Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sunday was SO. GOOD.

In thinking about what makes a Moishe House event successful, there are two questions to consider: what makes an event in general successful, and – embedded within that – what makes a Moishe House event in particular successful. What makes an event in general successful naturally depends on the goal of the event; but as a self-proclaimed experience designer, I gravitate towards a metric based on the quality of experience. In other words, if without solicitation, attendees express having had a new, spectacular, comforting, delightful, or otherwise enjoyable experience, I’d consider the event successful. And all of the above we’ve proudly heard in response to events at the Moishe House in Providence! I think my favorite feedback has been from our blind events – the blind feast and dancers in the dark – in response to which I heard, “Wow, I’ve never experienced anything like this before” (blind feast) and got the above message written on my Facebook wall (dancers in the dark).

As for a Moishe House event, besides being a successful event in general which gives its attendees a high-quality experience, it should somehow further Moishe’s mission as I understand it, to cultivate and maintain the young adult Jewish community, and act as somewhat of an ambassador of the young adult Jewish community to the young adult community in general. During the month of June, as Nathaniel (my co-host) and many other members of our community have been traveling, I thought we’d get higher attendance if I hosted events out in the community, rather than invite the community into our home. So I hosted a climbing night at the Rhode Island rock gym, Kabbalasana (yoga with a Jewish spirituality twist – pun intended) at the Motion Center, and salsa dancing at Olives. As a result, attendees ended up being mostly new and mostly non-Jewish, and as a further result, I gave them an introduction to what Moishe is all about. Attendees were intrigued with this model of cultivating and maintaining community, and at each event, my monolog evolved into more of a dialogue. So, besides the high quality of the events themselves, I’d consider our June events successful in the sense of furthering the Moishe mission, by introducing newbies and non-Jews to Moishe in an engaging way, and ending up with a few new friend requests! Oh and this definitely makes me wanna do a little Moishe sphiel at the beginning of all our events in the future…

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MH Boston -- A Successful Event

Jeremy has asked us to recount a recent event that we consider successful, and to describe what we think made it so.

Zvi of MHSS mentioned in his post that he thinks a good measure of success is, "Does the event add to the sustainability of this particular MH?" I like this line of thought, and I want to try and elaborate on Zvi's sustainability concept a little bit more.

For us here in Boston, sustainability has to do with a number of key points:

1. Are we facilitating relationships between members of our community such that the success of our community is not dependent upon any one housemate (or, really, even upon any of the housemates in the long run)?

2. Are we creating structures that give people real ownership over the community so that they feel like it reflects their values and that they can make change within it?

3. Are we responding to the energy of our community members so that we shift and grow as we develop together, rather than staying static? Are we ensuring that the community remains a fun, warm, and welcoming place through our willingness to avoid putting form before function, or -- to put it another way -- are we adopting to new people and new energy in a dynamic way?

We are building community in an intentional way, and even though that is work, it needs to be fun work that makes our community members feel engaged and positive from start to finish.

Thus, for us a perfect example of a successful event is the community retreat we went on this past weekend (June 19-21) up in the southern New Hampshire woods. We had about 50 community members join us for the weekend, and key to our success was the investment our community members had in the weekend.

Four non-housemates worked with me to plan the weekend. About a dozen non-housemates led workshops, ranging from spiritual ecology to learning Shabbat zmirot to network organizing. And just as much as we planned workshops, we made sure to give people the opportunity for both formal and informal fun. We did a ropes course as a group and had organized games, but neither were required, and there was plenty of relaxed time for boating, swimming, hanging out, etc.

We came out of the weekend with a bunch of amazing feedback for our Transition Team, as well as our current and new housemates, and plenty of community members committed (or re-committed) themselves to ongoing projects, too. Beyond that, people strengthened their relationships to one another and envisioned, together, a collective future for our growing community.

So in the end, I offer this lesson from the weekend: while it was productive and capacity-building through the actual work we did, that was not the most important piece. The most important piece, rather, was simply giving people the opportunity to do that fun work together in a safe, meaningful, and joyous place.

It turns out that the journey itself was, in fact, the destination.

What makes a successful Moishe House event?

A successful event is more than just a headcount. Good events leave lasting impressions, build relationships and help engage participants in a Jewish community. One example of this kind of event was our Shavuot Sundaes on Sunday event. Attendees had varying levels of knowledge about Shavuot- some knew exactly what it was, and others had never heard of it before.

Our event was centered around something accessible, and that most people enjoy: Eating ice cream. We bought several flavors of ice cream and toppings, and let people create their own sundae. People who were unfamiliar with Shavuot were immediately curious about a holiday that involved eating ice cream, which gave those who knew an opportunity to briefly explain its significance, and why people eat dairy on Shavuot. Those who were interested in talking more about Shavuot had the opportunity to do so; those who were not interested ate ice cream and talked about whatever they wanted. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and even those who were not really interested in Shavuot left with a basic understanding of its significance.

Because this event was centered around a holiday, the planning process was very simply: We checked our calendar for a date that we thought would be convenient for everyone, and then bought ice cream. We made sure not to make it sound "religious," because that seems to make non-practicing Jews hesitant about attending.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June Blog MHSS

ala Zvi Bellin

We are writing about successful events.

Each event has a success meter of its own. A wild party should be measured in wildness and a mussar group in intimacy and personal reflection. Focusing on numbers all the time is missing the point of community building. More people does not mean more community. Perhaps we should measure in sustainability, does the event add to sustainability of this particular MH and maybe even the larger MH Universe. I like this measuring stick for now. Feels very green. It does feel nice to get a large group over for shabbat or to have a full house for a party, and who wouldn't feel kind of silly throwing a party for 2 people. I guess we do what we can and put in the energy that makes sense for each event. If an event is iffy we try to get 5 people committed first and then say we will do the event. That gives us some assurance that the event will begin with a bit of momentum.

A recent successful event was a Shabbat morning egal minyan that we held in the house. The community was invested in the planning at the start. We had a perfect amount of people, we filled the space, but it was comfortable for people to pray. We made excellent food and guests brought some things to eat too. We sang, we drank a bit, we had young couple with a child, and I think we provided a space for people to really dig into their Jewish experience. Halleluyah!

Peace to all!


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

RRR MoHoLo - 9 June 2009

The scent of the undergrowth after rain makes me look forward to our discussion on the possibility of a rural community.
I am a bit torn. I know that it would be healthy to join such an adventure, but I can't help feeling also that secluding one's self in cut off community might be a cop-out. Towns and cities need change, need people re-energising community on every strata. It's not just poorer communities (who everyone seems to point at and focus on). In order for it to work, everyone, even the people who don't financially 'need' community need to see why they might just need community. That their mistrust of other people, or insistence on going to the superstore instead of the local shop is just as detrimental to the fabric of society as the teenage yobs they complain about. And the steps to this are so small, so small. Talking to the people who live on your street. If you have a front porch or front garden, sit in it or garden in it and talk to the people passing by. Give them a carrot, and ask them how their day's been.
Reaching out, not hiding away is the simplest step to make a change.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shavuot and more Shavuot

As tends to be our custom, Moishe House Silver Spring celebrated the holidays in style. After a successful Passover/Birkat Ha'Chamah (blessing of the sun) combo in April, we decided to open our house up to an all night learning session (Tikkun) over Shavuot. I loved this event because it was so community driven: one of our community members spearheaded the food preparation (including 4 homemade cheesecakes!), a good 15 people came prepared to teach something, and everyone came prepared to learn and share. We divided the night into 20 or 30 minute intervals and studied an incredible range of topics, from "reproductive justice and Judaism" to a poem about the Holocaust; "apotheistic Judaism" to hearing stories from one of our community member's recent travels in Southeast Asia, and everything in between. At around 4:30am, a few brave souls ventured out to local synagogues to pray with our greater community, and then we all crashed for a few hours. As always, it was such an honor to be able to provide a safe space for so many people to learn and teach, and I'm so proud that we were able to do it so successfully. And of course, special shout out to Einstein, who came all the way from MH Hoboken to grace us with his presence and knowledge - I hope that marks the beginning of even more MH collaboration...

Happy (Almost) Summer!!!

Aaron, MH Silver Spring

Saturday, June 6, 2009

MHSeattle, 6/6/2009: Introducing the new Moisheniks!

As summer comes to Seattle in the form of 80- and even 90-degree days, we at Moishe House mourn the upcoming departure of Joel Rothschild, one of the house's founders and a reliable source of original music, delicious stir fries, and illuminating insights about the day's news. Joel is moving to House Bet, which is a block away from Moishe House and hosts all-ages events under the Ravenna Kibbutz banner. By the end of June, Masha and Neal will be joined by Steven Blum and Nicole Guidry, two wonderful additions to the house and the Moishe House program.

Steven is a writer whose work appears regularly online and in print; he's written for The Stranger, one of Seattle's weekly newspapers, as well as Seattle Metblogs. He has a blog of his own, too, and is knowledgeable and opinionated (in a good way) on subjects cultural and political.

Nicole is an adventurous person who recently skydived and wants to do it again in August, possibly as a Moishe House event. She has boundless energy and tons of ideas for future events, which is great to see in a new member.

We MH "elders" anticipate great things from these promising newbies, and it'll be fun to report on the doings of the "rebooted" Moishe House Seattle during the coming months. Shabbat Shalom!

Shavuot in Beijing and Morocco

I am sitting in MHBJ enjoying the ice cream and ample sundae toppings that are leftover from our Beijing Shavuot ice cream party. I was not around to partake during the holiday because I went to Morocco for the last two weeks to visit my brother, who was studying abroad in Rabat.
I had an incredible experience in Morocco with a group of Jews who celebrate Shavuot every year together in the middle of the Atlas Mountains on the site of a former Jewish community that used to have a thriving yeshiva, shul and homes. Now it is simply an abandoned compound in the middle of Arab villages, but once a year these Jews descend upon the area to pray to a rabbi that is buried there, who they believe performs miracles. This is called a hiloula, which is a special Moroccan Jewish custom.
I haven't even begun to give you the details that will serve to both illuminate this scene and at once make it seem more complex. I am writing about this hiloula ritual for the Jewish press and also producing a short video, and I will upload those links to the blog so you can learn more.
Since I left Morocco I have been thinking about the issues of galut, of Jewish communities in the diaspora. In Morocco, Jews have a long history, longer than Islam I think, and have enjoyed established community. In China, Jewish history is much shorter and scarcer, yet I left Morocco thinking that it is preferable for me to be a Jew today in China. Do you think where you live is preferable for a young Jew today? Why, and if not, where is it most preferable?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tele-Shabbat and other fun happenings in Hoboken

May was an exciting month at MH Hoboken with intellectual discussions, poker nights, and of course  shabbat dinners, including the much anticipated tele-shabbat.  When I first heard about the idea for the tele-shabbat I was admittedly a littlle hesitant, as were my roommates, as to how this would turn out.  It turned out to be a great event despite the technical difficulties.  All of our guests loved being able to interact with other houses via video-chat and they have aready asked if we will be doing this again anytime soon (I certainly hope so!).   A huge shout out to Stephanie from MH Providence for putting this all together, this was a huge success!  I finally learned to play poker thanks to our poker night and even though I lost my ten dollars I stayed in the game for a while (I wasn't even the first one out!) and had a great time.  We have some fun events planned for June including a camping trip (which I won't be attending due to family obligations for my brothers graduation and another brother's wedding), movie night, and of course shabbat dinners.

travel and networks

thoughts on a pre-shabbes afternoon:

i just got back from a 2-week stint to portland, seattle and vancouver with my fiance. sure enough, i worked any connections i had to stay with friends and comrades both to get a more local flavor and to be a tad more economical. in portland, i stayed at the kayam house, a house of jews that aim to provide a safe space for disenfranchised jews or people that have only recently begun to identify as jewish. they knew of moishe house, and said they worked together to some degree, but that there were entirely different memberships in general. shoshanna, julie, justin and claire were all provided incredible comradeship and hospitality.

in a city the small size of portland, it got me thinking, "what does it mean that so many of these small jewish communities exist for the most part in sovereignty and without partnership to other groups?" "what does it mean for the most powerful implementation of MH mission that, to some degree, another place is working fulfilling the mission of moishe house?"" for the most effective utilization of resources?"

its a questions i think a lot about in boston, a city with perhaps the largest number of shuls, shtibels, minyans and synagogues per jew capita anywhere ive been. to some degree this is a relic of the style of these communities--small, tight-knot and similar to the town-style planning that so resonates in new england. but my questions is about meeting goals--how can we consider the local flavor of place, such as new england, and provide the community that people are looking for, while still being thoughtful and measurable towards our goals? what criteria and systems should funders put into place to meet these goals?

in a time of limited financing and entreprenurs really honing in on their goals, these questions seem particularly relevant to help MH continue to meet its goals. it seems that dave and his team have found some way to resonate the MH message with potential funders given the large amount of funding theyve managed to come by recently. but the next step, and the step relevant to our communities in a very real way, is how we stay relevant, provide what people are looking for, and continue to improve as community entities. as young adults without much metrics for our work outside of numbers and numbers of attendance and cost, i get the sense that such lack of attention to measurement that will inhibit the growth of the houses and not allow MH's to become as powerful and relevant as they could be. such a need needs to emerge both from houses and from national leadership if it were to be enacted. until then, MH's will remain a loosely knit group of fun houses (partially resembling the AEPi of my college years) without working towards a larger mission.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

To the White House, and beyond!

In one of the coolest hours of my life, Moishe House's own David Cygielman and I - and other leaders of young Jewish communities from around the country - visited the White House to let the administration know that they should think of emergent Jewish communities when they think about reaching out to Jews in general. We got to meet with the White House Jewish Liasons and the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, through a meeting sponsored by Jewish Jumpstart. We talked about how the White House can serve as a convener to bring different faith groups into partnership and dialogue, and how young Jews are a great demographic to target Jewish outreach, since so many of us share Obama's progressive agenda. It was pretty amazing to feel like young Jews have a voice in politics, and to know that we are being seen and heard in the nation's capital! I am so grateful to Moishe House for helping to make this opportunity possible.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Moishe House Chicago Goes to Blog

ISS: Summer and time for celebrating is here!
JH: So, bring your flip-flops.
CM: And, your sunblock
EP: And, a hot grill and some cold beer!
AF: Mmmmm... I'm hungry.

To be continued.....
Hello everyone,

I really enjoy reading your blog comments. It get a nice idea of who is part of this big Moishe house project around the world.

Here's a funny comment I read on You tube.

Have a nice day!


Here are eleven facts
1. Your reading my comment
2. Now your saying/thinking thats a stupid fact.
4. You didnt notice that i skipped 3.
5. Your checking it now.
6. Your smiling.
7. Your still reading my comment.
8. You know all you have read is true.
10. You didn't notice that i skipped 9.
11. Your checking it now.
12. You didn't notice there are only 10 facts
Hello guys,

so how did the last recipe taste like? well, Im sorry if can't compete with my cooking.
This time let me give the best of the best the challah recipe!


Love from Vienna!


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Rye Oatmeal Challah

6 Packages dry yeast or 9 and 1/4 tsp
2 Cups warm water
2 Tbsps. honey
1 1/2 cups honey
3 cups warm water
7 eggs, beaten
1 cup oil
6 Tbsps. caraway seeds
3 1/2 Tbsps. salt
3 cups rye flour
4 cups rolled oats
7-8 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups white flour

2 eggs, beaten
poppy seeds or sesame seeds

In a small bowl mix yeast, 2 cups warm water and 2 tablespoons hoeny and set aside. In a large bowl, mix honey, warm water, eggs and oil. Add caraway seeds and salt. When yeast mixture foams, add it to mixture in large bowl. Stir in rye flour, oats, whole-wheat flour and white flour. Turn dough out on a well-floured board and knead for 15 to 20 minutes.

Place dough in well-oiled bowl, turning to coat all surfaces with oil. Let rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down dough and knead for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Separate Challah with a blessing and divide dough into seven pieces. Shape dough and place in greased pans. Let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350.

Brush loaves with beaten eggs and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until you hear a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Remove from pans and cool on racks.

USE: Baking sheets or loaf pans.
YIELDS: 7 Medium loaves

Gut apetit!

Hi everyone,

I hope you had a nice Shavuot.
Here in Vienna all is well. The house is becoming more and more busy.
My favourite event here is shabbat. We generally get around 20 people and it's a lot of fun.
Last shabbat, our guest stayed until 3 am, eating, talking, singing, I really enjoy the atmosphere.
We are now about to prepare day trips to discover the Austrian nature and get a bit of exercise going.
Come to visit us!

all the best,



My time at the Moishe/Kavod House in Boston is beginning to wind down. My swan song with our team will be the big community retreat we are putting on in about three weeks, and then July will mostly be about getting things wrapped up, transitioning out, and moving on to the next big thing in my life.

But as I biked home from an afternoon of basketball in Jamaica Plain yesterday, completely exhausted, I thought about how basically everyone I was playing with were friends who I had met through the House. Granted, I never knew they were such terrible basketball players till yesterday, but I think it says a great deal about how our community has impacted my life that as I looked around the court, I saw a bunch of radical, thoughtful, caring, and all-around awesome young people who were part of a network of which the House is one critical hub.

I like the thought that I've helped create that network not just for myself, but for a whole lot of other young folks around Boston, over the last three years, and I have no doubt that I will be carrying that network and those relationships with me as I take my next step. And I'm really thankful for that.

Days spent with the grass and sun (Joel, MHLondon)

All of a sudden it seems summer is here. When London is like this it's like why would I want to be anywhere else?

It did take a while to get back in the flow of things returning from Thailand. And being a freelancer, balancing drama projects with teaching and organising Moishe House, it's still a challenge applying the daily discipline to work steadily and keep the right goals in sight.

What I hope will help is this 'Jewish Project Incubator' I've been selected to go on in August, 10 days away to work on my project, which will be the creation of a professional Jewish theatre company.

In the meantime, I'm extremely excited about an event we've got coming up on July 12th: Moishe Fest, an entire festival of bands, theatre, comedy etc. taking place over the course of a summer's day. Fingers crossed that London weather holds...


I just got back home from a trip that was designed to renovate a small wooden house in the forest. My former high school rented this house, and together with my friends we are planning to run there something like an informal local culture and education place. But first of all we had to do some renovation, because the house is in a really poor shape. So we bought thousands of tools and went there last weekend, taking with us also some students from the school I mentioned.
The thing that I most appreciated was a chance to scythe all the field around, but we were also setting doors, windows, cleaning the place, planting some vegetables and building sewage treatment plant and place for compost - because we want to make it as much 'eco' as possible.
We also met some locals, who came to see what's going on in their village - and, surprisingly, they didn't offer us any alcohol. So, I'm not sure if we can cooperate succesfully, not being welcomed there - but maybe it's only in the beginning. Anyway, we want to attract mostly kids, and they (hopefully) don't drink yet!


So, we went to a diary slam/Shabbat dinner at some friends that run a Carlebach minyan. It was an awesome night. Unfortunately a quick change of coat before leaving due to the British weather meant that I actually left the poem that I was going to read out (I usually favoured poems to sporadic diary entries) in the first choice coat pocket.

Though, I have been inspired to post one of the poems that I wrote when I was 17 up here, after spending some days flicking around the paranoid thoughts, and sometimes unexpected wisdoms.

I have chosen a piece that resonated particularly with me called A NAÏVE QUEST FOR FREEDOM....

Sitting here in this broken room
Compiling my deepest thoughts
Drifting in and out of consciousness
Thinking of a much different life

One of fulfilment, brilliant happenings
and stories to tell
A life of expression, exhaling my
Inner most emotions

A life of music
Music is the key
The building that holds the biggest ceilings
The widest rooms
But the smallest doors

The doors must be broken
Only through beating them
Can they be broken
Pushed down
Cracked and widened

Is frustration the only true path?
The determined will surely pass through?

Determined – in heart and mind
Kick the door down
Or sliver through the cracks
And enlightenment will begin.

Little did I know, how broke the music industry would be 13 years later. As I sit in my office working as an artist manager!