at Camp Young Judea-Texas last year. Incredibly, 75% of residents in attendance had not been at the previous gathering, and with new houses opening in San Diego, Vancouver, Miami and Detroit since the previous conference, our growth was very apparent over the course of the weekend. When our CEO, David Cygielman, gave his “State of the Union” to the group, no longer was the conversation focused on the growing pains of a fledging organization transitioning to independence. Instead, it was a celebration of Moishe House’s growth, a summation of new and exciting opportunities for residents, and clear steps to address the challenges that lie ahead. A multitude of opportunities were offered to residents to acquire skills and strengthen their Moishe House communities, such as: • Directors of Jewish Education and Repair the World Programming, Zvi Bellin and Sarah Lesser, unrolled new initiatives to provide residents with the training and resources to nurture interest in these fields into programs that would benefit their communities. • Western Regional Director, Aviva Nan Tabachnik, and myself facilitated a best practice sharing session that allowed residents to discuss strengths and challenges within their communities and how to incorporate successful elements of other Moishe Houses into their own communities. • A “Limmud-Style” series of breakouts allowed residents to focus on specific aspects of Moishe House operation that sparked their interest such as Fundraising & Ambassadorship, Creating a Moishe House Ketubah and Utilizing Social Media in Moishe House. • Special guest, Joshua Avedon of Jumpstart, facilitated Open Space Technology, providing an opportunity for the residents to explore relevant conversations that had previously gone undiscussed over the course of the weekend. The Moishe House North American Conference was an exciting experience. As the organization grows new challenges will arise, including how to extend the conference experience to our international residents to truly engage our global community. I look forward to addressing these challenges as we continue to achieve our mission. Special thanks must go out to Bar Twito and the staff at Camp Young Judea-Texas for being wonderful hosts in an idyllic setting. I could not think of a better place to share this experience.

Moishe House CEO Visits White House

Posted 01/03/2011 at 11:13AM
As I stood outside in the near-freezing Washington D.C. cold, it hit me that I was in line to join the President and First Lady for Hanukkah! I had received a beautiful invitation a few weeks prior in the mail, but still have no idea how I ended up getting invited to the White House for a Hanukkah celebration, but frankly, it is a lot more fun not knowing. I'd like to think that the President and First Lady were having dinner one night and thought, “You know who should be at our Hanukkah reception? Moishe House! They do great work!” Before the actual Hanukkah reception, we were invited to a policy briefing at the Eisenhower offices, which was really well done, and quite interesting. Following the two-hour briefing, we had a little break but before we knew it, 5:30 PM came around and it was time to head into the White House. After three security checks, we were finally greeted with a refreshing glass of champagne and program book. Walking through the smaller hallways on our way to the actual reception hall was an experience unto itself — including a stop to send postcards to our troops overseas. After I spent the first ten minutes admiring the men’s room that is about the same size as my entire apartment, we headed upstairs to the beautiful sounds of the Marine band playing Hanukkah music, an out-of-this-world buffet and three open bars! I was able to get a few extra White House napkins and even a branded yarmulke. One thing the White House certainly takes seriously is being on time. When we arrived they handed every person a card with a time slot to return downstairs. I didn’t know what it was at first –as I was a bit too overwhelmed by everything– but later I learned it was a receiving line to meet the President and First Lady. At exactly 6:35 PM, President Obama, the First Lady and Vice-President joined the party to share a few words, light the menorah and introduce Joshua Redman, who played some beautiful songs for the guests. The choice of menorahs was a terrific; bringing in a recovered menorah from a New Orleans Synagogue that was flooded during hurricane Katrina. Immediately following the candle lighting, my fiancé and I went down stairs to the receiving line to meet the President and First Lady. No matter what your political views are, there is no way to not feel a rush of emotion when standing in a room with only 12 people and two of them being Barack and Michelle Obama. We had a chance to meet, invite them to our wedding and take a picture. Perhaps the most amazing part of the whole event was waking up the next morning in Washington D.C., turning on the television to see that Barack Obama was in Afghanistan giving a speech. I literally could not believe it. Just a few hours before I’d been shaking his hand, but while I was back at my hotel fast asleep, Obama was heading across the world to continue the never ending job of being the President of the United States of America. I look forward to reminiscing about the event, in-person with Barack and Michelle once I invite them to my wedding next year! I’d have to assume they are good gift givers.

Massachusetts Governor Visits MH Boston

Posted 12/13/2010 at 08:47AM
Check out Moishe House's recent press appearances: Moishe House Boston hosts Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick for a dialogue with community members: http://brookline.patch.com/articles/for-young-jewish-advocacy-group-governors-visit-is-more-validation-than-campaigning

Moishe House Gets Press...in China!

Posted 11/19/2010 at 08:02AM
An article on Moishe House Beijing was recently published in the GlobalTimes, one of the largest English-language papers in China: http://www.globaltimes.cn/www/english/metro-beijing/community/events/2010-10/583034.html Mazel Tov to Moishe House Beijing for the great press!

Moishe House Receives Major Support From the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund of Los Angeles and Slingshot!

Posted 11/19/2010 at 08:01AM
As Moishe House continues to work to gain local, national and international support, the partnerships with JVPFLA and Slingshot could not have come at a better time. Not only does the direct support enable Moishe House to continue providing exciting and vibrant Jewish life throughout the United States and world, it also gives tremendous recognition for our cost-effective model within the Jewish world. Both JVPFLA and Slingshot are created through giving circles that make their funding decisions through committee, which is a terrific testament to Moishe House’s effectiveness and message.

Moishe House Opens in Kiev!

Posted 10/08/2010 at 06:52AM
.On September 1st, Moishe House Kiev hosted a Mezuzah hanging/Housewarming party bringing together 30 Jewish young adults from Kiev to celebrate the opening of the second Moishe House in the Former Soviet Union. Moishe House Kiev was made possible by the generous support of The Jewish United Fund of Chicago, The Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation and the Genesis Philanthropy Group.

Moishe House CEO, David Cygielman, Receives 2010 JCSA Young Professional Award in New Orleans!

Posted 10/08/2010 at 06:52AM
We are thrilled to announce that our CEO David Cygielman will be the recipient of this year’s Jewish Communal Service Association of North America’s Young Professional Award. David was nominated by philanthropist and generous Moishe House supporter, Lynn Schusterman for the competitive award earlier this year. We are all very proud of David and look forward to watching him receive the award on Sunday, November 7th at the General Assembly in New Orleans. Not only does this award give recognition for David’s commitment to Moishe House and the field, it also comes with a stipend to attend the GA and for outside Jewish learning. Congratulations, David and thanks for continuing to represent Moishe House is such an outstanding and positive light!

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Before she visited Dra...", date: "2014-11-18 15:04:07", created_at: "2014-11-18 15:04:07", updated_at: "2014-11-18 15:04:07">, #<News id: 181, title: "Finding Moishe House", body: "<h2><span style=\"font-size:13px; line-height:1.6\">...", date: "2014-11-18 14:51:35", created_at: "2014-11-18 14:51:35", updated_at: "2014-11-18 14:52:02">, #<News id: 171, title: "Connecting With Young Jews, Wherever They Are", body: "<div class=\"wp-caption aligncenter\" id=\"attachment...", date: "2014-07-08 20:09:56", created_at: "2014-07-08 20:09:56", updated_at: "2014-07-08 20:09:56">, #<News id: 161, title: "A House That's a Home", body: "<p><em>Story and photography by Michael C. 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font-family: Lora, Georg...", date: "2013-08-01 09:58:10", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 141, title: "Moishe House Australia Says Thank You", body: "The first Moishe House in Australia has said thank...", date: "2013-07-05 08:28:11", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 140, title: "Jerry Silverman: We have to be one Jewish communit...", body: "<div>In order to meet the acute challenges facing ...", date: "2013-06-20 07:37:54", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 139, title: "Shore house mixes Shabbat, sun, service!", body: "<p class=\"byline\" style=\"margin: 0px; padding: 0px...", date: "2013-06-18 07:31:56", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 132, title: "Moishe House Opens in Phoenix", body: "<span class=\"paragraph-0\" style=\"font-size: 12px; ...", date: "2013-06-06 11:45:13", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 131, title: "Moishe House of the Month: Odessa", body: "<span style=\"font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-s...", date: "2013-06-06 11:37:07", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 130, title: "Moishe House Marina Rounds Out the Bay Area", body: "<div id=\"article_body\">\r\n\t\t\t\t\t<p>After more than 1...", date: "2013-05-24 06:46:59", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 127, title: "Moishe House Create Community in Kiev", body: "Creating Community in Kiev\r\nPosted on MAY 23, 2013...", date: "2013-05-23 10:55:59", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 128, title: "Moishe House of the Month: Chicago", body: "", date: "2013-05-16 13:37:51", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 138, title: "Moishe House a Place to Call Home", body: "<div style=\"margin-top:10px; margin-left:15px; mar...", date: "2013-04-19 09:26:41", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 137, title: "Moishe House has been awarded a 2013 Natan Core Gr...", body: "Read all about it <a name=\"\" target=\"\" classname=\"...", date: "2013-04-03 07:22:49", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 136, title: "Check out a Moishe House Passover", body: "<div class=\"story_item_headline entry-title\">A Moi...", date: "2013-03-24 13:57:40", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 135, title: "Moishe House LA in the Jewish Journal", body: "<small>March 20, 2013</small>\r\n <article><h1 styl...", date: "2013-03-24 13:55:10", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 134, title: "Want to Work at Moishe House?", body: "Moishe House seeks a Director of Development and C...", date: "2013-03-13 08:18:02", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 133, title: "Moishe House Dallas Wins the Chili Cook-off People...", body: "Read more about the 20th annual Tiferet Israel Kos...", date: "2013-03-13 08:16:09", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 129, title: "Chili Cookoff to Benefit Moishe House Dallas", body: "<div style=\"margin-top:10px; margin-left:15px; mar...", date: "2013-03-11 12:00:34", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 126, title: "Jews Contributing to Music NOW, From Moishe House ...", body: "<span class=\"Apple-style-span\" style=\"-webkit-bord...", date: "2012-12-10 10:32:20", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 125, title: "Moishe House is Coming to Atlanta! ", body: "Apply now to [email protected]", date: "2012-12-05 09:18:36", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 124, title: "Check out an Exciting Opportunity brought to us by...", body: "You are committed to eradicating hunger. You belie...", date: "2012-12-04 09:21:16", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 123, title: "Repair the World Repair Interview: Sonni Bendetson...", body: "\r\n\r\nPhoto courtesy of Sonni Bendetson (pictured).\r...", date: "2012-11-26 15:51:33", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 122, title: "A Young Scientist Reconciles His Work and His Fait...", body: "<p style=\"margin: 0px; font-size: 1.249em; line-he...", date: "2012-11-19 14:21:58", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 121, title: "Don't Peg Me Politically - How Jewish values play ...", body: "<p style=\"margin: 0px; font-size: 1.249em; line-he...", date: "2012-11-19 14:19:12", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 120, title: "Watching Frankenstorm From Inside Moishe House - A...", body: "<p style=\"margin: 0px; font-size: 1.249em; line-he...", date: "2012-11-19 14:17:56", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 118, title: "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar - A reflection on what wo...", body: "<p style=\"margin: 0px; font-size: 1.249em; line-he...", date: "2012-11-19 14:15:07", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 119, title: "Learning Gratitude In Graduate School - Trying to ...", body: "<div class=\"panels_pane panel-pane pane-views-pane...", date: "2012-11-19 14:13:13", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 117, title: "For A Good Time, Answer ", body: "<div class=\"panels_pane panel-pane pane-node-title...", date: "2012-10-22 12:26:38", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 116, title: "Forum for the Future: Home Shuling ", body: "<div class=\"prgTitle\">\r\n\tForum for the Future: Hom...", date: "2012-10-22 12:24:07", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 115, title: "The Boy in the Green Shirt", body: "<div class=\"panels_pane panel-pane pane-node-title...", date: "2012-10-22 12:23:10", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 114, title: "A Twentysomething Jew Wants To Talk To You", body: "<div class=\"panels_pane panel-pane pane-node-title...", date: "2012-10-22 12:22:08", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 113, title: "The Soul of Service", body: "<p style=\"margin: 0px; padding: 0px 0px 20px; font...", date: "2012-10-22 12:19:49", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 111, title: "At Moishe House, Rosh Hashana reconceived", body: "<p style=\"margin: 5px 0px 10px; color: #000000; fo...", date: "2012-10-22 12:15:26", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 112, title: "Moishe House Warsaw Wins Photo of the Month Compet...", body: "This month, the big Moishe House photo award goes ...", date: "2012-09-06 13:26:40", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 107, title: "PRESS RELEASE: Moishe House and Repair the World t...", body: "NEW YORK, NY, AUGUST 9, 2012 – Following a nationa...", date: "2012-08-09 11:23:33", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 109, title: "Moishe House Palo Alto Wins Photo of the Month Con...", body: "Moishe House Palo Alto captured the hearts of the ...", date: "2012-08-06 14:22:27", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 110, title: "The Economist features Moishe House in a short, in...", body: "Some of Moishe House's New York City and London re...", date: "2012-08-06 14:17:33", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 108, title: "Moishe House San Francisco Wins Photo of the Month...", body: "<p align =\"center\"> <img src=\"http://farm8.staticf...", date: "2012-07-09 07:05:08", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 105, title: " Moishe House Collaborates to Publish Report on J...", body: "Moishe House helped sponsor a report on Jewish lif...", date: "2012-06-28 08:27:46", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 101, title: "Check out June's Moishe Monthly Newsletter!", body: "The latest edition of the Moishe Monthly, our news...", date: "2012-06-27 07:40:38", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 102, title: "Moishe House is Opening an Additional San Francisc...", body: "Moishe House is thrilled to announce that it is ac...", date: "2012-06-27 07:37:04", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 104, title: "Moishe House Denver is Looking for the Next Genera...", body: "Moishe House is currently accepting applications f...", date: "2012-06-27 07:31:12", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 103, title: "More than 55 Shabbat Celebrations Took Place at Mo...", body: "<p align=\"center\"> <img src=\"http://farm6.staticfl...", date: "2012-06-19 06:39:25", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 106, title: "Holidays at Moishe House: 22 Moishe Houses Celebra...", body: "Last month, 22 Moishe Houses around the globe host...", date: "2012-06-12 06:43:05", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 99, title: "Moishe House is Going Down Under! ", body: "Moishe House is seeking applicants who are interes...", date: "2012-06-12 06:02:24", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 98, title: "Moishe House is Looking for Residents for its Firs...", body: "Moishe House is currently accepting applications f...", date: "2012-06-12 05:59:54", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 100, title: "Moishe House Philadelphia Wins May's Photo of the ...", body: "<img src=\"http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7077/73622...", date: "2012-06-11 10:07:12", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 97, title: "Advice for recent graduates: \"The graduation speec...", body: "Check out the golden advice of Rabbi Will Berkowit...", date: "2012-05-28 11:39:28", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 96, title: "Moishe House Warsaw Wins Photo of the Month Compet...", body: "<b>Moishe House Warsaw<b> submitted the winning Ph...", date: "2012-05-03 06:32:45", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 94, title: "Moishe House Mobile Launches!", body: "<img src=\"http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7269/69248...", date: "2012-04-12 08:30:03", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 95, title: "Moishe House Collaborates to Publish Report on Jew...", body: "Moishe House helped sponsor a report on Jewish lif...", date: "2012-04-12 07:42:34", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 93, title: "Moishe House London Wins March's Photo of the Mont...", body: "Moishe House London has won the Photo of the Month...", date: "2012-04-09 07:25:31", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 92, title: "Moishe House Dallas Wins Kosher Chili Competition!...", body: "<img src=\"http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7188/70012...", date: "2012-03-20 15:07:10", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 90, title: "The Winner of February's Photo of the Month Compet...", body: "Moishe House East Bay and Moishe House San Francis...", date: "2012-03-06 09:33:42", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 91, title: "Moishe House reaches record number of young adults...", body: "We are thrilled to announce that in 2011, Moishe H...", date: "2012-03-06 09:25:42", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 89, title: "Moishe House Is Accepting Applications For Its Fir...", body: "Moishe House is accepting applications for its fir...", date: "2012-02-16 07:58:48", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 88, title: "Moishe House Buenos Aires Launches Video ", body: "Moishe House Buenos Aires created a tribute video ...", date: "2012-01-04 15:12:51", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 87, title: "Moishe House and G-DCAST Launch Three New How-To V...", body: "Thanks to the The New Jewish Innovation Media Fund...", date: "2011-09-23 13:46:23", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 86, title: "Matisyahu Visits Moishe House Detroit", body: "By Allison Gross- Moishe House Detroit Tucked away...", date: "2011-08-11 11:51:55", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 85, title: "1st Canadian Moishe House Opens in Vancouver! ", body: "Canada&#8217;s first Moishe House opened in Vancou...", date: "2011-07-26 08:58:16", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 84, title: "New Moishe House Overview Video on YouTube", body: "Moishe House has created a new overview video outl...", date: "2011-06-06 15:24:16", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 83, title: "Former Moishe House St. Louis Residents Wed!", body: "Moishe House wishes Ross Silverman and Heather Pap...", date: "2011-06-06 15:14:48", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 82, title: "62 Moishe House Residents Convene in Austin for 20...", body: "On May 13th, 2011, 62 Moishe House residents from ...", date: "2011-06-06 15:14:01", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 81, title: "Moishe House CEO Visits White House ", body: "As I stood outside in the near-freezing Washington...", date: "2011-01-03 11:13:57", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 80, title: "Massachusetts Governor Visits MH Boston", body: "Check out Moishe House's recent press appearances:...", date: "2010-12-13 08:47:21", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 79, title: "Moishe House Gets Press...in China! ", body: "An article on Moishe House Beijing was recently pu...", date: "2010-11-19 08:02:09", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 78, title: "Moishe House Receives Major Support From the Jewis...", body: "As Moishe House continues to work to gain local, n...", date: "2010-11-19 08:01:49", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:03">, #<News id: 77, title: "Moishe House Opens in Kiev!", body: "<a href=\"http://www.moishehouse.org\">.</a>On Septe...", date: "2010-10-08 06:52:52", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:02", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:02">, #<News id: 76, title: "Moishe House CEO, David Cygielman, Receives 2010 J...", body: "We are thrilled to announce that our CEO David Cyg...", date: "2010-10-08 06:52:31", created_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:02", updated_at: "2014-05-17 15:53:02">]