Tikkun Olam at Moishe House

“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:16)

Moishe House residents, hosts and staff voted on four pillars of Tikkun Olam for Moishe House at the four resident training conferences in 2018. The four selected themes are:

In 2019, our goal is to have each Moishe House, 100 Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW) hosts and all Moishe House staff members participate in programming related to at least one of these pillars. Which pillar, how you participate and when is completely up to you!

To date in 2019, 91 Moishe Houses, 26 hosts and 28 staff members have participated in one of the four Tikkun Olam Pillars.

Here are some resources and ideas to guide you through an exciting year of Tikkun Olam programming at Moishe House.

To get you started...

+ - What is “Tikkun Olam”?

In Hebrew, people will often use the term “Tikkun Olam,” which translates to “fixing the world.” This phrase goes all the way back to the Mishnah (Rabbinic teachings from 200 C.E.) when referring to social policy legislation to provide extra protection to those potentially at a disadvantage. Tikkun Olam is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is often measured in terms of distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges. For many Jews, Tikkun Olam is not only a component of their Jewish identity but a way to live out a Jewish life and bring to life key Jewish values.

+ - What counts as a Tikkun Olam program?

A Tikkun Olam program should be in the following areas: direct service or education. Building relationships with other communities is crucial to the work as well and great Tikkun Olam programs are often hosted in partnership with other groups or organizations (see Best Practices)!

  1. Direct service is a project in which individuals are providing material goods, time or other services to another population. (This is best done when in collaboration with that other population as opposed to for that population. Check out more on best practices on volunteering here!)
  2. Education equips individuals with background information about a particular cause or issue affecting a society. To have a real impact on an issue, it’s crucial for a group to understand the underlying causes and history of that topic.

We believe that direct service without education is often ill-informed and can be more harmful than helpful. Likewise, education without direct service does not move the needle on the issue you are trying to address. Thus, both in partnership with each other are crucial!

Here are a few examples to give you an idea:

Moishe House London – Belsize Park: Interfaith Soup Kitchen | Moishe House London – Belsize Park partnered with a Muslim organization to make Halal chicken soup for the community. The program began with a tour of the space, eating traditional Muslim food and learning about Islam before preparing the soup and chatting with the community.

Moishe House Montreal: Swab for Hope | Moishe House Montreal hosted an event in partnership with Gift of Life to swab folks to see if there was a match for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. The program included information about blood and bone cancers as well as a concrete action folks could take to make an impact.

+ - What are some best practices for this type of program?

  1. Involve your community in selecting your pillar of focus. What do they care about? Check out the Initial Conversation Guide about ways in which to start the conversation with your community.
  2. Engage in a multifaceted way. Tikkun Olam should include both education and direct service components.
  3. Partner with the experts! Partner with local organizations that specialize in the work you are interested in. Learn from them. And strengthen your networks at the same time!
  4. Ongoing service with the same organization. Pick one organization to work with for the year and stick with them. Ongoing service is more meaningful for participants and constituents than a one off event.
  5. Leave community members with an action item. It can feel overwhelming to tackle one of the four pillars but as a community, if we all do a small part, we can have a true impact on our communities and the world.

How is this Jewish?

Jewish text on health and wellness dates as far back as the Talmud and Maimonides discussed the importance of exercise and healthy eating at length. Many Jews see our bodies as receptacles of our souls and therefore an imperative to keep our bodies healthy for the sake of fulfilling spiritual pursuits. Others see respect for our bodies as a means of honoring our relationship to God. (More on that here.) Either way, focusing on mental and physical health and wellness is a Jewish value and can be a great place to start when examining how to repair our world.


+ - Sample Conversation Guides & Resources

  • Sharsheret supports young Jewish women with breast or ovarian cancer, or a genetic predisposition to it and their families. Check out their program idea page, toolkit and stay tuned for a special grant to host a Pink Shabbat, or similar program in February 2019!
  • Be the One To Prevent Suicide provides resources on suicide prevention including programming ideas
  • Shamor l’amor Shabbat guide about healthy relationships from JWI

+ - Program Spotlights

MHWOW host in Claremont, CA: Community Fitness Series | A MHWOW host led a monthly event with a trainer followed by a workshop on Judaism and healthy living. She explored the different aspects of health and nutrition from a Jewish standpoint.

MHWOW host in Jerusalem, Israel: Mental Health Speaker | A MHWOW host brought in a social worker to speak with recent immigrants about mental health challenges while living abroad. The event honored the memory of a community member who struggled with mental health.

Community Builders Across the United States: Pink Shabbat 2019| From San Diego to Chicago to Miami, 14 Moishe Houses and MHWOW hosts put on Pink Shabbats in partnership with Sharsheret to raise awareness about breast cancer, ovarian cancer and genetics in February 2019. Collectively, they reached over 400 people! 

How is this Jewish?

Back in Genesis, at the start of creation, we are commanded to take care of the natural world and the many inhabitants. We have many holidays and Jewish traditions that celebrate and protect the environment. (Find more here.) When examining how to repair our world, the natural world is a wonderful place to start.


+ - Sample Conversation Guides & Resources

  • A six-session curriculum from the Story of Stuff that explores the relationship between consumption, Judaism and the health of the planet
  • No Impact Man: film about one man’s environmental impact and the ways in which he attempts to curb that impact
  • Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22 in over 193 different countries. They have great resources, including this one on ending plastic pollution
  • The Story of Stuff has films, action items, conversation guides and more!

+ - Program Spotlights

Moishe House Atlanta – Virginia Highlands: Ongoing Engagement | Moishe House Atlanta Virginia Highlands is engaging with the pillar throughout the year by making compost, using that compost to plant a vegetable garden, planting trees and hosting a zero waste Shabbat dinner. 

MHWOW Host in Nashville, TN: Plastic Free | A MHWOW host led a program where participants discussed ways to be more environmentally conscious. The group then discussed going plastic free for an entire month and best practices for doing so.

Moishe Houses Phoenix, Orange County, LA – West LA and LA – Venice: Hike & Trash Collection | Multiple Moishe Houses across the Southwest hosted hikes and trash collections in observance of Tu B’shvat. Along the way, they discussed the connection between Judaism and the environment and what it means to care for the earth. 

How is this Jewish?

There are many commandments to feed the hungry from Deuteronomy (“share our bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into our house”) and Leviticus (commandment to leave the corners of your field for the poor and the stranger) and the Talmud (each Jewish community must must establish a public fund to provide food for the hungry). More can be found here.


+ - Sample Conversation Guides & Resources

+ - Program Spotlights

Moishe House Bethesda: Shabbat Dinner Canned Food Drive | Moishe House Bethesda hosted a Friendsgiving Shabbat dinner and asked community members to bring a canned good as a donation. They donated the items to a local food pantry and discussed the overlap of food insecurity and the holiday of Thanksgiving.

MHWOW host in Chicago, IL: Volunteering at a Community Garden | A MHWOW host volunteered at a local urban community garden that donates its harvest to a local food pantry. Volunteers harvested, weeded and helped with other farm needs. They also donated seeds for the organization to donate to local community members so they might plant herbs at their own home.

Moishe House Washington, D.C. – Capitol Hill: Grocery Delivery | Moishe House Capitol Hill volunteered with a local organization, We Are Family, which delivers groceries to homebound individuals who would not otherwise have the means or ability to buy groceries for the week.

How is this Jewish?

Prejudice, discrimination and oppression against those based on race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender, national identity, sexual orientation or indigenous persons status is very connected to Judaism. Judaism teaches that everyone is equal in the eyes of God and certainly the Jewish people are no stranger to times of affliction and being the stranger. Central to Jewish tradition is the idea that each human has a divine spark within them and is created B’tzelem Elohim, “in the Divine image”. Perhaps the most poignant example and inspiration for treating others well can be found in the Passover story. “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”(Exodus 22:20), among many other examples. (Read more here.)


+ - Sample Conversation Guides & Resources

+ - Program Spotlights

Moishe House Baltimore: Documentary & Speaker |Moishe House Baltimore screened the documentary 13th and hosted a discussion with the former Deputy Attorney General of Maryland to speak about the Baltimore criminal justice system.

Moishe House New Orleans: Civil Rights Bike Tour | In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Moishe House New Orleans hosted a civil rights bike tour of the city, stopping at different landmarks to discuss important events.  

MHWOW host in Portland, ME: Judaism and Whiteness Discussion | A MHWOW host facilitated a discussion about Judaism and whiteness and how community members can be anti-racism activists. The event was part of a series of conversations about privilege, identity and race.

Want to learn more about the pillars and about Tikkun Olam at Moishe House?

Contact Molly Cram, Director of House Programs.