Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MH Warsaw House Dynamics

We decided to use question-answer form. We hope that using this for our note will be clearer.

How are responsibilities shared and divided?

This is the hardest thing for us. We are trying to rule who will be responsible for which event (inviting guests, uploading photos and receipts, cooking, shopping). In first few months we were taking turns in charge of uploading photos and receipts and updating the calendar. But it wasn’t working. So, each month someone is always responsible for usually 2 events, and they are also permanently duties, for example Zosia- finances, Ania – calendar. They are also household duties – we are trying to take care of them like a team

Do you involve community members in the planning and execution of events?

Of course. Their ideas are very import ant to us. When we hear that someone want to organize something or want to tell us about his vision of next month we are very happy because we are feeling that what we do is important and that it really works! We always ask our community members about the best date for each event – of course we can never choose a date that will be good for everyone, but we are trying to! They is always someone who wants to come earlier and help us with preparing or who wants stay longer and help us with cleaning. We are very glad that we have such great community.

How are each resident's individual strengths used to benefit the house/community?

It comes natural. Ania is a great cook, so she always cooks something delicious for events. Zosia is well organized so she is responsible for finances. Agnieszka is our spokesperson. Kuba is keen on ecology so he is trying to make our house more ecological. He is also a very outspoken person so he is helping us with our first-timers. Together we are working us a great team!

How does your house organize and plan each month?

Usually we are planning next month during the whole ongoing month. We are checking out events’ lists in our city (sometimes also in other cities as well) for movies, Jewish Youth Organization events, Jewish festivals, Jewish Community of Warsaw events. After that we are talking with our friends what they would like to do with MH during the next month. Very often they’re having their own ideas. It’s really nice to hear their ideas. In the end of the month we are organizing a meeting – we talk about our plans for next month, what event each of us wants to organize and we are making our calendar. Sometimes it’s quite hard because we are studying and working so we don’t have lots of free time. On this meeting we are trying to divide duties for next month including for example cleaning, adding events to the calendar and stuff like that. Of course we are talking about our ideas for the whole month – not only on this meeting. But it is important to meet once a month in a more formal way.

Do you set monthly goals for the house?

Sometimes. We are thinking about our last months and trying to draw conclusions – whether we should make more events for the Jewish Community, more tikkun olam, or we should expand our guest list.

Conclusions: Teamwork and Communication, not only between MH members, but between our whole community!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

MHSF: How does it all work? (July blog prompt)

"Demystifying the awesome phenomenon of MH San Francisco; A behind the scenes look." How's that for an academic-sounding essay title?

Ok, moving on to the actual answer. Teamwork and communication are essential to having a successful Moishe House, especially one that puts on 7 -8 events a month! No one person could do it all, obviously. It definitely takes a bit of coordination, shopping, emailing, and cooking to set up our events each month, and it really is so much more fun when we all pitch in together. At our house in SF we currently have a mix of students and full-time professionals, who have differing amounts of free time to contribute to event planning and execution, so we have to plan accordingly and respect each other's differing ability to contribute depending on the date/time of the event and what's going on for each individual that week.

The way it usually works is we start with a short, very informal meeting in our living room right at the end of a month -- to plan events for the next month. Usually each person shows up with a short list of event ideas and their dayplanners, and we also have a whiteboard calendar that we use to keep track of events, money we expect to spend, and money actually spent, as well as any dates we are planning on being out of town in the coming month. Half the time this is also our 'us time' so we get some dessert, order take out, or something else to make it a fun and relaxing time together. Sometimes however our schedules honestly don't allow us to all meet up, and we end up having in depth email conversations back and forth as a house to solidify events. I must say though, it's much more fun (and easier to coordinate) when we actually have time to sit down together.

Usually we come up with the events ourselves, and because we each have our own interests, there is usually quite a bit of variety between sports-related activities, arts related ones, volunteering, and Jewish ritual/religious events such as Shabbat potlucks. I know that in the days before a meeting I try and brainstorm a few fun things I'd like to do, and check out event listings in the city for film festivals, free concerts, Jewish events, or other activities that pique my interest. Occasionally however someone else we know emails us about an event going on in town, and if it appeals to us, we add it to the list of events that we've come up with ourselves. It's great to have other people suggesting things, even if we don't always decide to do it, because there is no way as 4 people we could ever keep up with all the things going on in the Jewish (and just overall) San Francisco community!

We take turns each month being the person in charge of uploading photos and reciepts, and updating the calendar. Someone else usually volunteers to write the big monthly email listing all events, and then throughout the month we just sort of spontaneously rotate who sends out reminder emails before upcoming events, and we all just sign on to the MHSF gmail account whenever we have a chance and respond to any emails recieved. Ari and I (Sarah) both work full time and have basically almost constant email access, so we tend to be the ones doing more of the email response from the gmail account. I know I personally tend to log on when things are slow at work and I'm bored... which is at least a few times a week (don't tell my boss please!). Then, usually we just decide who will buy food for the event, although to be honest this task usually falls to Danny since he is a)our master chef in residence with a very discerning taste, b)the only one with a car -- which is great for schlepping groceries in the city, and c)he has a more flexible work schedule than the rest of us and has had more time to actually make it to the store.

Whomever can get home from work before an event all pitches in to set up the house, do any cooking, etc. and during an event we all usually schmooze with everyone, help out, chat with each other, and clean up afterwards as a team. Dave really enjoys leading Shabbat and is great at being our spokesperson (we do a little welcome to anyone new, have a moment for everyone to share anything from their week, light candles, say kiddish and motzi, etc.) so when he is around that's usually a task that falls to him.

And, I'm spent. :)

~Sarah, on behalf of all of us @ MHSF.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Connecting Israel and MHP

I am currently on a little break between graduation my Masters program and starting a real job as a math teacher in Philadelphia so I decided to take a bit of a travel experience this summer. My family was doing a trip to Italy to visit my sister who studied in Milan for the semester, and I expanded the trip to include Slovenia and, since it was in the neighborhood, Israel. From many of the things I have seen and heard so far in the holy land, I can tell you that we are really getting our name out there and I am happy to be a part of the whole experience of Moishe House.

I have only been here for 5 days and yet I have met people who have already heard about Moishe House ahead of me coming here. Also, those who had not heard were excited to learn about the whole prospect of it for their futures. I had Shabbat lunch with some college students (it was funny to go around and share where you were from - in the midst of everyone saying "I'm from Brandeis" etc, I had to say I had actually graduted already. Damn). During lunch my former housemate Shelby and I shared about the concept of the house and what we do and the students were excited about joining in the mission in the future. At dinner the night before more people were excited about it as well.

Basically, I am happy that our name is getting out there and only hope to continue spreading the gospel :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My final blog post

Thank you to David and Jeremy and Brady and Isaac and Summer and Kevin and all the other MH central staff over the past three years who have supported our work, and who continue to do so with such passion and commitment. Thank you to the funders who have helped make our work possible, and who demonstrate their confidence in Jewish young adults by giving us the freedom to create houses and communities that reflect who we are and who we aspire to be, both as individuals and as the next generation of Jewish leaders, working together.

But, most of all, thank you to my housemates -- Margie and Sarah, Aaron and Joe, Alyson and Ari -- who made living in Boston's Moishe/Kavod House such a rich and meaningful experience, from the summer of 2006 until now. You have been a joy to work with and to learn from, and I am so proud of what we have built together. As I take my own next steps, I know that I will carry this experience with me going forward, and I expect only more brilliance from Boston's Moishe/Kavod House over the next three years, and beyond.


Monday, July 13, 2009

St. Louis tells you how we run our house.


Our house is run on a combination of serendipity and the age old adage that, if you save everything until the last minute, it only takes a minute.

Actually, we are very fortunate that Jordan's schedule gives him Friday off, as it means that we no longer have to struggle with finding a time to do Shabbat shopping. Because Jordan's Photoshop Kung-fu is better than ours, he has also been taking over responsibilities for creating facebook events.

By default, I've been the one who handles pictures and blogging, and Ross usually does the cooking, and get's on peoples' cases to RSVP.

Actually one of the biggest issues we have is that we rarely know exactly who is and isn't planning on showing up. Facebook is a saturated medium, and most people just ignore event invitations. Back when we had more time, we would actually call or email people to confirm attendance, but that is really time-intensive.

We have a routine in place that reduces the need for planning. We have a pretty good idea about how much food to buy, when to get it, what time to start cooking etc. for Shabbat dinners. When other opportunities come up, it is usually not hard to make things work.

Which, as much as it sounds sort of lackadaisical, it really the strength of Moishe House. Things don't need to be organized like a Hillel event in which you have to write up a plan, get approved for funding, have the minutes charted out, write a wrap-up and report on the success.

People come to meet other people. The programming is the excuse to get together.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Moishe Nola - Success!!

Successful events should seek to establish solidarity and community
between individuals over various fault lines. These fault lines might
include community, religion, politics, and culture. The best events
engage with these interest areas and have a clearly stated goal or
purpose. Guests at Moishe House events should feel challenged and
comfortable enough to engage with these topics creatively. An example
of an event that satisfied these criterion would be the review of the
New Orleans Master Plan. Individuals were encouraged to rely on their
own specialized and professional knowledge in reviewing the Master
Plan and sketching out a list of steps to its implementation.
Individuals were inspired by their own connection to the city of New
Orleans and were given a comfortable space for free discussion and
self-expression. As each individual had a vested interest in the
rebuilding of the city of New Orleans itself, the event was
self-driven. Members of the Moishe House simply tapped into the
interests of its community of guests and structured a discussion. As
most of the guests at this event were relatively new to the city of
New Orleans, this was also an opportunity to build solidarity with
life-long residents of the city.

In addition, successful events should take time out from the monotony
of the work-week by targeting the individual's needs for relaxation,
socializing, and the spiritual. For example, one particularly
successful event focused on a study of Torah in the context of the
economic crisis. House guests discussed the role and importance of
Torah study in a chaotic world. Considering this period of social and
spiritual malaise caused by an uncertain economy, the Moishe House
served as a free space of study and conversation.

- Esther

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What makes a succesful Moishe House event?

A four-part recipe for successful events from the Portland Moishe House.

1) Events must be interesting, fun or both.

Think about whether you would attend the event. If the answer is no, you probably shouldn't expect others to come.

Different people are looking for different things but nobody wants to waste their time on something that is stupid, boring, or at worse both. For your more intellectual crowd, offer them meaningful conversations and opportunities to learn. For the crowd that just wants to kick back, give them an easy opportunity to unwind. Or, as we do, mix the two. For example, we've had a lot of success with our "Torah on Tap" series. We've found that people come because 1) The topic is interesting and the discussion leader is appealing. 2) The "on tap" makes what could be an intimidating topic (Torah) and makes it fun and accessible.

2) Ratio is important.

If you don't have a good ratio of men to women at events, your numbers will fall off over time. Opportunities for mingling with people of the opposite sex is as critical as anything to sustained success. Go out of your way to "engineer" a good ratio.

3) Set goals and evaluate your events

Measure the success of your events on both qualitative and quantitative measures. Ask people what they liked and didn't like and store the information in your brain. Get a good sense of how many people are necessary for different kinds of events and make sure you reach your numbers. Also set goals for the number of new people, because its easy to fall back on your regulars but that won't help grow your community.

4) Use both mass and targeted communications

Since both the quality of a individuals experience and the number of people who come are important measures of success, conduct your recruitment and marketing accordingly. If you don't build a big list of people to tell about your events, you won't consistently get large numbers of people to come out for them. Equally important, however, is reaching out to people on an individual level. Mass emailing gets you a good distance, but there is nothing like a direct conversation to encourage someone to participate and build a relationship.

We hope that this post was instructive for other houses as they consider the ingredients for a successful event. If you you have questions or concerns, send us an email!

A successful event - MH JHB

What makes a successful moishe event?
Besides the obvious good 'freebies' - the food, the entertainment, the comfortable surroundings - our Moishe Houseniks come for the people. We at Moishe house JHB believe that it is THIS that makes a successful event, more than any other.

We have people from different ends of the socio-economic spectrum, Jews from the religious to the completely atheist, with a healthy dose of secular 'traditional' Jews in between.

A good example of this kind of event was the annual Seder we have, and have held in Moishe House Cape Town (the house Daanie and i stayed in before moving to jo'burg) for a few years now.
A Pesach seder is something South African Jews almost all do with their families at home. The nature of one's 'home seder' is, as can be expected, linked to the type of Jewish environment that the family enjoys. Many young Jews find this kind of seder monotonous, boring, perhaps completely uninspiring. they simply can't connect to it. It was with this in mind that we started planning a '3rd seder', an event that encourages Jews from all walks of life to come together to celebrate being Jewish, to remember our history, and, most importantly, to find a connection to the chag of pesach that they didnt have before.
We form this connection by incorporating a theme for the seder - usually a group of people who, unlike us Jews, are not free. we explore their anguish, pain and suffering, and show solidarity with their cause.
the kind of people who are at our events offer diverse opinions, which has shown us that the Jewish nation is still dynamic, exciting and interesting to the wider community

We're realized that only through making events relevant, will people come to them, keep coming to them, and want more and more.
And that's why we're 'the best'! :)

Moishe House Vienna - July

We believe the involvement of participants is one of the main elements of a successful event. As one of the main goals of Moishe house is to create a sense of community for young professional Jews, we always try to encourage participants to take part in the organising of events which make them feel part of the Moishe house rather than just guests.

We also believe that people should come out of an event either having learnt something new, having met new friends, with a happy feeling and of course well fed with tasty food!

Regarding the number of participants, we believe that the quality is more important than quantity; we would rather invite 10 people who would really get involved and would benefit truly from Moishe house rather than having large numbers coming just for the food. In Vienna, depending on the kind of event, the number of attendees can vary between 15 to 50.

We recently organised a mini retreat just outside Vienna, with both regular participants and new ones. Almost everyone got involved in putting the event together which made everyone feel like a big family.

Though we believe that the best way of getting people really involved is by focusing only on one to two people at a time. Generally these people will bring then two more each.

We wish you success in your events and a wonderful summer!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

June June June!!

What an absolutely fantastic month! Kicking off the month with our classic Moishe House book club, we all knew we were in for a month of incredible events!

The highlight event for me though, has to without a doubt be our Limmud style Jewish humour event. We started off the night watching some clips of the great classics in Jewish humour such as Jerry Seinfield, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and of course the old but great Woody Allen! We then had a discussion on what it is about Jewish humour that we really connect to individually. And we finished off the night playing a few games such as props and sherades. It truly was a fantastic night for everyone!

The end of June also brings about the start of the our winter holidays, which meant losing 2 house mates for a bit. The house has been a bit lonely for the last few days, but I do look forward to my house mates return and trust they have had relaxing holidays!

Until next time!
Ross Engers (Moishe House Cape Town)

Moishe House Buenos Aires - Julia

Different events seem to be successful in different ways... What makes an event successful? It depends on the type of event. But if we can answer ‘yes’ to most of these questions, then we have a ‘thumbs up’...

Did people have a positive experience? Did they feel welcome? Comfortable? Would they come back to the House? Will they tell their friends about it? Did we feel positive energy? Did they learn something new? Meet new people? Catch up with old friends? Enjoy themselves?

In general, making people feel welcome, comfortable and enjoy positive experiences are the most important things for us. One event that got it just right was ‘Dinner, Pictionary and Salsa dancing’. We ate delicious food, played games like Connect 4, Backgammon, card games and Pictionary and salsa-danced the rest of the night away.

Some key features that made the event successful were that we didn’t advertise the event to all 750 members on the MHBA Facebook group. Because of the nature of the event, we had to have a manageable number of people, so we invited 30 people, of whom 20 came for dinner and games and then a further 60 or so came later for the dancing. 20 people was about the critical mass needed for people to get to know each other over dinner and to enjoy playing the games together. The 60 others who came later had heard that there was an event on at the MH, so they came along to check it out, and made the dancing / party time even better!

The great thing about the games, especially Pictionary, was that everyone got involved in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. Pictionary was a great ice-breaker and allowed people to get to know each other’s names and to socialise with different people. Each person had to turn to draw something in front of everyone else for one minute. Once they had done that, talking to people wasn’t so hard! Different guests stepped up to organise different parts of the games which also enabled them to feel more part of the evening and more ‘at home’.

Another key factor was the great food, which the housemates made together J. Lots of approval from guests! And lastly, the music. Because we know that they go crazy for latino / reggaeton / salsa music, we made a playlist of these songs beforehand, rigged up the sound system and pressed ‘play’. Bingo. Happy campers.

An Evening with New Orleans Master Plan

An Evening with the New Orleans Master Plan

By: Gill Benedek
Soon to be Published in The NPN Trumpet

On June 18th, a group of young-professionals gathered at the Moishe House to review the New Orleans Master Plan. The Moishe House invited planners David Dixon and Raphael Rabalais from Goody-Clancy & Associates to join the Master Plan review session. Earlier this year, New Orleans’ a voted on a Charter Amendment that would give the Master Plan the "force-of-law" - thus making it a legally binding document that greatly influences zoning and policy decisions for the next twenty years. A Master Plan is a document that describes, through narrative, maps and other data an overall development vision for a city's future development. The master plan is used to coordinate the preparation of more detailed plans or may be a collection of detailed plans. The plan may be prepared by a local government to guide private and public development or by a developer on a specific project.

Currently weighing in at over 500 pages, the Master Plan is packed with data, historical analysis, land use maps and sweeping policy suggestions. The evening’s purpose was to offer an opportunity for an in-depth review of the current Master Plan draft. Out of the approximately 40 people in attendance, only a handful of the evening’s participants were raised in New Orleans. While this bolstered Goody Clancy’s hope and belief that the 23-35 age demographic will migrate to New Orleans, it also highlighted the existing divisions among New Orleans' Generation Y demographics.

After a 40 minutes overview of the Masterplan, the participants broke out into 3 groups to discuss their areas of greatest interest: land use, economic development and housing. Every table engaged in a lively discussion of the issues and were tasked with identifying the Master Plan policies they supported, challenging the Master Plan’s assumptions and suggesting new strategies.
As one participant that evening noted, “The master plan meeting was an incredible opportunity to meet directly with David Dixon and Raphael Rabalais who have worked on the master plan as well as other planning efforts in New Orleans.”

The following is a summary of points concluded by the breakout groups:

Land Use: The land use maps, ultimately one of the most important elements due to its influence on zoning, did not reflect the forward-thinking, bold revitalization suggestions discussed in other chapters. By suggesting more of the same, the land us maps only re-enforce a "status quo"for development rather than leading the coordinated, innovative and sustainable urban growth that the Master Plan recommends.

Housing: Being such a large issue, this group spent a good deal of time asking David Dixon further questions about housing policy in New Orleans. Common points that were echoed by the participants included strategic suggestions such as:
  • New city agency positions to interact as liaisons to neighborhoods.
  • Increase funding to important housing departments like NORA.
  • Raising city salaries to attract talented people to work in city hall.
Economic Development: Participants in the Economic Development acknowledged the interdisciplinary nature of improving New Orleans’ economy. Increasing investment in New Orleans’ public schools and university infrastructure was also acknowledged as a primary drive for a establishing a strong economic base for any city. Companies seek city’s that have reliable public education systems and a highly trained workforce . Participants felt that not enough funding serves alternative or vocational programs.

Monday, July 6, 2009

MH Cleveland- Naima

A successful Moishe House event can happen in a few different ways. There are a variety of components involved, not all of which need be present at a successful event. The first is attendance. I would break this into to categories: amount of people at the event, and attendance of new timers. Some events can be considered successful by measuring attendance alone. We had a Memorial Day Barbecue at the end of May with between 40 and 60 participants. Attendance alone made this an incredibly successful event for our house.  Not all successful events need to have new people, however, it is important that at least some of them do. If a number of events consecutively do not have any new participants than those events are less successful. 

Yet, smaller, more intimate events can be just a successful. A large crowd is not always necessary, however, I like to have at least fifteen people at an event. Here at the Cleveland House, we sometimes have many more, or a few less than 15. Often, more important than attendance is the level of engagement of the attendees. Are people enjoying themselves while participating in the activity? Are your guests having intimate, deep, meaningful, fun, entertaining, philosophical, or light hearted conversations? Do the attendees who met at your events ever connect out side of events, become friends, or date?

I think that our most successful event is having Shabbat dinner. We have a large dinner once or twice a month and normally have between 14 and 25 guests. Sometimes the dinners are themed and planed in advanced extensively, yet at other times, they end up being a bit more last minute. Our last shabbat dinner, in June, was very successful. I purchased all fresh ingredients at the West Side Market, a large open air farmers market here in Cleveland, and Sam and Ti cooked most of the faboulous food on the grill. The night culminated with everyone gathered in a circle drinking and talking around our giant hookah on the porch, under the stars. I think that the most important aspect of having a successful event is remembering to be the social lubricant between the guests. An experience for a person can be made or broken based on whether or not they feel some sort of social connection with someone else there.

Summer in Chicago

The month of June officially brought summer to the streets of Chicago and we here at the Moishe house Chicago have really taken advantage of the warm weather and the happy people. With longer evenings and mild weather on our side we always find it is a little bit easier to gather a crowd. We also make sure to take advantage of the free outdoor events going on in city everyday, such as a St. Vincent concert in Millenium Park we took in early in the month and a number of other festivals that we are planning to attend in July.

Our most successful events always seem to involve food and the outdoors. Be it BBQs or music in the park, summer really allows us to work on these great factors that lead to success. We find that success is not only measured in numbers, but of course the amount of conversation and time that people stay. Our Shabbat dinners are always the most enjoyable because our home is open to the multitudes and we put in a lot of effort to make delicious meals - a good meal will always bring people back.

As we enjoy these warm days, we have also been thinking a lot about our coming departure from the Moishe House world. It has been an incredible experience that we have shared together for the past 2 years, but life continues and new paths are calling and waiting to be discovered by each of us.

We are happy to report though that we have been talking with some members of the Chicago Moishe House community about taking over the House in the fall. Discussing our experiences with these possible future moishe house members has really allowed us to reflect on how much we have grown and learned over these past years. It was also very inspiring to hear their thoughts and hopes for what the next generation of Chicago Moishe House may be in the future. We hope to be as much help to them as possible, and are planning on making the most of the summer we have left.

Take it easy - MH Chicago

Busy as a Bee...:)

When thinking about my first two months living in Moishe House Philly, "Whew!" would have to be the first thing that comes to mind. Don't get me wrong-- I truly love living in MHP and I am already just about bursting with Moishe House pride. That being said, I feel as though I have been "busy as a bee" ever since I moved in.

Although my stuff is finally fully unpacked, I still feel as though I have some more settling in to do. For example, even though I love the fact that MHP's calendar is almost always packed with events, I am struggling somewhat to find time to make it to all of the events that I would like to attend. Once again, I'm not complaining at all-- after all, this week I get to practice yoga, go to a Matisyahu concert, and have a home-cooked Shabbat dinner in our house. To be honest, I really couldn't imagine a more exciting week. It's just that when you add on top of that all of the meetings we have and all of the emails, house chores, and picture-posting that must get done, things can become a bit hectic. 

For that reason, I am going to cut this first post a bit short. However, since I think that my feelings of being crazy-busy are just symptoms of being a newbie in a rather happening house, I am hoping to have more time to blog next quarter. Until then though, happy summer!  

Success...MHP Style

When it comes to putting on a successful Moishe House event, we at Moishe House Philly can’t help but get excited when a lot of people show up for one of our programs. For instance, we had a great Beach Bash recently, and there’s no denying that having so many eager-to-party guests made the night a blast. Yet, just as good things often come in small packages, sometimes even low-turnout events can be great success stories.  

The Relay for Life event that MHP participated in on June 26th is an excellent example of just that.  Although there were only eight of us at the event, we had some quality bonding time during the 12 hours we were there and we united as a team in our hand-decorated Moishe House t-shirts and hawaiian print bandanas. In fact, small but mighty would be the best way to describe our team. True, it would have been great if we had had more people on our team joining us in the fight against cancer, however our enthusiasm for the cause definitely made up for our small size. Plus, we even had two newbies on our team! 

In addition, by participating in the walk, we raised (and are still continuing to raise) a considerable amount of money for the American Cancer Society. This we accomplished through a number of different advertising methods. For example, we created a team page on the American Cancer Society's website, and then sent out emails and Facebook invites that linked people to our site so that they could either join our team or donate money on our behalf. To check out our team page, click here . . . and feel free to make a donation while you're at it!
As you can tell, there are many different ways of measuring success at MHP - while many people walk through our door for events, we also try to make sure those who come have a meaningful experience, especially in the more intimate events. We look forward to continuing our involvement in this way and working to better our community!

Moishe House St. Louis Asks, "What makes a successful event?"

For us, Moishe House St. Louis, a successful event is created by a combination of several factors.

First, who showed up? Did anyone new stop by? Did they make some good connections and potentially start to form some relationships? Did the regulars enjoy themselves?

We want to make sure that we are continually reaching out to new people so as not to become clique-y and so as to not become stagnant.

Second, did we create another bond towards strengthening the post-college Jewish community in St. Louis? Did people have a good time, and are they more likely to bring a friend?

A really successful event is one in which someone comes up to us and tell us how meaningful it was for them to find the Jewish community they had been missing in St. Louis, or that they really felt reconnected to their Jewish heritage through an event.

Moishe House isn't really rocket science. Create a welcoming environment, invite people to share it, and then encourage them to invite a few more people as well.

Moishe House Oakland---more than just free food

Joshua Walters from Moishe House Oakland Checks in...

Before Moishe House I used to think all you needed for a good party was lots of delicious food, but after throwing a couple events I've realized that while full bellies are important, for me, a successful event also incorporates laughter, silliness and sharing.

Just a regular BBQ where folks who I don't know or don't care for come to the house and eat up all the chicken and corn seems kind of hallow to me. I could just feed people, but privileged jews don't need a hand out, and in the end what was accomplished. We had an event a couple weeks ago that was just food and schmooze, and it felt OK, but it didn't feel great, because it didn't feel like people walked away with a better sense of where they lived.

Coming from a performing arts background, the events I host at the house are not just free food, but a chance for people to get to know one another by sharing there experience, weather it be hilarious or deeply personal. The Last event we had, Shabbat House Concert, was a complete success with comedians, singer/songwriters, storytellers and even a mime. The force of people's laughter completely shattered any social stiffness that a group of strangers might have. People who attended got to know a different side of the performers who shared, weather it be a sweet lullaby sung on the guitar or a story filled with love about about one's mom. This was an event that had a lot of sharing, and in turn a feeling of community.

Joel, Moishe House London

Of course what makes a successful Moishe House event, at least for those of us in Moishe House London, comes down to more than simply the number of attendees. That said, all our most successful events - the ones when we've looked back at the end of the night and said, "Wow, that was great, that's what we exist for" - have been when something's caught the imagination of the people out there and they've turned up in numbers. Maybe that's just the starting point...

It's hard to choose just one, but one which was certainly noteworthy was a special 'listening event' during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, in January. The reason I'm picking this one is that people said Moishe House London was the only place they knew that could have held such an event, and it was so needed.

The conflict had been going for weeks now and most people's engagement with it was filtered through the news (TV and print) and expressed via Facebook, where the polemic raged. We felt we should do something but also that it should be different, some kind of counterbalance to all this rage and thunder. Yet it also had to be real and useful, not just full of platitudes and good wishes. What we advertised was an event where people could come and say how they truly felt about what was going on, no matter what their opinion or politics, without fear of it escalating into an argument or shouting match. The question was, how to create a strong enough container to hold different views and how to stop people from shutting down when something is expressed that they find hard to hear?

That was key to the event - asking those questions in advance and planning our approach very carefully. We met and decided, I would run the event and explain from the outset that each participant is to speak for four or five minutes (depending on numbers in attendance) from the heart and for themselves only. It is everyone else's role simply to listen, without comment or reaction. Even when it is your turn to speak, refrain from picking up on previous speakers' points and stick to your honest and heartfelt take, in the moment, unplanned, secure that you too are being heard.

And the event really worked. There were about 25 people - not the biggest but a perfect number really for such an event - and a diversity of opinions. We like the fact that different kinds of people come to us and that night we hosted two Muslims as well as our usual Jewish contingent. Some spoke out in Israel's support. Others said they felt guilt and wanted to galvanise the Jewish community to do more for the Palestinians. Many felt torn. But after everyone had said their piece we held hands and sat in silence for a further five minutes, until I rang a bell to signal the end of the session. Afterwards people stuck around, mingled, chatted and came up to us to
say how much they'd appreciated the evening.

So yes, it was a certain depth of experience that made this event what it was, and a sense that what we were doing was necessary and uniquely Moishe House. We enjoy a freedom to be different, to keep dreaming up our ideal Jewish community events and making them a reality. How lucky we are.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Moishe House Hoboken, June 2009

What  makes a Moishe House event successful?  Is it the amount of people who attended?  No.   Is it the depth of experience for the participants?  Yes.  Is a successful event the Purim party that attracted 40-50 people or a Spiritual Salon that only attracted 10-15 people.  Both are successful events in their own right, but its not the quantity, it’s the quality of the event.   Our job is to create a quality Jewish community where people feel welcome and truly that they are a part of a community.

Our Spiritual Salons that we host on a monthly basis usually gets a smaller , more intimate crowd, with about 10-15 participants.  The spiritual salons have been a great way to discuss issues within the Jewish community and often lead to lively discussions.  By having a smaller crowd we are able to facilitate discussions, rather than a lecture, and people.  People leave the spiritual salons feeling energized and excited to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with other young Jews in their community, whether or not they share the same views.

All of our parties, poker nights, hookah nights, and Shabat dinners draw larger numbers and are in their own right successful events.  It gives people a chance to talk and socialize with one another and meet new people in the community.


What's New Moishe House Great Neck

Hello Moishe House Community,

I hope you are all having a good summer. We have experienced a lot of success with a couple of our events. Our poker night is great with a lot of regulars coming to this event every month. Last month was one of the most intense Poker games to date.

We also have had a lot of success with our Moishe House Monthly in theEmpire State Building. Last month we had way more new faces than ever before, and we constantly see how event truly inspires everyone that attends.

This month we are looking forward to another great month, and to Jeremy coming over for another stay.

Wishing you all a great week,

Moishe House Great Neck

MH Warsaw - june stories

In June we had few succeses, which are worth sharing and (hopefully) will be inspiring for someone's else activities. Biggest show-up succes and newcomers attracting was a documentary show and a meeting with the director. We heard about the artistic project considering Polish-Jewish relations - one of its effects was a documentary made by a Grzegorz Brzozowski, young polish director. We managed to get in contact with him and invite him to our MH. He was really enthustiastic about coming here and have a chance to discuss about his film with Jewish youth. Later, we just have to find someone who would lend us a projector - it turned out that it was harder than inviting the director, but fortunately we found one just the same day as the event. After the screening we had a discussion (firstly more formal, but later in a more informal atmosphere) with the director. Feedback that we got (both from visitors and director) was very positive and we are looking forward for the next open screening of some documentary considering jewish topics.
Second success was less 'artistic' - we got some Falafel packages from Israel and made a 'gastro-party'. Preparing it on our own made it even more tasty than usual. Fortunately, we didn't use all of the packs, so we hope to have a tasteful continuation soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What Makes a MHSF Event Successful?

Friday, July 03, 2009

First and foremost, an event is successful when everyone involved had a good time. Different people can "have a good time" in a number of ways, and that's why the I believe that a good event requires its creation born from a unique idea. Granted, some repeat events, like Shabbat, are wonderful staples that bring a consistent following, and at times new folks. However, I really think that the more peripheral and experimental events are the ones that make a difference between a good house and a great house. Getting a significant number of people to attend a relatively random idea, like Tuesday night Bowling, is a great accomplishment. The key to getting people to come is feeling out what others might want to attend, not necessarily what you'd like to be doing yourself as a house member. Appealing to your community's interests is difficult, because, at least in San Francisco, the folks coming to our events are quite different. We have people coming who could tell you every player in the major leagues, and folks also come who have no idea of the shape of a baseball. That's a stupid example, but it brings up the important point of the necessity of appealing to your community's interests. That said, while certain general recommendations are an excellent idea to follow, advice taken from another house must be understood with the caveat that everyone's audiences are different. I think everything that's been said in this blog is accurate, especially those emphasizing planning centered on thought and not necessarily action. I'd say think through an event and ask whether this is a realistic idea that at least a few people will want to attend. Good luck everyone...
# posted by Moishe House SF @ 12:07 AM

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Moishe House Seattle, July 2009

One factor that seems to make an event work well is choosing some activity that the local Jewish twentysomething community already wants to do, like outdoor activities (this varies seasonally, of course) and eating together. When we discussed the July prompt, it seemed pretty clear to us that while it's wonderful to attract a lot of people to an event, including new people, the number of attendees alone is hardly the reason an event is successful.

Our May and June kayaking trips are good examples of fun, seasonal events that got people out into the city, kept them active, and included a strong social element. (People went out in two-seater kayaks, which allowed for one-on-one bonding, and then we all had dinner together at Agua Verde, the Mexican restaurant that rents out the kayaks.) We had one kayak participant from Orange County who made it clear that we were successful. She was visiting Seattle and wanted to hang out with young Jewish adults, and she said that she wasn't really religious. She thought that kayaking was a great way to be with the community without the “how observant are you?” element.

Some people came just for the dinner, but most of the participants kayaked, and we got a range of people, from the naturally outdoorsy (Nicole) to the stubbornly indoorsy (Neal). While there wasn't anything specifically Jewish about the activity, any event that helps our community bond in such a fun, easy way can only enhance those times, such as the two Moishe House Shabbat dinners each month, when we DO gather Jewishly.

June 2009, MHDC

Hey big dreamers... so the prompt this month was to discuss what makes a moishe event a good event. It's a difficult question because I don't believe there is one answer. We have a number of events with different aims. Our shabbats are very large, ranging from 40 to 75 guests. I have much different goals for large events like these then I do for smaller events. In a large event, I feel it is most important to pace yourself as a host, and to make sure that all of the house stuff is being taken care of. For me, a successful large shabbat has more to do with the successful cooperation of all four of our house members than success has to do with the number of people who show up at our events. Here's the rub, if it feels to one house member that at a large shabbat dinner they are doing more work than other house members, then we build tension in our house. And frankly, that tension effects the way we do business. We often have trouble innitiating house work at large events, which leaves us as a group stressed out. Therefore, as odd as it seems, our ability to handle the work of a large event determines whether I think the event was a success or not.

I am a much bigger fan of our smaller events than i am of our larger events. The main reason for this is that I think the true work of our house is taken care of in our smaller events. One reason is that the community likely to show up at our smaller events are more dedicated to the idea of a Jewish community. The folk that show at our larger events are more likely to care about meeting someone, or even (to be more cynical) to go to a Jewish event in order to satisfy their mother or father's wishes. At smaller events we are able to cultivate actual relationships between ourselves and our community members. We are able to learn more about our members, and figure out what programs they might like to see happen. We also often have people or couples meet other people or couples at our smaller events. For this reason, at a smaller event, say 10-15 non moishe house members, a successful event is one where we have set up an environment in which people can cultivate friendships (and maybe more). For instance, we recently took a trip to Georgetown to go kayaking. It took a lot of organizing. We had to find a place with enough boats, we had to find a place to meet everyone, and we had to do it all at 9:45 in the morning because there weren't any boat houses that had reservations. Anyway, I forget if it was 10 or 12 people who showed up. And it was a whole lot of fun, but the great thing was that people were swapping partners in boats, getting to know people they hadn't ever met before, and having a great time doing it. In turn, as the organizer I could sit back, go boat to boat and say hi, but mostly after the organizing the event ran itself.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"S- U-C-C-E-S-S..! ..Thats the way we spell Success!" ;)

Please take some time to discuss what makes a successful Moishe House event. Is it the amount of people who attended? Is it the depth of experience for the participants? Use a recent event that you feel was a success to illustrate your measure of a successful Moishe House event and the process your house went through that led it to be successful.

Many things play a role when considering what factors make an event successful. Although attendance numbers are important (to a certain degree), we do not feel that it is the most important piece of the "successful" puzzle.
We must consider... Moishe House's purpose is to bring the young-adult Jewish community closer together and get them to truly want to be involved... When comparing an event with 20 people that had an "okay" time but left with no real desire to attend another event... to one with a total of 6 people that had a great time and could not wait for the next MH event... it seems obvious that the 2nd event is the successful one because our main goal/purpose was fulfilled. We try to concentrate on making sure that people take away only the best and most positive experiences/feelings of the actual event, our Moishe House, and the entire organization as a whole. Although the first event had greater attendance, it did not help in reaching our goal and could actually hinder us from doing so. We all know Jewish people love to talk :) so word of mouth is very important.. It is much better to have 6 people saying wonderful things about us, then to have 20 people saying not so wonderful things about us and ultimately hindering other people from attending a future event. For these reasons and many more, we feel that the most important factor of a successful event are the relationships we help build and the experiences we help to create for our Jewish community.
Our Shabbat dinners have been a true success in accomplishing the above criteria. Although it takes a lot of work, preparation, frustration, and concentration :) ,the end result makes everything well worth it. We make sure that everyone is involved in the event in some way, which makes them feel wanted and shows them we care that they are present. Each month, the attendance at our Shabbat dinners increase as more and more people become aware of what we are and what we do...and we hope that this becomes a constant trend!