Monday, August 31, 2009

Problem Solved!

As we all know, the world is not perfect and despite all of our hard work, great intentions, excellent communication, etc etc.. issues may arise when we least expect it or even as we expected... either way.. it is important to realize that in order to stay as a functional and positive Moishe House , these issues must be resolved immediately in whatever way is most appropriate.. An issue we were recently faced with revolved around communication and scheduling. We all have lives outside of Moishe House- some more demanding than others..and often times forget about the fact that MH is a job as well and should not be shrugged aside.. With both of our schedules being so dramatically different, we found it hard to be able to schedule a time that was good for the both of us to actually sit down and dedicate 100% of our time and attention to MH. In result, we had a misunderstanding in regards to a few of the scheduled events for that month. We knew that this problem could not be a repetitive one so we decided that regardless of how busy, hectic, chaotic, etc. our schedules may be, we would schedule a time to sit down and plan the upcoming MH events. The following month, we did just as we had planned and scheduled a definite time to meet. We found that this helped eliminate the problem had the month prior and were both on the same page in regards to the upcoming events and what was expected from the both of us for every event.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ari from MHSF

I just read that Joe and the rest of the Chicago crew are passing the torch to a new bunch of folks. For those of you that haven't had the pleasure of meeting them, they're awesome. I got to hang out with them at the retreat last year in Santa Barbara, and we had a great time. After the retreat Joe and his housemates sent us at MHSF a large box with all the requirements for making an authentic Chicago-style hot dog. Literally everything necessary was in the box. Buns, hot dogs, mustard, and all sorts of stuff that absolutely exploded inside the box and made the postman probably think it was a biological attack. I'm still using the mustard!

During the summer we've had about 15 visitors from all over the world stay in our extra bedroom, and all of them heard about us through some Moishe House connection. I love visitors, especially foreign ones, and they all think Moishe House is amazing. Hearing their positive feedback on Moishe House makes me realize how successful of an organization Moishe House can become internationally. As well all know, that'll take money. I'd encourage all of you to please donate on the Moishe House site. If you can think about the opportunities afforded by the privilege of being a Moishe House resident, a donation of 25 dollars is well worth it. And of course vote for David.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Programming for Sustainability at MHDC (house blog)

There came a time last spring where those of us who had been in the house for a while were feeling a bit fed up with our big Shabbats. Sure, they’re always entertaining – 50+ people, wine, great food and good company. But hosting these Shabbats was beginning to feel like somewhat of an ordeal – rather than enjoying the food, good company, etc., we spent much of the Shabbat running around and making sure that other people were enjoying themselves, floating from conversation to conversation, not getting to talk to any one person for very long. As our Shabbats grew bigger, the task of managing them became more all-consuming. Given that Shabbats are really the cornerstone of the MHDC community, it was important for us to figure out a way to bring the joy and excitement back into these dinners. Before living in MHDC, I myself was a regular Shabbat attendee, and I so valued the laid-back atmosphere, the interesting people, the openly but not aggressively Jewish environment – we all understood that these events were of value to our whole community, and it was important for us to figure out a way to make them less of a chore and more of a community building endeavor.

So we decided to schedule one small, invite-only Shabbat each month in addition to our large, open Shabbat. This allows us to get to know new members of our community, to reconnect with people who perhaps haven’t been by in a while, to spend time with our good friends as well as new and potential friends. For our house, I feel that this has made our system of Shabbats sustainable – more rejuvenating than stressful. We can really take time to appreciate each other, the community we’ve built and the religious directive within Judaism to really and truly take a break from the everyday work of living. It makes us feel more connected to our community and more connected to Shabbat.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Joe in Chicago

Hi Everyone,

Looks like this will by my last post on this fine blog, as MHCHI gets ready to pass on the torch to a new Chicago house starting in September 1st (in our old house!). I'll hide some manischewitz in the ceiling tiles for you, new chicago moishe house.

It's been a pretty great two years. Crazy to think it's been that long. Also by far the best documented two years of my life. Thinking back on who I considered part of my community when we started this thing two years ago helps me realize just how far this thing has gone. Thanks to everyone here in Chicago who has helped make these last two years great.

Once we all move out, we're all actually going to continue to live close to each other and a good amount of our current community. Besides coming to the new house's activities, we also have been planning on continuing to have shabbats at each others' houses, a different house each month. I'm really looking forward to this. This is the type of thing that we probably would not have organically come to if it wasn't for seeing the value of these events these past years. I really hope we can keep that going and keep this community present.

The new house is going to be great, so if anyone comes to Chicago, look them up!

Bye everyone, and thanks for doing what you do.

- Joe

MHSS - A struggle, its resolution, & what we've learned

Lesson Learned - Please describe an instant where your house has had an issue (e.g. trouble with events, house dynamics, logisitics etc.) and discuss how the house resolved the issue, and what was learned.

Event, situation: Food Justice BBQ - planning, implementing, execution, wrap-up
Struggle, lesson: planning, communication clarity, strong / clear structure for execution

On Sunday, August 9th, MHSS -- with the support of several other local Jewish / environmental / social justice organizations -- hosted a Food Justice Barbeque featuring local, organic, hechshered-kosher foods from several area farms and production facilities. Foods and drinks were purchased directly from the farmers themselves, local farmers' markets, local food co-ops and the Silver Spring Whole Foods, prepared by residents and a cadre of invaluable volunteers. We used reusable or otherwise eco-friendly utensils, etc., and composted and recycled what we could, producing very little waste. Speakers and representatives from Shomrei Adamah, Kayam Farm, AVODAH/AJWS, KOL Foods, and Within Reach Movie spoke with attendees about various moral, ethical, environmental, and religous issues related to our eating choices, about creating sustainable communities through the choices we make, and about their own personal journeys and experiences in pursuit of a happier, healthier, more just world. The event was featured in the August 12th issue of Washington Jewish Week (article here) and may be featured as well in Within Reach Movie (, a film documenting 100 sustainable communities in the continental United States. The event was responsible for feeding and educating the approximately 80 people who packed our back patio and house -- from ages severl months to several decades -- about the possibilities, local opportunities, and philosophies regarding kosher, organic, sustainable eating choices.

All in all, not bad.
Actually, I'm pretty proud of ourselves.

But we could still use some work.

Areas of [Future] Improvement
Issue: Cluelessness
I (Rachael) was away during the crux of planning; so, I walked into a show already in motion, treading gingerly so as not to trample reigning decisions, hinder plans already underway, disrupt ongoing dialogue, or impose upon busy schedules. Our house meeting initially scheduled for the week prior to the event was canceled due to last-minute developments. In retrospect, we concluded we could sure have used a house meeting dedicated solely to the food justice BBQ at some point during that week; but at the time, busy schedules and collective blissful ignorance usurped any such plans.

It wasn't until I fell into a chance conversation with Lindsay on Shabbat afternoon -- less than 24 hours until the masses would descend, less even still until the time by which food and space prep should be well underway -- that I realized just how little had been decided upon or was in place for the next day. Where would we get enough meat serving bowls, platters, and utensils; knives, cutting boards, cooking dishes, pitchers, etc.? (Apparently, we had secured none of these things; we couldn't use what we currently owned, for our kitchen is primarily dairy.) Who was volunteering for what and when? At what time were the representatives from the co-sponsoring organizations arriving? Were they coming early to help out? Were we going to collect money for tzedaka -- a food-justice-related organization, perhaps? How would we designate what was to be trash, what was to be composted, and what was to be washed for future use -- and how would we collect each? And so on. And when Lindsay left for the five thousandth or so time to pick up more food for the event from yet another local market or co-op, I wondered (feeling a bit helpless and out of the loop): why is Lindsay doing all this work?

Communication; Clear structure in place; Distribution of duties
Issue: unbalanced workloads, ambiguous / vague roles / duties, and unfulfilled expectations

New & Improved -- Next Time
We had a house meeting a few days later at which we recounted both the virtues and the detriments of the event. We took turns, allowing each person their full opportunity to speak. Each person highlighted successes as well as areas ripe for fixing. Each person used positive, all-encompassing language, not singling out in hostility or, as folks love to say, finger-pointing. (No name-calling, either, for that matter.) Our sharings covered a lot of ground, including the following: (I'll try to represent everyone's various misgivings / lessons equally and accurately)

- Communication: point person seeks out others involved in the day's execution; informs all of updates: what's secured, what remains to be accomplished, who will do what, etc.; requests assistance as needed. This to happen in the weeks and days before the event; by day of event, all should know what is where, who is doing what, etc.
- Communication: all involved in day's execution ask proactively the status of things & how they can be helpful.
(Seems more efficient for main person to assume the active role and disseminate information to all simultaneously, so that all are on same page, get info. at same time, and can learn from one another's questions and answers, and also so that point person does not have to remember and repeat info. several times over as s/he updates each "executioner." However, proactivity is good and useful.)
- Planning: All needed materials are determined and secured in the weeks preceding the event; label purpose of each and store in location others know.

- Breakout sessions: "wish had gone better"
Clearer intention: who is reviewing what topic? Where will breakout session be located? Better spaces created for breakouts. Also: is this a "requirement", or do we not mind if people choose to socialize instead? If "requirement", must more clearly build into structure of event.
- Make lists / figure out details much more in advance
- Delegation & delegators: who is point person for which pieces of the event? Who knows or will figure out what is needed and will have "authority" to assign responsibilities? Then: do it! & check in with people periodically, at pre-determined intervals and also casually.
- Checklist of what needs to be done to be posted in days preceding event and also checklist to post day of event to be referred to by all involved in event execution -- so all can track what needs to be done still, what is accomplished, who may need help, etc.
- Designate and physically separate food & materials into piles w/ signs for clarity (so everything is collected into one place for each purpose for which its needed and no need to hunt it out)
- Schedule more time for prep when event follows a Shabbat that ends late
- Volunteer structure arranged in advance & available to all head point people and housemates
- Assign captains in charge of each category of what needs to be accomplished; make clear who is captain of which category: introduce them to helpers & executors, provide nametags if necessary, & add to posted checklist for easy reference. This person responsible for successful execution of said category, incl. problem solving / troubleshooting. Helpers responsible for checking in with their assigned captain, and with other caps once first cap. says all's clear for their category of work to be done.
- Volunteer expectations clear -- duties, timeframes / timeliness (cap. can cover details)
- Outdoor space prepped as much as possible in the week preceding event so that only touch-ups are left for day of & energies can be focused on the prep that could not be taken care of prior
- Clearly assigned roles, timeframes, & deadlines of duties to be taken care of, pre- & post-event
- Clear communication between housemates of personal needs & group expectations
- With an event this large, hold at least one meeting just about this event, probably best during week preceding event; all housemates who will be at event are present at meeting; perhaps volunteers in attendance, too
- Raising money @ event: determine whether will collect & decide upon recipient much ahead of time; make clear the intended acceptance of tzedaka: announce verbally & with signs the intention to collect, recipient organization, & location of tzedaka box

And there you have it!

For a complete list of and supplemental information about participating co-sponsors, organizations, suppliers, and speakers, feel free to visit our Food Justice entries at

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Moishe Nola attacks each month's activities by creating a financial pro forma and executive workflow matrix. Actually, no. We'd like to be so exacting but the actual monthly responsibilities have a more flexible nature. In terms of Moishe House events, we tend have 3 established events (jewish learning, movie night, broadmoor activity) which we each select to lead its implementation. Shabbat Potluck is always a joint effort amongst all the house members. We also seek partnerships from jewish or volunteer groups that may want to join us for Shabbat.

We definitely leverage our respective strengts and assets. Jeff Prussack for example is a whiz with flyer design, facebook event creation and general design intiatives. Jon Graboyes utilizes his connection to the Broadmoor neighborhood group to expand community participation. Gill Benedek will often extend partnership invitations to existing organizations or leaders such as with the Jewish Learning series and Sukkot Build. Our combined communication networks are quite deep in the New Orleans community.

Lastly, while we wish that we did house meetings on the same day every week, our schedules are so busy that it often becomes difficult. Usually a house meeting twice a month helps us discuss our goals, which we then continue to implement through the Moishe Nola patented PunchList that outlines the specific tasks to complete.

But somehow, we make it all work

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ilana Schuman-Stoler MH Chicago; FINAL POST!!

Well, it's that time and I'm sad to say that after two wonderful years, I must bid Moishe House farewell. I am excited about the future to come, but I also feel a bit sentimental when I think back upon the past couple years and all the things we've been able to do with Moishe House.

We started with a great spark and really have been able to carry that spark throughout our time here and I am so happy to have been able to participate in this program and to see it grow. The MH staff has worked hard since the inception of this program to master this realm of fundraising and non-profiteering and have made some amazing connections with extraordinary funds and donors that greatly helped MH succeed and become what it is today.

The coolest thing about leaving the Moishe House here in Chicago is that I already know that it doesn't end here. I have so many exciting opportunities in the future to look forward to, including being an accepted member in this year's PLP midwest hub and applying to graduate school in Non-Profit Management and possibly moving to another city but I will do all these things with Moishe House as a real now deep and influential part of my journey.

I will leave you all with that. For those of you who are new to the program good luck and remember to have fun! To the people I've met in the past who I may not see again, it's been nice knowing you and keep on keeping on. To the staff, thank you so much for your support and you are all great people who are truly capable of taking this thing far.



Moishe House Chicago GROUP BLOG!!

Here at the Moishe house chicago, we would not work if we were not a team and our house meetings are a key part of our organization and overall ' MHC flow' When we first began as a house we were meeting once a week to discuss our events and our visions. Over the past two years as we learned what our own strengths were and as we began understanding the way that we work together, we have been able to cut down on the amount of meetings and have one every three weeks or so. The leader of each meeting changes each time, and as the round of e-mails go out to figure out a time that works for everyone, everyone is also encouraged to add any discussion topics or issues they have to the meeting agenda document that we keep available to everyone using google docs. The meetings often begin with a 'check-in' where each person clues the others in on how they are feeling at the moment. Understanding that not everyone is always on the same page in terms of stress, sleep, and interest is key to figuring out how to best balance each other so as to work as a better team. The leader of the meeting then delegates the meeting and the agenda as they see fit addressing events and organizational details that need to be figured out by the group tends to be a large part of the meeting. Because of the great number of events that we do and the number of people we are, we find it best to divide the responsibilities of the events. Each event is delegated mostly to two people. If it is a larger event, it is assumed that everyone attending will help out, but for smaller events, those two people who signed up for the event tend to take on most of the responsibilities in terms of planning, leading, and documenting. Occasionally we have a member of the community take on an event, but mostly we leave it up to us. We have really been lucky in our ability to trust each other to share our responsibilities, we honestly could not have made these past two years without each other.

MH Oakland: Teamwork

All four of us here at Moishe House Oakland are relatively new to Moishe, and all of us are pretty busy. This is why it is so important that all of us come together at least a couple times a month for a sit-down meeting to talk about our programming and where it is taking us as a house and as a Moishe organization. We get together at the beginning of the month with our "Extreme Ironing" calendar to present and brain-storm the monthly events. Our house requires 7-8 events each month so each person is responsible for hosting at least 2 events each; this isn't to say that all of us are open to programming suggestions and help from one another. Aside the event planning meeting at the beginning of each month, we try to schedule a little "Us Time" where we all get together for a movie or a meal and talk about our concerns, ideas, critiques and what-have-yous. So far, we haven't involved any "community members" in these discussions, but in the future, we'd be more than open to it. Most of us here are just getting used to life in Moishe, and as of today, our monthly goal is simply to incorporate as much Jewish-based events as possible into our programming.


Russian Moishe House Home in Chicago

Here at the Moishe House we consider ourselves both teammates and roommates. In other words, it is imperative that we take care of each other and ourselves. Throughout the week we are very busy with our personal and professional lives. As a result, we have found that a couple of systematized task lists are of tremendous benefit.

Every Sunday we have a two hour meeting. Although we have yet to figure out the flow of our agenda, we are making incredible progress. I begin our meetings with a breath and concentration module that allows us to align our cognitive focus in the right direction. In other words, come Sunday afternoon and we are all on different sleep cycles. By taking this time together as a team we level the emotional and energetic playing fields.

The household tasks are divided based on daily activities. Every day we are responsible for an appointed chore. These tasks include unloading the dishwasher, wiping down the counters, sweeping, and taking out the trash. Living in a luxurious home involves a great deal of responsibility. We all are go getters and have reached an agreement to keep our home clean.

As far as the Moishe House activities, we create choreography at the beginning of the month. This involves looking at all the dates and events and piecing the puzzle together. Now we are trying to coordinate our social events with our cleaning lady. Since we are all unique members of this house, each one of us brings various strengths to the table. As a result, we all have gravitated towards the various levels of events and classes.

I have a yoga mediation background and an am interested in emotional learning and social awareness. My roommates all are amazing people who enjoy Jewish learning, social networking and being fun. Since we are becoming community leaders we are finding the benefit in possible collaborations. I am so thankful for this experience and love living with these dudes. Please stop by and share with us in the magical Moishe House experience.

Moishe House OC- Team "The Real Houseniks of Orange County"

Welcome everyone to Moishe House Orange County’s first house blog! This month we are blogging about being a team.

Team dynamics is a great topic that we are excited to share our insight and experiences about, from our first month as the Moishe House Orange County Team. It is amazing to look back on our first month and see how much we have already learned and grown from the programs we planned and implemented, all the while living together! It has been a wonderful learning experience for all of us and we cannot wait to continue growing and learning throughout this fun, unique, innovative journey and learning opportunity we have been provided by the Moishe House organization.

Responsibilities are divided amongst the three of us. We are all still discovering which roles we want to have in the House. Although we have only been together as a House for a month, we are learning, growing, and finding our roles, responsibilities, and voices quickly and effectively as a team. Rae is responsible for Facebook planning and advertising, and public relations (newsletters and more). Rae’s expertise in public relations has already publicized Moishe House Orange County throughout the Jewish community in Orange County and beyond! Adam is in charge of putting our programs on the public calendar and updating our database of all who have participated in Moishe House Orange County experiences and programs. Our database system is essential, so that we can track things such as how many new participants there are and how many participants are returning to our programs. Justin has taken on the role of updating the Mintranet by adding pictures, descriptions, and participant numbers for each program. Dividing roles and responsibilities has been a learning experience and something we are all still learning about.

The three of us are all been responsible for planning and owning our own unique Moishe House Orange County programs, while also supporting one another’s programs and working together on the larger programs. The three of us have different personalities, which allows each one of us to add our own spices, flavors, and interests to the House. This will be quite healthy and beneficial for Moishe House Orange County and our target population, as our different personalities and “spices” have already and will continue to lead to diverse, interesting, and empowering programs each month that will engage a broad spectrum of the target population and create a vibrant community. Some of our various upcoming programs include wine tasting, book club, lively Torah learning and discussion, outdoor activities, spiritual yoga, and a social action project. The three of us all have prior experience in planning programs for different Jewish communities, and thus building vibrant Jewish communities. Our programming experience has worked to our advantage in this first month and will beyond with Moishe House in being able to plan and run diverse, engaging, and empowering programming for the 20-something Orange County Jewish community.

The first month of Moishe House Orange County served as a platform for the community to learn about Moishe House and its residents. A number of community members have already bought into the “Moishe House” idea, so we are already receiving a lot of input and ideas from our growing community members about what type of programs they would like to see and even own. For example, a community member musician, Jacob Martin, wants to play an acoustic show at our House that he thinks will get the community excited about, so he is now playing a huge show at our House in August! Other community members are excited also about leading future programs such as challah baking, yoga, kosher cooking lessons, and jam sessions. We are excited that there are already a number of community members who are interested in Moishe House and want to take an active role in shaping and growing the organization in Orange County into the type of community they want to build and be a part of.

Our Moishe House team has weekly meetings to discuss upcoming programs and reflect on past programs and how we can use these previous programs to improve and strengthen future Moishe House Orange County programs and opportunities. One interesting concept that was brought up in our first conference call as a House is that we are constantly working as a team to plan Moishe House programs, but not spending enough time just enjoying being each other’s roommates yet. We have not found the balance between communal living/programming and just being friends and roommates, yet. One of our near future goals: to find the balance between Moishe House, and just being friends and roommates. This next month, we are looking forward to simply learning about each other more and growing as friends, while at the same time continuing to plan and implement innovative, exciting, engaging, and empowering programs for the Orange County 20-something Jewish population.

Speaking of goals, another thing we discovered on our first conference call is that we have been so caught up in the logistics of programming we have not yet set short- term nor long- term goals for the House and for ourselves. Some goals we would like to consider and set for the future include: how to create and incorporate meaningful experiences in our programs; how we want to grow as leaders and humans; where we would like to take our community to; the number of participants (new and returning) we strive for in our programs and retention rates.

Being a part of Moishe House Orange County, and the larger Moishe House organization has been an interesting, exciting, fun, empowering, learning experience after only a month! It is an empowering feeling, to be able to build a community the way that we envision and desire. We cannot express how excited we are to continue growing as individuals, community members, and leaders through Moishe House. This upcoming month is going to be great, and we can tell you there are tons of great programs coming to Orange County as we continue to grow as a team and build a vibrant community of 20-something Jews in Orange County.

Moishe House Orange County Team!

Moishe House Cape Town - House Dynamics

NIce to be back :) July...

Hey Moishe people!

I was always wondered how many people in the world are reading our blogs.
Moishe House Capetown. If you are then hello :)
So..How can we sum up month July?

I must say that it was quite a different vibe during June- July in Moishe House and the young-adult Jewish community here in South Africa. Many people were on vacations and traveling around, taking a break from life ;)
Even I came back after a wonderful visit in Israel, Gabi got back after a long vacation in different areas in SA and Ross? he was chilling in his room.

Anyway, it was great to come back, see the Moishe House members and run events about Jewishness, Tikun Olam, Zionism and some classic fun.
It seems that people missed our usual Moishe gathering and there was a cool - fresh vibe in the air. Like I said, nice to be back :)

Capetown is quite rainy, but the summer is getting here..August is around, we have some nice ideas for the second half of year and we're ready to take MH Capetown another step forward!

Wish you all the best,
and if you still reading this blog then goodbye ;)

House Dynamics - MH Buenos Aires

We are a happy Moishe House, we try to work as a team when we program the activities for the next month. We have a moishe meeting the 3 of us where we divide the budget in the different events,and we try to put a date for them and usually there is one person who want to do the event and is mainly responsible for it.

Then as we live together we have a lot of informal meetings in the entrance of the bathroom, the kitchen or the living room... in those we offer help in the organization of the week responsibility and we also share house things that have to be done (like paying the electricity or taking care of the shopping for food).Also when the event is done,the person in charge of it upload the pictures and the recipes.

Once every two or three months we arrange a meeting with people who come regularly to the events,and talk with them about what´s the best to do next,how to involve new people to our community and topics in relationship with improving our performance.And sometimes they are in charge of the events.for example we had a Games party which was done in collaboration with community members.

Julia is very effective and productive,so she is most of the times taking care of the administrative part.Guido has a lot of connections in the city and knows a lot about Jewish identity,so he is the one who most of the times organize shiurim and events about Jewish learning.Axel is a great cooker and he is involved in wellness movement,so he is in charge of bringing peace to the house,he organizes nutrition talks,cooking sessions,and yoga.
in fact,we are a great team.every month we are learning more and more about us,knowing better each other and we are like a family .-)
Bye everybody

Rachael - MHSS

Israel is on my mind.
I just got back (well, two weeks ago) from another trip there, this time for a month (not long enough!) as a staff member for a BBYO teen tour. I am grateful to be able to experience Israel from a completely different perspective and in an entirely different role from one trip to the next. Surprisingly (to myself, although I don't really know why, looking back at the trips I've been on), this trip incldued a lot that I've never before seen or done. It was really great on both a personal level and a community level to have so many new experiences myself and to see / participate in parts of Israel that were almost as new for me as they were for some of the others. (I say "almost" because I appreciate now how much of a difference is made by basic surroundings in how familiar or foreign an experience can feel; and now that I am familiar with Israel, the newness of the never-before-seen-or-done is much less jarring. From my own past experience, I can appreciate and relate to the fact that, whereas this was cool new stuff for me, for some of them it was more like cool new stuff on Mars.)

I did have one slightly shocking new-for-me experience, and that was:
leading shacharit services
during our first Shabbat
for 45 kids,
2 other North American staff,
and 1 Israeli tour guide,
for most of whom (students) this was a weird, foreign practice
(-- "I haven't been to temple since my bar mitzvah" --)
and to several of whom every utterance of Hebrew was, "oh my gosh this is soooo Jewish"
sitting in the blazing sun
without a plan
without a script
with only a hidden-until-exposed well of Jewish-services knowledge
(kind of like that song on the radio you haven't heard in a decade that you couldn't state the words to if you tried, but all the right words seem to come out at just the right time as you sing along)
and my [so-glad-to-have-acquired] comfort / lack of fear at being in front of a group of students
having no real idea what I'm going to say.

Improv Shacharit

It was amazing.
And I don't mean, "wow, this was, like, totally the best shacharit ever; *damn* I'm good!"
I mean "amazing" as in, this is me, the one for whom services is, let's say, not a strong point -- I really don't know what comes in what order, when to sit or when to stand (I need stage directions!), what is repeated aloud and how many times, what is said silently and where to pick up communal verbality. I'm never the one leading services at home; I'm usually participating from afar (by a few feet) while taking care of last-minute Shabbat dinner preparations in the dining room. And here we were, Shabbat morning, setting up the chairs, going, "What are we going to do about services? Should one of us lead? What's going on?" Next thing you know, I'm up, drawing from my exposure to the communal davening of three of the four Jewish communities in which I am most active: the two Jewish communities in which I teach -- my inclusion in both stemming from a connection made through MHSS -- and our monthly Shabbat services at MHSS.

It's so interesting to me when I take notice of my own growth, when I recognize skill sets and behaviors, thought processes and areas of comfort and confidence previously undeveloped (or simply, obliviously, absent). Time and again I find myself in a situation in which I recognize, very clearly, that my arrival to that place and time, that the connection, my experience, my ability to contribute, can be credited to my involvement with MHSS.

Thank you, Moishe House.

Moishe House Great Neck

Hey Guys,

I hope everyone is doing well. At Moishe House Great Neck we have found that its best to have each one of the members focus on a specific part of each event. Some of us will handle the marketing, and others will work behind the scenes. Even though our responsibilities are divided, in the end everything seems to work out smoothly.

Interestingly, when we chose to divide the responsibilities, everyone seemed to naturally choose based on there strengths. For example some of our members are great cooks, and they handle the cooking for Shabbat programs, while others have the talent to promote the events. We try to have a house meeting once a month, and during the meetings we mainly discuss our calender, and what type events we should have.

Finally, I believe our greatest success has been the involvement of our community members in our programs. At Moishe House Great Neck we have really established a deep connection with the Rabbis in our community. Whether its a discussion over Shabbat lunch or a full Shabbaton weekend, working with the Rabbis in our community has truly strengthened our programs and the impact it has on our guests. One example is Rabbi Asher Vaknin, we are truly blessed to have such a great Rabbi who really knows how to connect with the post college Jew.

Wishing you Happy Tu B'Av (Jewish Valentine's Day),

Moishe House Great Neck

Moishe House London - House Dynamics

"Moishe House London normally has one big Monthly meeting towards the end of each month to plan and decide on the next month's programmes.

We definitely rely on the proactive attitude of each housemate. When a housemate comes up with an idea, it is generally them that drive that programme. They will then enlist the help of another housemate or someone within our Moishe community to make the idea a reality.

The suggestions generally come from a housemates interests and abilities. If someone was to suggest a programme that they themselves were not capable of running, it would most likely to be suggested with another housemate in mind and to be discussed.

We will often have community members offer up ideas for events and come in and run them along with a housemate.

At each event we have 2 housemates to be there. The 1st will be the person driving the idea, the 2nd there to assist in any necessary activity to ensure the smooth running of the programme.

We also try and have bi-weekly breakfast meetings or weekly if an event is coming up that needs to be discussed.

I have lived here for 5 months and think that the dynamic and systems employed by Moishe House London are great and ensure a harmonies house that get things done.

It is at this point that I must apologise to our American counterparts, as you may have noticed that we do spell 'Programme' rather differently!

Best wishes and Moishe Love,

Brett and the Moholo crew,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

MHDC: "The weaponry, the secret recipe"

According to those intimately familiar with the genesis of Moishe House DC—a house fashioned by a motley crew of childhood friends—programming has always been characterized by a very organic, natural, uncontrived feel, with responsibilities rarely directly assigned. In the three years since, a number of Moisheniks have moved on and others moved in, myself included. In that time, there has been a tacit understanding that everyone is responsible for an equal share, both programmatically, and in terms of maintaining a livable environment. We all understand that if you’re not doing your share, then someone else is.

Program development tends to be up to each individual housemate. This works well at MHDC, as we all have rather different strengths and areas of interest, knowledge, and passion. As a child of a Labor Zionist movement, this resonates with me; I was raised on—and continue to believe in—the principle: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” For instance, I’ll be the first to admit my lack of interest in active, sports-related programs (yes, I was that kid, with the rock and stamp collections) though fortunately, another housemate is, and we’ve had successful cycling and boating programs recently. Likewise, while not everyone in the house is hard-wired with a love of Jewish expressive programming, it’s an area that I am interested in exploring, both on my own, and with Moishe House community members. In short, our success is often the result of the fact that we all bring very different things to the table, and are thus able to appeal to a diverse array of young Jews in DC.

While we tend to work solo (with the definite exception of Shabbat, which requires all hands on deck,) a housemate will often team up with non-housemate community members. An emphasis is often placed on working with community members to conceive and build programs, exemplified recently by our jam session and sock monkey-making. By actively engaging others in the process of our house, we cultivate community members as equal partners, and grow a healthy community.

MHDC meets in-person once a month to outline a tentative monthly schedule, to bounce program idea off one another, and to discuss general “business”— house cleanliness, whether or not it’s time to repurpose our rotting furniture, etc. As we are all inordinately busy day-to-day, and our schedules are usually out-of-sync, most of the rest of our planning and business takes place electronically. This seems to work quite well, and while we do email frequently, the minimal time spent discussing programs seems to prevent the frustrations that certain houses experience through overthinking, or spending too much time on process.

On a bittersweet note, Adam Cramer—a founding father of MHDC—moved out today. We’ll miss Adam, and we welcome the newest DC Moishenik, Sarah Lawson, to our humble home.

Moishe House Cleveland - August 2009

So in Moishe House Cleveland, we have four residents. Myself, Naima, Shiah, and Ti. It can sometimes be challenging to get all of us together in the same place to work things out. Me, Shiah, and Ti all work at the same place which can make it even more challenging. But when we all do get together, we make decisions lickety-split and end up with quality programming. Generally speaking, each of us performs one of the tasks online that is required for documentation. With four of us living here, it makes that division very easy. As far as tasks within the house and involved in the leading of events, we each have our own strengths. Ti is a performance artist by background and tends to lead events that involve the arts in our community. Naima leads arts events as well and also often cooks Shabbat dinners. Shiah is a cook by background and his events are more along the lines of culinary Judaism and also movies. I have a fairly good Jewish background (Jewish day school K-12) so I end up leading most of the religious/spiritual events or anything that requires any knowledge of Hebrew. We also have events that involve video games, hanging out, or just having a good time that any/all of us can be at. I feel like we work together pretty well to play to each others' strengths in order to make our programming as diverse as our community requires.
Usually, towards the end of a month, we begin talking to our community about what they would like to see in programming for the next month and beyond. We try to take as many suggestions as we can and make them happen. Sometimes, it's hard to make things happen within the scope of our monthly programming. We had some difficulties in getting away from the house for events (especially in the cold of the winter) but summer has been better and has made events and being in other places easier.
We try to meet up together at least once a month, in addition to our monthly conference call with Moishe House HQ. Generally speaking, we have a very good relationship between us due to our close friendships.

MH Hoboken-July Blog

Our house works well together when it comes to the planning and executing of events as well as completing the technical aspects (mintranet). At the beginning of each month we sit down for a meeting to plan our calendar for the upcoming month. We also try to meet at after each event to discuss how it went, its ups and downs, and how we can improve upon it. Since our schedules are all so different it can be hard to find time to sit down for an official meeting more than once or twice a month; so we constantly email to plan events that are approaching and remind each other of what has to be done for that particular event. We make both short and long term goals for our house and with the planning of events we keep in mind our goals and how the event can help us attain our goal. For example a few months ago we realized that we weren't doing tikkun olam programs and it was something that we wanted to add to our repertoire of events. We now make a conscious effort to have different types of events each month and this way we know that we have a tikkun olam event at least once every other month.
Shira is generally in charge of the technical aspect of things (uploading pictures, receipts, email list, etc. and by default the blog), David is an avid cooker and always cooks up a storm for our shabbat dinners and Josh often initiates the planning of events with other moishe houses. We always like to get input from our community members about what types of programming they would like to see us have, and while they usually don;t get involved with the actual logistics and execution of the events we believe it is important to listen and implement their ideas so that they become more involved. Overall we are a house that communicates well with each other and in turn we are able to successfully run our events.

How Hope Lives on Parade Street

As the world's smallest Moishe House, Providence has only one dynamic duo to accomplish the myriad Moishe responsibilities each month. At the risk of collapsing complex personalities into narrow archtypes, I will explain how Stephanie and Nathaniel manifest Moishe House programming each month in Providence. Generally, Nathaniel came into the Moishe game to kindle the ancient flames of jewish practices -- and keep them alive. He was lucky to receive a thorough training in things like hebrew and shabbat rituals, which he attemps to share with the local jewish scene. Nathaniel has been happy to regularize shabbas dinner, which happens EVERY week in traditional judaism. Stephanie was inspired by Moishe's model because of the creative possibilities evoked by a few young people with a budget and a mission to engage the community-wide events. Stephanie brings artistic flair to Providence -- seeking to bring new experiences to thorough movement, taste, and sound. Together, the pair designs experiences to expand each participants' experience of their community and of the jewish tradition. Moishe House Providence is looking to further integrate creative social engagements with jewish content, questioning, singing, and baking. The house is also hoping to create a series that will include jewish events and secular events under the same banner. Stay tuned for the details...

Broadmoor Night Out Against Crime

Tonight Moishe Nola joined the Broadmoor Improvement Association in the citywide New Orleans Night Out Against Crime. An annual tradition, embraced by neighborhoods throughout the city, residents take to the streets and make a stand against crime. Broadmoor marks this tradition with a an all community block party, complete with a moon bounce for the kids, local dj Wayne on the PA system, and a buffet of local flavors complete with red beans and rice and gumbo. Residents of the Moishe House were in attendance serving ice cream to Broadmoor community members. We took the opportunity to catch up with our neighbors and spread the word to new friends about the array of monthly programming put on by Moishe Nola. Emails were added to the list serve and we expect many new faces at our monthly outdoor movie night this coming Tuesday. Mayoral candidate, and Moishe House supporter James Perry stopped by the event as he continues his march to city hall – upcoming elections February 2010. All and all the evening was a great success as proud residents of Broadmoor and New Orleans came together to build community and support the common goal of a safe crime free New Orleans.
Moishe House Vienna - House dynamic

How are responsibilities shared and divided.?
We set for each events of the month, who will be responsible for undertaking it; however everyone gets involve! The one responsible is generally the one delegating the tasks. Regarding Moishe house duties (blogs, receipts etc..,) Danny uploads the receipt, Michi the photos, Eytan the monthly blog and David reminds us a few day before the dead lines that we have to upload everything!

Do you involve community members in the planning and execution of events?
We do indeed involve community members both in the planning and the execution of events. We believe that this is the best to make members feel part of the community. As we mentioned in the last blog, this makes them feel like hosts rather than just guests of the Moishe Casa.

How are each resident's individual strengths used to benefit the house/community?
Eytan fishes, Michi prepares the cooking material, Danny cooks the fish and David adds the good spices!

let us elucidate:

Eytan is the one specialize in fishing some very nice people to be part of our community.
Michi is so to say the action man, he is the one that both organizes and makes sure that everything is ready for an event, and that, always with a very positive attitude which inspires many to be active also.
Danny is the one who during the event, always have an eye on everything, and make sure that the event runs smooth.
David is the one, putting the atmosphere in the Moishe house; he also motivates the community to play basket ball on sundays in order to loose the extra weight accumulated from the 3 shabbat meals!

How does your house organize and plan each month?
We have a major meeting a the beginning of the month, where we discuss both the past month and plan the next one. These meetings can take up to 2 hours, and many time involves pizza and beers.
Then we also have mini-meetings that takes place before and after each events. Prior the event to set the focus and make sure that everything is ready; after the event, to analyse what went well and not well in order to make the next one better!

Do you set monthly goals for the house?
Not only we set monthly goals but we also set yearly goals. We believe that spending time, setting the goals at the beginning is crucial for the success of Moishe house; It helps to keep focus on the vision and also motivate us to reach them.

Monday, August 3, 2009

MH Boston: Team Empowerment!

Moishe House Boston has a dual affiliation - we are also known as Kavod Jewish Social Justice House, which was our name before we joined forces with Moishe. Kavod means honor, and comes from a line in the Mishna: “Who receives honor/kavod? The one who treats all beings with kavod.” Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Ancestors) 4:1. At the Moishe/Kavod House, we seek to treat all with honor, recognizing the unique talents each person has to share. Through this kavod, young people are empowered to strengthen both the Jewish community and local social activism.

At Moishe House Boston, the key to the housemates' work is empowering others. Our housemates work as organizers and "weavers," connecting our participants (called "members") to people and projects we think they will like. Much of the actual leadership of our programming and structural work is done by members, who work together with the housemates on various programmatic and structural teams.

The job of the housemates is to coordinate the work of our members, develop their leadership, and make sure our overall work is meeting the goals we set out for ourselves. Each of the housemates is responsible for working with one or more program teams, such as Shabbat or social justice, and one or more structure teams, such as membership or communications. To coordinate and enhance our work, we hold weekly house meetings in which we do check-ins about how we are doing, set goals and check in on our work, and sometimes brainstorm about how to grow in certain areas or tackle a particular challenge.

We are currently setting up a volunteer board to make sure that members are also at the center of our high level decision making. The board will be composed of the four housemates and five members who will make broader strategic decisions together and facilitate our various management teams (like membership and communications). We are holding elections in September, and are excited to see how this part of our work develops.

We like our model because it allows us to empower young people to help create our community, which is part of the larger Moishe House mission. Our model also allows us to do a great deal more than we could on our own as housemates, since there are just so many more people helping out. Finally, we have found that when members participate in planning events and organizing our community, they are more invested in the community as a whole.

MHP = Team Awesome

If we could summarize our house execution of monthly programming into three areas they would be "collaboration," "coordination," and "planning ahead." Moishe House Philadelphia prides ourselves on weekly meetings and how we utilize the full extent of Google Documents in order to plan our events. Let's break down the three areas to really understand how everything gets done.

COLLABORATION: Every aspect of MHP events are decided together. We have weekly meetings every Tuesday evening wherein we discuss the ups and downs of events from the previous week, finalize plans for the next week's events, and look forward to the rest of the month and long-term events before getting into anything else we, as a group, decide we need to talk about. We send out an agenda email every week in preparation for this meeting so the agenda is known and can be added to or commented on as well. All these plans are discussed to their fullest extent and then notes of the meeting are placed in our MHP email account as a separate Google Doc. Even if someone cannot attend this meeting, they are still able to voice their opinion via email ahead of time and keep track of discussions/decisions via the notes. We keep our meetings capped at an hour long, in order to maintain a balance between Moishe House and the rest of our busy lives.

COORDINATION: It is important that we take into consideration our own schedules as well as those of the local community when planning our monthly calendar. We are well connected with the other Graduate and Professional organizations around Philadelphia so that we know their schedules and they know ours. With this knowledge, and by posting our own individual calendars on our shared Google Calendar, we are able to make sure not to conflict too much with other things going on. Sometimes it gets difficult if two of our members are gone, but usually we know about absenses far enough in advance that we are able to plan ahead of time for any issues that may come up. Sharing this information has proved crucial to our success.

PLANNING AHEAD: We are very busy people, as most MH house members probably are, so it is critical that we think about our schedules in advance and are able to take into account all of our desires/plans when finalizing the event calendar. For this reason we try to have at least a skeleton schedule of a particular month by the beginning of the previous one (i.e. we have an idea of what to do for September by August 1). Then, we discuss the events during August and finalize plans so we can post everything a couple of weeks ahead. This may not always work with our plans, but at least the attempt gives us time to contact community members who want to be involved, ensure we are preparing better-quality events with more prep time, and know who is going to be around.

That's the basic essence of what we do here at MHP. We think we have created an organized vision of how MHP works in Philadelphia and look forward to continuing this year.

House Dynamics - MH Beijing

I don’t know if it works like this in the US houses, but one of our biggest challenges is long absences. Between the general appeal of travel in China and in the region, being in Beijing so far away from home also means that when we go back to the US we generally stay for a good chunk of time. So we have to know we can rely on our other housemates, that anyone can run an event.
Luckily, we have good communication. We try to sit down at the end of every month and talk about our schedules and what kinds of events we want to do. Our knew idea is to institute a monthly Shabbat dinner, 8-12 people, that will really gain notoriety in circles-in-the-know in our city. We also want one event a month to be discussion-based, with a text or video prompt. We form these goals by reviewing what events we think are most successful, and trying to both emulate and improve upon them. We also get feedback from our regulars about what kind of events they would support, and try to coordinate our events with our community’s general social calendar.

I think this communication is evidenced by how seamlessly we transitioned to having a new housemate, Tyler. Because he was already regularly pitching in and involved with planning of events, it feels like he’s been living with us since the beginning!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How it's Done, Moishe House Seattle-Style

Dividing up tasks to complete is not a problem at our house. We're not in high school anymore: there isn't the one slacker, and the perfectionist who takes on too much. We're all pretty supportive of each other and try to handle tasks collaboratively. So if someone is throwing a Shabbat dinner, you can bet their housemate will do the sweeping while they're in the kitchen. Or if someone throws an event at the movies, their housemate will park the car while they're buying tickets.

We try to incorporate each other's strengths. Since Nicole is an excellent camper and knows all about the perfect heat-insulating sleeping bags and hiking boots and bug sprays to bring on camping trails, we enourage her to plan our outdoor events. Since Neal is a movie buff and can remember the plots of movies hes seen ten years ago (and can analyze characters, conflicts, and come to an independent conclusion as to whether or not the director has succeeded in his artistic vision), we encourage him to plan our movie-themed events. Masha is an excellent bridge between Russia and America, and a fierce tango dancer and amazing cook, so we encourage and support her in planning Russian-themed events, dance parties, and help her in the kitchen when she's cooking something for shabbat (we also help her by eating her food). Steven is a writer and actor, so he plans the theatrical programming (like story night and campy movie night) and we help him by reading our stories and poems at his events, and attempting to remember all the lines from our favorite camp movie classics.

Sometimes we like to partner with other Jewish organizations in the area to bring fresh faces to our events. This month, we partnered with Seattle-based "JConnect" on a kayaking trip. It taught us an important lesson about communication: when kayaking, don't paddle away from your kayaking friends or you will end up lost and alone. At the next kayaking event, we will bring a bullhorn.

Every week, we like to find a time as a group to decompress and talk about how things have been going. We talk about the mundane (rent, chores) and the exciting (new members, event ideas, ways to expand programming). By checking in, we affirm each other and feel more like a team. It helps to remind us that we're so lucky to be able to live with our friends and throw events for such a diverse community. Instead of living alone or with strangers, we feel like we're part of a wider social network where the social opportunities are truly endless.

MHSS Teamwork!

Both the meetings and emails keep every Moishe House Silver Spring resident on the same page and working as a team.  Generally our MH has house meetings every 10 days or so.  However, a number of emails are sent out daily pitching ideas for new events or brainstorming how we should organize a certain event. Each house members brings a little something different to the table, whether is creative weekly listserve emails, different outreach methods, jewish programming, justice programming, a car, a camera,... you get the idea.  After living with the same people for a few months, you begin to know who to go to for different questions. 
At our house meetings we address two main topics: house stuff & event stuff. It's important to make sure any house frustration are discussed and resolved so we can all enjoy each others company and focus our energy on events and our community.  Then we start with events, in chronological order we touch base on each event already on the big house calendar, who's the point person, what she/ he needs from the rest of the house, who can be there, logistics, and any other questions.  Then we throw out new ideas for either the upcoming months or to put it in the 'bike rack' for future months.  Because each house member has different interests, we do an incredible job of having a mix of events (i think a variety of events is a goal that we don't need to put much energy in).  More recently, we've been involving some of our more active communty members in helping suggest and plan some events.  This has been very successful. 
I am going to take an upcoming event, Food Justice BBQ, as an example to describe how as a house we work as a team.  Next week we are hosting this very exciting and large event.  This event will focus on justice and envirnomental issues and also how they are jewish issues.   MHSS was fortunate enough to get a grant for this event, which was achieve by the work brainstormed in a house meeting (We are purchasing local, organic kosher meat to bbq and local and organic produce for the vegetarians and side dishes. During the event we will have some presentations around the food, justice, envirnomental, jewish theme.)  and two of the housemates writing up the grant proposal.  In preparation for the event, different house members have different responsibilities.  One person is working on coordinating speakers and another person is focusing on the food.  Of course, I don't want to forget that two housemates had to go pick up another grill, which due to the size of the grill and size of the car turned out to be a more challenging errand than expected.  The house will definately be working as a team in preparation for the event, we have lots of chopping, dicing, mixing and cleaning.  All house residents are planning to help out after shabbat starts and the sunday morning before the event starts.  We've also all be recruiting volunteers to help out.  We're all very exciting for this event, and it wouldn't have been possible without teamwork!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Working together in Dallas

Our house mostly emails each other to finalize plans for Moishe House. We are both so busy with different schedules, that we find this is the best way to collaborate ideas and get them posted. Whenever we have an event, we always remind everyone about all the other events coming up that month and some ideas we have for the following month. We like to get input from the community on what they would like to do because, after all, it is for them. For example, we have a different theme for Shabbat every month since everyone has different taste in food. This coming month, we are going to give everyone 2 or 3 options to vote on so they feel more involved. I think that getting input is very important so you make sure that a lot of people are interested in coming. Between Sima and I, we can get the job done. I am more of the planner and when it comes to Shabbat, I love to cook. Sima is great on the technical side, so she can help do the uploads for pictures and the goggle calendar, etc. We try to have a house meeting at least once a month to discuss what needs to be done for the month. Besides that, as I mentioned earlier, we correspond a lot by email to make sure we are on the same page with everything. Our main goal every month is get more people and more new people to come to our events. We know that when they come, they will of course have a good time :)