Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh the journey of a moishe

While life rolls along, the Cape Town Moishe house has been busy like fire monkeys (may be a fictional animal).

over the last month i spent 3 weeks in Israel. I was part of an you organized tour showing 80 young Jews the super-interesting-historically-significant-often-controversial-spiritually-inspiring land of Israel.It was an incredible experience returning to israel (I spent a year living there when i was 18). It was cool to speak hebrew again and just soak in the Israeli culture.

Now I'm back and just sliding into schedule once again. We had a skype call with brad earlier and that got me pretty excited about the upcoming month of August.

What can i tell you about recent house developments? Well our landlord has decided he wants to sell the house we're renting. So alas we're going to have to find a new Moishe house and keep the flame burning. In the meantime Barnett and I are swapping rooms- i know it sounds like the lead up to a great story but alas, we just simply wanted a change.

anyway thats it from me
South Africa

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Building Partnerships

Moishe House Sacramento has been trying to build some partnerships with local people and agencies to put on events, and we are very excited to say that it is working wonderfully. Darwin's Nightmare (7/17) was the first of a series of documentaries that will be shown, as part of a new activism interest group put on by the UC Davis School of Medicine and Moishe House (mad props to Ari & Stella!!). We are also partnering with the Jewish Federation to play some floor hockey (8/6), and coordinating with local businesses to help fund raise for the Hear Beat run in October.
Oh, and I almost forgot, we had the pleasure of hosting the talented and dashing Issac Zones last week. It was magical and beautiful and we let him pass out on our couch after a long trip back from the holy land. You are welcome any time Issac. Much love to the Moishe's of the world from Sacramento.

Giving some advice to the big guys at Federation

You know those ice cream socials that Hillel's plan, or the get-to-know-you parties that Jewish institutions sometimes plan to ENGAGE young Jews? Like the ones where it kind of feels like a high school dance that the parents planned so that the kids wouldn't go to a real party?

Well, part of the reason I wanted to start the Moishe/Kavod house is so that I could meet people without having to go to those awkward gatherings. I wanted a Jewish community that felt non-institutional, where I as a young person had a say, where my good ideas and good heart where as valuable as my purse strings. I wanted to find a community whose goal went beyond getting its members to produce Jewish babies, though if some Jewish babies come out of the deal, I'll be the first one to eat bagels at the bris. Or babynaming.

Anyway, this week, we have had two interesting experiences that lead me to believe we are on to something. First, the Federation called me and asked to meet and learn more about what we are doing. It turns out they are making a strategic plan, and like the way our house has been growing in all sorts of directions by giving young people real responsibility, training leaders, and connecting with interesting social justice campaigns, art opportunities, and creative ritual. So we met, and had an amazing conversation about how to democratize the Jewish community, make it more welcoming for young people and progressives, and allow for more avenues for leadership and growth.

Then, next week, folks from our house (and other people Ben helped organize) are having a meeting with the head of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), the political arm of the federation. They will talk about how to improve Jewish Muslim relations in Boston, which haven't been great recently. As young Jews with relationships with the Muslim community through our dialogues and joint social justice work, we are able to provide a unique perspective to the JCRC, and help create the political will to allow its leaders to do the right thing.

In both cases, it is exciting to feel that the institutional Jewish community not only doesn't feel threatened by our non-institutional work, but also encourages it and is seeking our advice. By operating independently but also work with institutional leaders, we have the potential to build power for Jewish young people and progressives and push our institutions to reflect the values those young progressives hold.

About to vacate...

Don't worry, I ain't leaving the house. I'm just going on vacation. That's right...old man Healey will be spending some time with the fam in the Canadian Rockies. Fighting grizzly bears, knocking back the LaBatt's...well, the good times are just about guaranteed.

But speaking of vacating (or perhaps the opposite thereof), the big news from MoHouse Boston is that we've got a full house again! Joe "The Truth" Gindi has been with us since June, but Sarah "I speak with a cute British accent" Gershuny has finally joined our little clans of Moishians. She seems quite cool, but she's leading Shabbat services this Friday, so we'll see how she really stacks up then!

The other big news for the month is that we've secured a weekly column in Boston's Jewish Advocate. Called "Community with a Purpose," the first column went in last week -- "that was a nice piece, Ben"; "aw, shucks, thanks, guys" -- and we've lined up a team of community members to write every week over the next couple of months. If things go well (and why wouldn't they? we rock!), we'll have a progressive young Jewish voice commenting in that public space about all sorts of issues affecting our community and our generation for a long time to come.

Yep, you can say it...we're doing damn fine work.

See ya all on the other side of the Continental Divide! PEACE!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Notes from a Wandering Jew

I am halfway through my trip to Ha Eretz, the Land, Israel. Over the next two weeks I will travel from the Lebanon border through Jordan in back into Israel through Elat. A blog about my trip thus far could be 10 pages of just the "where" and "what".

For example, last week I participated in the 2007 Charlie Awards conference. The Charlie award has been give to 45 young adult leaders from all over the world. This year's class of Charlies were 15 people from 9 countries. As Jewish community leaders living in Diaspora we had the special opportunity to come to Israel through CLI (center for leadership initiatives) and the Schusterman Foundation and receive special tours of amazing projects ranging from innovative medical care to new student-led Zionism to homeless shelters for teens. Each tour gave us a new perspective of Israel and Israeli society. The stories of each project and the leaders that created them and continue to develop them inspired all of us to rethink about our projects and communities.

This week of inspirational stories of Jewish leaders creating a strong and vibrant Israeli society was juxaposed with a trip to Nablus in the West Bank.

Less than an hours drive from Jerusalem (but is usually take 2 to 3 hours with border crossings and check points), Nablus is a vibrant and active Palestinian city with a university. Nablus was the site of a large battle in 2002 and is still considered a hot-bed for resistance and insurgency. So, what brought me to Nablus and why would I allow myself to go there?

Last fall Moishe House hosted a group of young adults from Palestine and Jordan for Camp Tawonga's Peace Makers weekend. When I new I would be traveling to Israel this summer I took advantage of the connections our house had made with these young leaders and contacted two Palestinians. I must say that I was not alone. Isaac who had orginally met the leaders and had participated in last year's camp made most of the arrangements. Together we spent two days in Nablus, first traveling from East Jerusalem to Ramalah and finally being escorted to Nablus by a friend.

In Nablus our hosts were Wagdee and Majed. Wagdee is 22 and speak almost perfect English with a half Aussie and half Texan accent. He claims he only studied English for 4 months and the rest has come from watching videos and taking advantage of every opportunity to speak with foreigners. I wish I had such an aptitude for language. Wagdee recently finished his IT management degree and lives with his family (month, father, grandmother, 4 brothers, and one sister), all of whom are amazingly warm people. In fact everywhere we visited we were offered tea and coffee and food and of course a story or two. Everyone has stories and they were so appreciative that we were willing to listen. But more about that later.

Majed is in his 30s and lives alone in a penthouse appartment overlooking the center of town. Majed attended last year's Peace Makers conference and although he does not speak English he had the most to say of our two hosts. (By the end of the two days Wagdee's jaw and tongue must have been killing him because he had been talking for two people) Majed has started his own organization which tries to organize camps for children. Majed and Wagdee both claim to be unaffiliated with either of the two main political parties, Hamas or Fetah. While Hamas provides many social services such as schools and camps for children in addition to food hand outs and health care, Fetah is seen as a bloated and corrupt party. And still Majed believes that he can make a difference by trying to provide the same services as Hamas without the propaganda and hatred.

Majed is amazing in this way. He is always pronouncing and declaring new ideas and programs he wants to starts. Majed is a doer and very well respected in Nablus. But his respect came at a price. Last year in March his brother was killed. He was a leaders of a resistance brigade and died in a gun battle with Israelis. Posters of Majed's brother are plastered all over Nablus. Majed has several paintings and pictures of him in his home. Despite all of this Majed continues to work for peace.

During our two days in Nablus Isaac and I sat for tea or coffee at least 10 times and each time we got a story. In the old city we met a young man who was planting flowers in an alter for a martyr. The martyr was his brother and his younger bother was helping him (the younger one is named for the older brother who died). He told us how each day he replants the flowers because each night IDF soldiers tear them out. He told us how at the age of 22 he has already spent two years in jail and been shot 7 times. His sister and other family members are currently in jail. He told us how just the night before IDF special force took over the apartment that his family lives in to use it as a makeshift base for the evening.

Clearly with suicide bombings and rockets being launched from Gaza and Lebanon, Israel has real reasons for concern. I did not ask this young man why he had been thrown in jail. Had he gotten into an arguement with Israelis? Was he throwing rocks or molatov cocktails as his brother has been doing when he died? Or was he just a suspect?

While in Nablus you cannot help but notice that life seems relatively normal. Cell phones ring everywhere. Cars honk there horns. Markets are full of people, food, and modern commercial goods. Signs of squawler were no more profound than any other "developing country". According to Wagdee the situation is different for refugees living in and around Nablus. But generally the signs of "oppression" are not as obvious as one might think.

What is apparent once you talk with anyone or spend a night in Nablus is the psychological effects of the conflict. At midnight Nablus is a ghost town. The streets are empty except for a lone taxi and a few ambulence. The informal or formal curfew set by regular IDF raids forces Nablusis off the streets, out of coffee shops and into their homes. If the are on the street they run the risk of harrassment, arrest, or worse the possibility of getting cause in the cross-fire of IDF and resistance gun fire.

With darkness on Nablus, I spent both evenings on Majed's terrance waiting to see the IDF. Each night I did not last much past 1:30am before passing out for the night. In the morning I would get a report from Wagdee of last nights raids. On the last morning I was told that special forces driving a white truck came in at 1:30am. Before going to sleep I remembered seeing a white truck and thinking that it was very odd.

While I watch Nablus I talked to Majed and Wagdee about the situation. I asked Wagdee what was the first thing that came to mind when I said "Israel". He said "Check points." As we both looked across the valley and up to the mountain tops where the only light are beacons from the IDF bases, Wagdee told me his check point stories. The next day I found out exactly what he meant.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer time

And the living is EZ. First, I would like to send a warm shout out/hat tip/ appreciation to mr. IZones. I wish you the best in your folk rock endeavors. Things here at the MHDC are really heating up. I mean, the whole week has been in the high 90's and humid, I mean shvitzing like a pig. OY! Lucky for us, our 1st floor is always cool. Not to mention the Moishe Men (MM) are the hottest/coolest thing around. As we become more seasoned MM—spicy—I realize that we have gone through a lot. Ups and downs, ins and outs, shifting roommates and members. All in all, we have found a good balance of what to do, what not to do and who should do it—I choose David Blogberg. No, really, we have settled in to a good rhythm and a good crowd. Its always amazing to me how the Moishe congregation is constantly changing—new people come in, some people move away. The great circle of life has even played out in our own moishe house. Oh, and Moishe, our mouse mascot, is back in full force…darn shapeshifters.


Monday, July 9, 2007

The Irreplaceable Yitzchak!

Like all of Moishes I'm very sad to see Isaac leave the program, or at least the side of the program that might at times actually seem like a real job.

Isaac: you have contributed more than anyone to the vibrancy, the scalability, and the sustainability of the Moishe House idea. You must be proud at how the program has grown with you at the helm, how it no longer seems just an experiment but an entire subculture firmly perpetuated by the dozens who call Moishe House home and the hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of guests who can no longer imagine a Judaism without a Moishe.

I'm sure you will bring the same success to whatever you do next.

-Adam in DC


After three weeks of traveling I have returned to America, the land of the free. It was a good trip many laughs were had and there was much for me to learn about along the way. I discovered that hookers can communicate in any language, and that mcdonalds is also everywhere. Despite this ugliness that spans that globe, the little place across the pond known as "europe" or "Eurasisa" or at one time pangea...is quite incredible. A couple of things I noticed right away, their is a language barrier between me and most of the world and it can best be summed up in two words or one legend, Ron Burgundy. I told a man to eat cat poop and he thought I was serious.

This led to an ephiphany for ole douglass. And it started with my reflections on my softball award, the doug gardner excellence in maturity award. I like to spend about 50% of my time being mature, I am not trying to push it to be a hero or something. I am just trying to make my way through the sands of time with very little dignity.

In light of this I would like to reveal some of my moments that were not in the most mature of my actions on the trip.

I used my own telescope in the tower of Columbus
I took shots from some girls hand and told her I spoke no language
I took an ash tray from a hostel
I exposed myself in a hostel lobby
I jacked somebody's internet password so I wouldn't get charged
I called some girl depressed and asked her to kill herself or peep up (she did neither)

I snored on the plane on purpose.

Europe was awesome go there.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

So after all the trials and tribulations we've undergone to get here, it looks like in a mere 11 days we'll finally have a Moishe House in Philadelphia. There were times when it looked like the whole thing was just going to fall to pieces and all the planning and the house searching and the stalking Isaac on the phone and by email (we'll miss you Isaac) was going to be for naught. I hope I'm not speaking too soon, but it really really seems like it's going to happen now (I mean we signed a lease, I don't think we could get screwed out of yet another house). I couldn't be more excited. We've got events posted on the calendar, good advise from some veteran Moishniks (thank you Isaac and Moishe House DC), a great house in a fab neighborhood, a bit of a buzz around, three super psyched chicas and the cutest pup in town. It's gonna be awesome! There's still lots to do (plant our garden, get a compost bin started, add a little color to those blank white walls, and keep spreading the word about the house), but I'm looking forward to every bit of it.

Congrats to the other new Moishe Houses in Maryland and Argentina. Can't wait to meet all the other Moishes at the retreat. If you have friends who need a little Moishe in their life who live in or near the City of Brotherly Love, tell them to come on by; and if any of you are ever in our beautiful, terribly underrated city, our home is always open to you.

Much love,

Rae of Moishe House Philly

Thursday, July 5, 2007

JEWLIE is here

Month #2 of our Moishe House experience is underway. I am glad for this week to take stock and see what we have accomplished. JUNE ROCKED! I am so grateful that the people of this house came together and everyone is putting in the share to shoulder creating this phenomenon. The house is actually clean! and the food in the fridge is fresh!

I am going through a transformative summer, interning as a chaplain in a mental hospital.
With all the intensity and trauma that happens to people, it feels so gratifying to be part of creating compassionate and caring space for people to be who they are.

Peace friends!
MH Silver Spring, MD

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Devils and DJs

First of all I would like to mention the loss of Moishe House friend Mike B., a wonderful guest our house and especially Lee. Mike passed in a tragic accident this month and we all send out our love and thoughts to his family. He will truly be missed.

This month we of course had our fair share of Poker but we also ventured out to a few concerts. One was for our Moishe House member Lindsay Sinay who rocked the Derby with her new band. The other was at teh world famous Hollywood bowl where DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist mixed together on the stage. It was great to get out of our house with a crew of Jews and enjoy the show together. If you have never been to the Bowl you absolutely must attend a concert there. The formula is to bring a picnic basket full of great food, a bottle of wine, and good friends.

Another event was a trip to go see the film "The Devil Came on Horseback" organized by Nate. The film was a documentary about the ongoing genocide taking place in Darfur. Although it has caught news attention recently, I felt hardly informed of what was actually taking place. The film was a real eye opener and very shocking to know that a holocaust was esentially taking place. It reminded me of the Jewish responsibility to defend any group of people who are being slaughtered in a genocidal fashion. We are constantly reminded "Never Again"........"never again" wll we allow anybody to be killed in such a fashion but it seems that the world including Jews have become so slow to respond to their aid. I only wish that the importance of this message spreads faster to the world in hopes of halting the destruction of the people in Darfur and convicting those responsible.

Hope everyone has a great Fourth of July!!!!!!


Mustache you say?!

I am someone who loves to watch those around me be taken from the comfort zone, if only for an evening, and watch how they react. As a former Sociology major, the only thing better is watching a group of people forced from their comfort zone together. Sometimes all it takes is a little hair (fake or real) hanging above you upper lip.

On one Friday evening in June we embarked upon our first ever MHSF Mustache Shabbat. Initially, in the planning stages I was a bit hesitant to get on board with this facial hair theme. My inability to grow a "legitimate" mustache myself, along with my uneasiness about our guests willingness to participate left me a bit skeptical.

Boy was I wrong. When our guests began to roll in men and woman alike were already outfitted with some fabulous lip coverings. Those that came unprepared were more than willing to have hair or ink cover what was once a normal, or at least semi-normal, looking face.

Throughout the evening I found myself staring at the woman I was talking to unable to divert my gaze from her prominant stache. They, having forgotten about the everpresent Don Juan, would occasionally pause noticing my distracted expression.

On the whole, it was a silly occasion, with people meeting others for the first time in a context that allowed everyone to let their guard down a bit, not take themselves too seriously, and partake in yet another blessed day of rest (and mustaches).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Worst Month For Me AT The Moishe House

Thankfully we have moishe house. You never really know how great your community is until you rely on them and they come through in amny forms. It has been a troubling month with death and family issues. A great support system has been built here in LA. we lost a moishe community member this month to a freak accidental death while indoor rock climbing in China. Mike B. will sadly be missed by all.

On a lighter note, we will be having a lot more fun here at the moishe house since summer has come and jobs are more loose. Good bye Mr. Zones I can't say enough about the joy of change life brings to a young man. Good luck with the folk career.

Im out peace

LA Moishe

Monday, July 2, 2007

It's pronounced "Mo-eesha"

It's been an exciting time. Even without everyone moved into MHSS yet, we still pulled together a massive first month of events, with even bigger plans to come. The was a big shabbat dinner, a barbecue, a house-concert-turned-jam session, and some mystical & meditative moments. We polled the community for input, started what I think was the very first Moishe House group on Facebook (now up to 61 members!) for publicity, and started reaching out to the neighbors, the frummies, the hippies, the do-gooders, the gamers, the loudmouths and the wallflowers -- everyone cool we know and everyone cool they know! (and that's a lot of cool).

My favorite moments of the last month: our first meeting with Isaac. Looking around the room Friday night watching all the new different people get to know each other. The feeling of "wow this is really happening" when I got blog access.

I'm looking forward to this month: Our themed shabbat dinners (Friday the Thirteenth, and Jewish-Valentines-Day LUUUUUV), the open mic night, and the big Eicha experiment: can we turn a fast day's evening chant of ancient Lamentations into something edgy, meaningful, and empowering?

For the long haul: Get these suburbanites (including me) off their tuchusses and onto the rocks. Moishe House Silver Spring Maryland goes rock climbing along the Potomac, or a bike adventure -- something outdoorsy. Have community workshops with friend ___ who knows all about ____. Skillshare for twenty-somethings? And a big party.

New Beginnings

Hi there greater Moishe House community. This is Noam Reisner from the Silver Spring Moishe house. This is my first month in a new house and my first month as a Moishe House member, so lots of memorable stuff has been going on this month. We started off our events with an open house/meet and greet and that went pretty well, a bunch of people from the community came and being new to the community myself I got a real feel for how welcoming and lively the Silver Spring community really is. I was very impressed by the response we got, I expected us to start small with very few turnouts, but to the contrary we started off with a bang, and I only hope we grow from here. For just starting out and not having much experience everything turned out well. There was only a small hitch in one of our events when the Vulgar Bulgars' van broke down and they couldn't make it, but even then people weren't put off and we ended up having a lovely evening anyway, and we look forward to the night when we invite the Vulgar Bulgars back and have a wonderful concert. What I'm really looking forward to in the upcoming months is a sense of regularity, this month every event was a first, our first shabbat meal, our first barbecue, our first rosh chodesh event, and while firsts are nice I am waiting for the regularity of our monthly events, because I feel it is with regular events that communities really grow. Well, that's all I have on my mind for this month, I can't wait to get to July's events, especially the event most dear to my heart: Moishe House's "Tangentially Jewish Movie Night" where we watch movies with themes that are pertinent to the Jewish calendar, but are not "Jewish movies." So be sure to check in next month when I talk about that.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Giitar Hiiro

We have a new attraction to the LA Moishe House, and it has nothing to do with our promiscuous pet. On Monday Dave bought guitar hero for our Playstation 2, and we have all been hooked ever since. It's like junk, fuhreal. I have been rocking out to some of the sweatiest, ass-kicking songs of the last few decades. My Top 5:
"War Pigs" by Black Sabbath - one of my favorite songs ever
"Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" by the Stones - This is my favorite Keith Richards lick of all time. I get pumped just hearing it and now I can [try to] jam to it!
"Jessica" by Allman Brothers Band - the guitar is so catchy that the song don't need lyrics.
"Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns n Roses - for all the years of my childhood I dreamed of emanating Slash, I now can.
"Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd - are you kidding? I get goosebumps every time. It's intense.

I would write more about it but I am gonna go play instead.

Nate Dogg

Fear of Balls

Remember in middle school gym class, when they picked teams for ball sports, and it was humiliating to be picked last? Well that was me, or almost me, since my friends would pick me out of sympathy. They knew I was more likely to duck than catch any round objects flying my way, but I was a good cheerleader, and that counted for a little.

Aside from one ultimate frisbee game when I was 23 , after those embarrassing experiences I've literally never played an athletic team-sport since I was thirteen. I rocked out in dance, did headstands in yoga, even kicked butt with capoera, but no ball sports. Until today. Why?

Enter Evan and Katie, our new Moishe House Ministers of Fun. They proposed that we have a non-competitive game of kick-ball, to get us all to use our bodies and get to know each other. While Moishe House Boston has lots of events that bring folks together for meaningful ritual, artistic expression, or political action, we haven't had as many opportunities to kick back and have fun. In support of Evan and Katie's creativity, I warily conceded to play, secretly dreading that I would be outed as athletically-challenged.

But, in a total shock to myself, I honestly wasn't that bad. I mean, kickball may be the easiest sport possible, but part of me wonders whether before I stayed away from sports because I was just too traumatized to keep trying.

This makes me think about how much easier it is to take risks when in a community where everyone's contribution matters and everyone is welcome. For me, kickball is a big challenge. For other people, it might be leading a shabbat service, or sharing their poetry at one of our arts workshops, or talking to someone who looks and sounds different from them through our social justice work. Whatever the risk, our community is giving me and others courage to go beyond our comfort zones, to experiment with who we can be, because we know those around us believe in us as we are, and will share a beer afterwards even if we couldn't catch the ball to save our lives.

A little politics, a little fun

That's how we try to roll here in Boston. For example, a group of us have been working to build Jewish solidarity with the Islamic Society of Boston in their fight to build a new mosque in Roxbury. This week they had a community celebration, and our little group of young Jewish activists got mentioned in the Boston Globe coverage of the event:

"Two who started the website JewsSupportTheMosque.org presented the society with a check for $2,000 they raised online."

(Those two were both activists who are part of a House-supported group! The whole story is online here.)

And now, today, we're getting together to play kickball, and a bunch of friends from the Muslim community are coming to join us. Talk about interfaith approaches to community-building...what could be better than kickball?

Anyhow, enjoy July 4th, everyone (especially the houses in Nigeria and South Africa and South America!!!). Till next month, I'm out.