Thursday, December 31, 2009
Recently we held a Hanukkah party at our house. This was actually the first large scale party I have ever been privlaged to host. The experience was amazing. We had roughly 80 people in our house throughout the night. Being to a party like this is hardly new to me. But being the host of a party like this was really an invigerating experience. Normally I would find a group of people I felt comfortable talking too and have in depth conversations with my newly found friends. Due to being a host at an event where more then half the people didn't know anyone I felt like I had an obligation to be more of a "connector". I have never moved around at a party so much. I would constantly talk to small groups of people and look around to see if anyone was not talking to someone. If I noticed someone was on their own I would go up to them start a small conversation, welcome them to the house and bring them over to a group of people to talk with. It felt pretty good to be that person that was helping other people feel more connected. By the end of the night I had meet somewhere between 50-60 people and at least half of them said bye to me before the left and thanked me for the pary. I wish I could say I remember their names, but half of them I can't. I am just glad I was able to help people make new friends and have a good time.
Recently, we hosted a Chanukah party with over 80 people, and 30 newcomers. About 2 hours into the event, I was talking to a group of 4 new people. They had asked me about the house and what we do here and were very excited to be a part of the event. After we had talked in our common area for a few minutes, I invited them into my bedroom where it was a bit quieter. We talked for about 20 minutes and listened to some quiet music. They all stayed until the end of the event and I got friend requests from all of them on facebook afterwards. I am not able to spend a good chunk of time with every new person at every event, but when I spend that time with some of the people, I know that it makes a big difference.
Since we are heralding the start of a new year, my resolution for 2010 is to slow down at events and really talk to people. The joy of being in a Moishe House is all the fantastic people that you meet! Too often I find myself getting caught up in the details and not enjoying my present company. That doesn’t mean that I have to let the cups stack up on the tables, but maybe just letting people bus their own plates wouldn’t kill me.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
One of MHSS's most active, enthusiastic, present community members, Roey, co-ordinated December's monthly Open Shabbat (davening in our living room, kiddush / motzi / homecooked dinner, talking & laughing & staying as long as you want -- even till the following evening, as some regularly do). He wanted to focus on the Ethiopian Jewish community: Ethiopian-Jewish culture and struggles, history and background, ritual and identity; to bring knowledge and understanding of this segment of our people into the "standard" MHSS community through our popular (my favorite!) monthly MHSS-hosted Shabbat.
In addition to the regular reasons I get excited for MHSS Shabbats, I was especially looking forward to this one because:
1. An MHSS community member was excited for a specific program to happen -- and made it happen!
2. Through this event, (thanks to Roey!,) MHSS was provided the opportunity to reach out to and embrace (or at least connect with) a subset of our culture, a community who is yet a stranger in our midst; establish connections; and bring us together -- all of which I hope leads to continued communication and collaboration between our communities -- or, even more honestly, I hope Roey's efforts were received by the local Ethiopian-Jewish people as warm and gracious and inviting; and, now that people know we are here, that they will come to our home and will invite us to share in their Jewish and Ethiopian lives as they currently live (through organizations in which they are active, or even less formally).
More than educate the MHSS masses, Roey's Ethiopian Shabbat connected MHSS to the D.C.-area Ethiopian-Jewish community, fusing, infusing, expanding our two communities, our bases of outreach, by bringing us together, by giving us a chance to collaborate and socialize with one another. Roey's efforts to reach out to the local Ethiopian-Jewish community in order to bring his vision to fruition served to introduce our communities to one another and created a portal of dialogue and partnership, the potential results of which I am very excited.
To Roey, I offer once again a huge Yasher Koach, Mazal Tov, and Thanks!
I hope other MHSS community members will follow Roey's example and live the reality we share with people regularly: that we are here as a community resource, that we are (or at least can be) more than that which results from the combined energies and desires of just the MHSS residents.
And, I say, once again: Thanks, Moishe House. =D
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I have thoroughly enjoyed the marketing aspect of starting a new organization in the Denver Metro area. I have received so many emails/calls from people who are intrigued by the MoHo and all that it offers. It always makes my day when I explain who we are and what we do and hear that a new person is interested in meeting us and attending our events. Our growth has been substantial since our first event and I look forward to the new faces and new experiences that the MoHoDen will provide.
The most recent knowledge that has positively affected my abilities as a MH programmer is that of Jewish history. It is an incredibly large, all-encompassing topic. When I say this, I really do mean it all. My personal learning voyage led me from religious school instructor to learner, realizing that the things I wanted to teach were the things I did not yet know! On a learning trip in Israel, I focused on questions I might not have otherwise had. What was the Sinhedrin? Where did the Torah come from? Whose midrashim and interpretations to we "default" to? I must admit, my knowledge is still relatively elementary, but it's still a big step for me. I think the Sinhedrin was the group of prestigious rabbis closest in timeline to recieving the Torah. I learned that we view the rabbis who were closer to the time of recieving the Torah is what we default to, even if their words are full of mystery to us. Where the Torah came from--that's another huge question I am still chewing on! Did it come from Hashem, was it dictated to Moses, or was a group of great, wise men divinely inspired? I can say that this knowledge of our Torah's scholars has certainly helped me understand better what's going on in Shabbat services every week, and the meanings behind our customs and holidays. This basic Jewish knowledge is helping me enrich my MH programs with more depth knowledge-wise. It has also launched me to seek knowledge, and engage carefully with my MH participants to see what they are interested in seeing for further programs.
I am actually currently in Boston visiting my dad, and I have taken advantage of this opportunity to think about the history of American Judaism. I haven't actually gone to the historic sites here--too cold! But I did flip through an American Jewish calendar the other day at Grandma's. America, with all the many things it offered, did somewhat "splinter" Judaism into different groups. Yet, I think the bright side of all of this is that you can see as far back as the early 1900s, when the first European Jews walked in through Ellis Island, they were proud to be American. Here, Jews can practice religion freely, unlike other places in the world currently, or in the past in the time of our ancestors. And for this, I think we should ALWAYS be grateful.
Also, new American Jews in the early 1900s really wound together the spirit of being American with the spirit of being Jewish for thousands of years. I sometimes ask myself why is it that Jews are often involved in social justice pursuits? We know what it is to be persecuted, and when we touch ground in America, we're just so happy to be alive that we want to be sure to give tzedakah. We combined the high fashions of NY with Purim masquerades. We made Torah dressings with an eagle and the American flag wound into the Judaic decorations. We were proud. We felt a strong sense of nationalism. And maybe we let go of some traditions in order to experience what it is America has to offer. American Judaism is so unique. You can experience Judaism at whichever level you wish, and find a home for yourself. I know this can be fearsome for those of us who worry about the future of Judaism, and wonder if our people will slowly let go of all the traditions and laws that make us who we are. But because I am grateful for the liberties in my country, and I'd like to see the good in it, I do. Thank G-d for the Jewish educators in our communities near and far, who keep these flames alive within us.
And besides that, I'm proud that American Jews have taken on the spirit of exploration, social justice, and providing for the most in-need members of our local and global communities.
Needless to say, I think learning to appreciate my own home country's history of Judaism, even in small ways, helps me understand what is needed Jewishly right in my home town. It brings forward the things really worth praising about American Jewry. Also, the more we think about where we come from, the more I believe we develop our sense of purpose and sense of belonging. In this case, we are all one big Jewish family, and we've been around since ancient times! (So cool!) :)
Sunday, December 27, 2009
How, then, can we ensure that Moishe House remains a hub of genuine community rather than a venue for Jewish themed houseparties and hang outs for 'us and our friends'? Firstly, I would suggest aiming to create and maintain an outlook which celebrates pluralism, and recognises the value of welcoming all participants at events equally, despite differences in age, political views, sexual orientation, ethnic background, Jewish background & current affiliation, etc, etc. On a more practical level, it may be helpful for housemates to attempt to keep track of who the regular attendees are at Moishe House, both to improve community cohesion and so one can approach unfamilar participants when running events, get to know the new person a little and introduce them to some regulars. Another helpful strategy might be to make a conscious effort to avoid inside jokes, cliquey language, references to past events, textspeak, obscure bits of Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic etc
while writing event blurbs
Sent from my iPod
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Sometimes running Moishe House can feel like a burden on top of all my other obligations, but when other people are involved and excited, I see this organizational work as a pleasure. I hope everyone can enjoy increased community participation this year, and rediscover how the possibilities of Moishe House outweigh the sacrifices.
As i am a new resident in MH Warsaw this is a new situation for me, so it's very special. Once i came in, much has change. Not only that i now live in town center... but for the whole idea of MH - it had to have a large impact on me and in fact it did.
First of all working for idea. Without that 'thing' in my head while organising parties in MH, it would be just a simple party. But only because of a simple fact that it is a MH, everyone who's coming knows and learns that something is different. Around us, and inside us. 'Cause when you get to know that you're starting to think about it. What is it? Well for everyone is something differnet. For Jews and non-Jews. And here in Warsaw it is important. What they get from here? Well, that's something that they all have to anserw themselves. But it is something there...
Second thing is that if you are a person who is friendly, likes to be with others and organising stuff for people it's always a greate opprtunity when you have to do something. If you live in a 'normal' flat, which is your own and you like making parties and get people together you always will have time to time lazy times, when you won't do anything with your friends. But it's not too healthy for you, so it's always better when there is a obligation to do it. More life around you - simple thing!
But for me the most imporant thing is to observe groups, watch people getting to know with each other. I always liked it, it is fascinating. Here in MH, as we are 4 different people - it has to be different groups which are coming to our parties. Sometimes they get together well, sometimes not. And that's what is interesting for me.
And for myslef living in MH for that short period of time is a constant experiment of identity. It's always interesting. What is it these days? Is it obvious for some and for who it's not? Am I sure of the things that are in my head?
Many questions..that's what these couple months of living here is. Anserws? Perhaps in a year...
Friday, December 25, 2009
I know these are questions that Moishe House Boston face, and I, personally, struggle with. On some Friday night dinners, we attract upwards of 80-90 people, many of whom have shown up for the first time. I know, as a housemate, I feel a sense of responsibility to introduce myself to someone who is new, talk to them a bit, make them feel at home--but honestly, it can be hard. Sometimes I don't know what to say to the person. Other times, I feel daunted by the sheer number of people--it can be hard to be "on." And there are times when I want to just catch up with my close friends who I haven't seen all week. What to do?
At Moishe House Boston, we have thought quite a bit about this issue, and one thing we realized was that this was not a "housemate" issue, but a community issue. No one person can or should be responsible for integrating newcomers. Instead, we felt that the ethos of welcoming new people should pervade our entire community. Rather than leaving this as a housemate responsibility, we believed that our community would be a warmer and more inviting place if our community members saw this as part of their job as well. We actively try to promote Moishe House Boston as a community for and by its members--and part of the job of actively involved members who feel invested in their community is to reach out to new people. This "task" not only cultivates a sense of ownership for our members (since the house belongs to them as well), but it makes sense practically: having a whole lotta hands help out is much more efficient and effective than having a few.
So, on a concrete level, we have enacted this vision through several concrete steps. Our "Shabbat and Festivals" organizing team designed a "Newcomers Shabbat" especially for people who had never been involved in Moishe House before or were new to town. During this Shabbat, which was held in September, we had structured programs where we broke people into smaller groups, so that they could talk and get to know each other. Sprawled across our house, people engaged in conversations with someone else they didn't know and were even given prompts to help spur conversations.
On a more frequent basis, we have assigned two people every Friday night to act as "greeters" to all people entering the house. Their job is to directly welcome the person, tell them where to go for services, be a warm smiling face. We also have all the schedule of our Friday night written and easily accessible so that anyone can follow along (i.e., we have a guide explaining the rituals, the pages for the prayers), and we label everything (what types of foods to put where) so that people can be "in the know" as soon as possible. We also have name tags that we use at every event so that people can get to know each other.
A more recent development, our Membership team has begun to actively identify first-timers by inviting everyone who enters the home to sign up, and check a box if they want to be followed up with someone. They are exploring ways to follow with such people (coffee dates with the newcomer, phone calls, "buddies") so that they can continue to feel welcomed into the community.
These are just a few of the ideas we have for how to welcome newcomers to our community. I am sure that as we continue to grow, our ideas will evolve and new challenges will arise. I would love to hear how others grapple with this issue!
As I begin 2010, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude that I can start a new year with these friends and housemates, and continue to grow with them as we work to grow the Moishe House Boston community.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Dear Moisheniks: may you also make meaningful (and possibly Moishe-oriented) resolutions, and have a glorious New Year!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
As many of you east coasters know, huge storm last weekend. 24 inches at my house outside of Philadelphia where I was visiting for an event in Mount Airy. Anyway, huge amount of snow, and across the street from my parents house there live a number of older families. As I helped my dad shovel out the car and shovel out the walkway and the stairs and the walk from the house to the sidewalk, I watched neighbors finish their own work and go over to check on the old people.
Seeing this, I was reminded of being a small boy and helping out my grandmother to her car. I remember I did it as an assignment from jewish school to do a mitzva. This surely is the season for Mitzvot and it made me wonder how to make sure to incorporate caring for those in more need into our houses programing in January. Not the big sort of planning thing, but the down and dirty. Specifically setting up a group of folks to feed the homeless.
Monday, December 21, 2009
I've also realized how important it is to do this work with others who are like minded, social, and supportive of you. To that end, Danny, Ari and I put a lot of work into selecting our two newest house members and really talked openly about what we are looking for in terms of roommates and co-conspirators. It's been fun to see how many people are stoked at the idea of living at our house, and also to see the variety of types of people interested in the project. There are a lot of people out there, all of them are interesting and great in their own way... but it's important to make sure you select people that you mesh with, even if it's hard to turn some people down. So, basically what I'm trying to say is just that I've been thankful for the support of my roommates (whom I love dearly) through this transition, and am very excited for what's in store with two new faces in the house. We are going from a house of 3 dudes and me, the sole lady, to a house with 3 girls, and 2 guys. It's going to be a whole new MHSF folks!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I had an incredible opportunity to reconnect with my two younger sisters in India for three weeks, and then come back to MHSS's action-packed Hanukah weekend! What a wonderful and curious transition - from schlepping a backpack onto sleeper trains and photographing cows to my pores seeping the smell of frying latkes at the Hanukah party. Wow.
I had a chance to reflect on my relationship with my sisters and realize how much Moishe House has contributed to my experience in Metro DC. I was welcomed in both places with open arms and hearts, I feel truly blessed.
Here are 5 questions I got from Rabbi Pinson, as part of a larger meditation exercise:
Who am I?
What is most precious to me?
What are my aspirations and dreams?
What do I need to release from my life?
Am I expressing my higher self in the world?
Enjoy these thought provoking and sometimes terrifying questions.
Me: Hey, welcome to the MHSS, how did you hear about us?
Person: Ummm. I have been here before. You're Zvi right? I heard you were not home the last time I was here.
Me: OH! Well, welcome to me then.
So now, I might say something like, hey, welcome back. And ask, is this your first time here, I travel a lot.
But we try to greet each person , old or new, to the house, with a smile, maybe a hug and a by saying, "Welcome Home!"
Happy New Year!
Monday, December 14, 2009
A few things from this packed month I'd be interested in discussing in more detail:
- Earthships (worked on a project in East Texas, Earthship Crockett Tx)
- Social Justice Tourism (either location based or a travel program)
- City Chickens (Gertie, Pearl, Unnamed Chicken 3, Bubbs are adjusting to their new home)
- Moishe Elder House (David noted a conversation at the retreat)
Having a cooperative house for the elderly is an interesting idea and makes sense to me for a lot of reasons. Many are the same as we have in our young professional homes, but added savings for nursing, cleaning, food shopping, medication/medical supply(?). Seems that there could be a great value added for the elderly, especially widows/widowers and those recently disabled, who may enjoy the company.
Discussing the idea with older people has received mixed reviews. Some see that older people are not comfortable with change and this sort of program couldn't catch on. Others see that it could offer a valuable alternative to the typical elder housing.
For me, Elder Housing seems to be a recent deelopment in care for the elderly. I see the standard Elder Home as a new model distinct from the more rural alternative of "grandmas house" or the urban live-in relatives. I question whether the model seems natural for the elderly and if the next generation will more actively seek alternatives.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
That being said, it takes an enormous amount of time to do that work, much as it does Moishe House. That balance has become difficult at times, especially when I am required to do tasks for both. Oftentimes I find myself working on a Saturday night to get things prepared for the week because I have events that are taking time out of my work schedule in the evenings.
It is rough sometimes, and my free time schedule definitely suffers, but it is enjoyable. One of the positive consequences is that I talk about Moishe House at work a lot and some of my colleagues have begun joining me at events. It's a very nice thing to blend communities which are great in different ways and I am glad to be a part of it.
Thank you Moishe House for a busy but fulfilling life!
Monday, December 7, 2009
Below are examples of the question types and responses we've received:
Many of our weekday events often pose a conflict for the MoisheNola network. Results from the question, 'what week days are most convenient for you?' found Tuesday was the most convenient weekday for 71% of those polled.
MoisheNola schedules a variety of event types on our monthly calendar. In an effort to assess the event types that our network is interested in we asked, "Of the event types at Moishe House, which are you most interested in participating?". Those polled were allowed to select multiple event types, and results were mixed: Social Events 67%, Jewish Events 44%, Speakers/Educational Events 56%, Community Volunteering 22%, Hobbies/Crafts 56%. We found these varied results to be encouraging of MoisheNola continuing to offer a variety of event types.
We were also interested in seeing which event types people had attended previously. Results found that 78% of those polled had attended a Social Event, and or a Jewish Event.
Question: Where do you currently get information about Moishe House events?
Results show our most useful outreach has been through personal emails before events, and via our MoisheNola Facebook group.
join the moisheNola Facebook group by clicking here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=24958926110&ref=ts
Question: Of the event types at Moishe House, which are you most interested in participating in?
Results showed Social Events to be the most popular event type, followed by Speakers/Educational and Hobbies/Crafts, followed by Jewish Events, and lastly Community Volunteering.
MoisheNola has found surveying to be an interesting and effective means of assessing our Moishe House network. For this particular survey we used google docs survey tool, we've also used Surveymonkey, and we highly recommend both. MoisheNOLA plans to continue using surveying as tool to be a more effective Moishe House and a more informed partner of our Jewish community.
Below is a top 5 list I've developed from my experience in MH Portland.
1. Run excellent programs. Like a quality product, good programming markets itself. If you consistently churn out good events, than people will keep coming back and they will tell their friends and family about it as well. There is no better marketing tool than a quality product or service.
2. Repeat your message. People are bombarded by dozens or in many cases hundreds of messages a day. For yours to get through, they must be repeated regularly.
3. Diversify your channels. Different people like to receive communications in different ways, and by mixing up your communication channels you can both hit people multiple times without them feeling overwhelmed or annoyed. You can also create a feeling of energy and momentum by being "everywhere." At MH Portland we use an email list, a website and facebook. We haven't made use of twitter yet though we should, and there are probably many other channels that we haven't explored. We'd love advice.
4. Never interact with a young Jewish person without getting their contact information. MH is providing a great service to the community. Don't be shy about building up your list. Its critical.
5. Ask regulars to recruit new people. The best messenger is always a close friend. If you want new people to come, have those closest to them make the invite.
Obviously there are lots of ways to pursue an outreach strategy, but these are some basic lessons that we have learned and try to employ at MH Portland.
Many people come because someone they trust recommended us to them. Or because people are so excited to have found us, that they can’t help but talk about their experiences with us, which is a wonderful compliment.
Here’s a recent post from the journalist Sasha Frieze:
Did a mitzvah tonight.
I was in Kosher Paradise (don't even ask, but basically, buying kosher food) and the guy serving was youngish with a couple of piercings and a slightly Carlebachy-kippah. Great customer service: he told me he just likes to make people happy, and commented on my well-accessorised outfit (I responded that it's not so hard to accessorise when, basically, all your clothes are purple). We chatted a little more, he was local, his accent was just from hanging in Golders Green. He gave the impression he didn't get out so much.
Looking at him, I knew where his friends hung out. "Do you know about the Moishe House?" I asked. He didn't. I told him it was where his chevra were hanging, and he wrote it down, to check it out on Facebook…Me, I'm a connector, innit.
(check out sasha’s regular blog at www.sashinka.blogspot.com )
Now, this could be a sad thing or an exciting opportunity. It could be sad because often the people who feel they don’t fit neatly into the lines of activities already offered by the mainstream British Jewish community often end up leaving the Jewish world entirely, because in the main, conventional European Jewry can be quite concerned about fitting neatly in the lines. So in the past no-one has known that other people understand their situation and their sense of being different (and, to be honest, the majority of people feel they are ‘different’ or somehow ‘misunderstood). Few people have felt it’s okay to self-define. And we give them that space.
We bring people in by co-hosting events with a vast range of other organizations, who bring their audiences with us: the JCC, New Jewish Thought, Tzedek, Jerusalem Peacemakers, the Villages Project, our local apple-picking group, Oxfam, the Jewish Volunteer Network, Jeneration, ReneCassin…there are so many more, and each event attracts people who read the publicity of those organizations, who all make sure to link back to out website or at least use a little blurb to explain who we are. Being able to offer a free space means we also encourage people to use our space when it’s available. It is such a valuable resource to be able to offer people a room free-of-charge. Again people come in (this time often asking ‘what is this place?!’ and leave planning to return for more). Likewise, we encourage individuals to share their skills and knowledge. If people in the city only meet each other for parties and dinner parties, as is normal city-behaviour, they will never know that their friends can teach them to fix their bikes, or make soap, or help them study Spinoza or economics.
Our cross-denominational openness (especially evidenced at our betit midrash, where we’re the only Jewish study group in the UK to have rabbis from all different streams happily come and teach).
We attract other community groups by becoming involved with them, so we’ve hosted the afrmorementioned local apple-pickers, our neighbouring Darfuri community and had events for our neighbours, because an aspect of our work it to improve urban/suburban community cohesion in general, not just Jewish community.
I’d like to develop some leaflets to leave here and there to distribute, but I think it’s important that we have rough edges, that we don’t develop shiny branded leaflets, so that when you come to us, you are taking part in a real community, which you form part of by being there.
Oh, and did I mention that our latest resident is living with us having been recommended to track us down? Whilst he was in Sinai. Not a bad distance for a reputation to spread!
Этот месяц показал нам, что людям интересны не только развлекательные программы, но и культурное образование: будь то поход в театр, экскурсия по еврейскому кладбищу или встреча Шаббата, на которую был приглашен ведущий режиссер драматического театра им. А.П.Чехова. Самое яркое впечатление этого месяца – свет авдальной свечи, отражающейся в глазах людей, стоящих в кругу, объединенных одной идеей.
Мы привлекаем людей семейной атмосферой и интересными программами, а как мы это делаем – уже другой вопрос.
Для того, чтобы собрать людей на мероприятие мы создаем событие в социальной сети vkontakte, английским аналогом которого является facebook. На это событие мы приглашаем не только друзей, но и незнакомцев, которых мы называем «новички». В итоге мы получаем список людей, которые согласны посетить это событие. После чего мы им звоним, чтобы еще раз уточнить все детали.
Самое главное – для «новичков» создать домашнюю обстановку, чтобы им хотелось возвращаться снова и снова и помогать нам создавать наш “Moishe House”.
In your house's experience, what have been the most effective ways to bring people to Moishe House events? What role has technology played in this (e.g. facebook, website, calendars). How will your house continue to bring in new faces?
In our house’s experience there were many different and effective ways to bring people in. First of all, we started to promote the house months before we opened it. In that stage we simply spread the word among our friends so that the moment we opened the house a lot of people already knew about it and we had from the very beginning constantly lot of guests. So simply telling to the people the aim and the story of the House can still these days work out.
On the other hand, technology of course plays an important role. We tried out different ways to advertise the house, and Facebook seems to be the most efficient one. We created firstly a fictional account and collected that way lots of acquintances. Later on we set up a group and we ended up promoting ourselves only that way on Facebook.People can easily communicate with us that way. We usually paste here the official blog and it seems that people reach us through that blog as well, (the photos, from which we have less on Facebook are playing here an important role).
Meanwhile, technology helps us indirectly: there are people who found us by entering some keywords in Google when looking for an Engish-speaking jewish community in Budapest. Moreover, for ex. the gastroblogger who prepared a delicious dinner for us in October, posted the event read later by thousands of people daily. Thanks to that, lots of people got to know about the house.
By the way, the idea to invite „celebrities” or those who advertise the event where they have the possibility to appears again to be an important way to bring new people in. In addition they usually bring their friends along, who can be later interested in other programs as well. An other „indirect” way to promote ourselves is to receive different and not specially jewish type of programs. Like for instance we hosted a performance of the Contemprorary Drama Festival which did again a lot for our promotion.
An other alternative way to advertise us will be the participation on a very special event, the Quarter6Quarter7 Festival (http://quarter6quarter7.com/)
There still remains some tasks to do. We already began to collect the e-mail adresses so to create a traditional googlegroup. Some people dislike or simply don’t use Facebook, and e-mailing turns out to be the only way we can really reach everybody. Finally we keep up trying to find new ways as well to bring in new faces. Like we are planning to hang out a poster-like thing on our balcony.
All in all, Mosishe House teaches us (or let us learn) how to communicate with people and how to convince them about the fact that the house is so special.
Then there are the other people. The ones who wake up reluctant to get out of bed, and leave the house uninspired about what awaits them in the coming day. They are the ones who you see on Monday mornings always complaining about something and already counting down the hours till the coming weekend. The ones who make you miserable just looking at. The kinds of people who you know either have a t-shirt or bumper sticker with the old addage, "Same sh-t , different day...," and wonder what kinds of drugs you can get them to make them just a little but more pleasant to be around.
I, myself, am probably somewhere in between the two. I feel lucky to have everything that I do. With a good job, an a cappella group, family, friends, and personal responsibilties, including Moishe House, you would think that I have plenty of things to keep everyday life interesting. While mostly true though, everyone is bound to slip into a period of uninspiredness, where no matter what you have on your plate, life just falls into a routine, and begins to seem boring. When this happens it usually takes something out of the ordinary to jump start you and get you looking forward again to everything that life has to offer.
For me, this jump start was the recent Moishe House East Coast Retreat a few weeks ago in Washington D.C. For at least one day, I had the opportunity to meet people, both alike and unlike me in various ways, but all with one thing in common, Moishe House. At the retreat, we had the opporunity to sit and share all the different things we do in our various communities and meet people who share a lot of the same values and lifestyles. In the few short hours we all had together, we discussed all the different aspects of what it takes to run a successful Moishe House; the events we do, the people we bring in, and the ways in which we go about it. What I learned was that there are other Moisheniks out there who suffer from a similar problem as myself; the fact that life sometimes just becomes too routine. With respect to Moishe House, this means having the same or similar kinds of events every month and drawing the same people. For someone like myself who easily becomes bored with routine, this can make you fall into the dangerous trap of losing interest in whatever you are doing.
Through the retreat, I became inspired again by seeing what other houses do and how they go about it. Simply by talking and listening to the people there, I've come away with a renewed sense of excitement about Moishe House; a drive to try new things and to get new and different people, who- or whatever they may be. This is not to say of course that I've become bored with Moishe House. But just like any musician or cook might tell you, as someone who provides a certain service to a community, you can't just keep playing the same songs or serving the same dishes to please people. Eventually you have got to mix it up a little; to keep other people interested, but more importantly, yourself. After all, you're evetually going to want to change your t-shirt, or read a different bumper sticker.
Shalom Moishe House people,
After 2 fascinating years of being a Moishe House member this is probably my last tiem I am writing the blog.
In a month time I’ll be living South Africa and go back to my country, Israel.
It’s been an amazing opportunity to play a big roll with the Jewish community in Johannesburg last year and this year in Capetown.
I met some great people and I really bonded with my House mates.
I will miss it
The excitements behind our events, the Jewish learning, our outreach programmes and mostly the good fun.
I am going back to Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, but now the Jewish world is more than the my country, there are great supportive Jewish communities in world and thanks to organizations like Moishe House it won’t fall apart.
It is sad but it’s time to move on…
Best 2 years of my life.
Wow. The year is almost done!!
I can’t believe I am summarizing November… It seems that this year went sooo quickly!!
Well… you know how it goes when you enjoy your time….
This month was absolutely fantastic in many spheres: Diversity of events ,good atmosphere and most of it superb turnout! Which leads me to an interesting topic I would like to discuss with you:
The campaigns of our Moishe events.
So how do we do it?
We all know it. This is one of the main tools to promote our events.
So easy! Chat to friends, Sending messages, upload pictures.
Technology makes our life easier….
- “From mouth to ear”
In addition to me Gabs and Ross we have a core group of Moishe House people that love our functions and always attend.
We use all them to spread the word, chat to their friends, charm them and bring them for a try. The bigger the core group is the more people we will get.
- “You better be good”
Good events creates hype.
Whether it’s Jewish learning, an outreach programme or pure fun we want to make sure everybody knows about it and use it to attract new faces.
Sometimes we upload the pics to Facebook and we always mention that during our chats with friends.
Like any thing in the world, You better be good and your reputation will grow.
I guess that’s it.
Facebook, Emails, phone calls, random chats. It’s all about the hype you create.
The way we get people to come to our events depends on the event. For a party, we would send out a Facebook invitation to all 800+ members. And from this we get loads of people coming, sometimes more than we can fit in the house!
For a Friday night dinner we would often invite a limited number of people by Facebook email / email / texting / phoning. We like to text / phone for smaller gatherings as they’re more personal and people are more likely to respond and come along to the event.
We also use Facebook to put up photos of events and keep people in the loop as to what we’re up to in the House. It’s proving popular , so we will continue doing this.
Some people come along to events because they saw the calendar on moishehouse.org, but not many.
We also do a bit of marketing… we have Moishe House Buenos Aires fridge magnets, kippot and mugs! So we hope that people will become aware of the House, join the Facebook group / ask people about us and come to events that way.
We do rely on Facebook quite a bit, but the problem is that not everyone is on it and people may feel that it is somewhat impersonal. Especially for an event that is not immediately attractive to the masses. So we need to bring back the old skool email as well and send out invitations / info via email too. This is what we will do in the future.
We live in an era in which communication between people is more efficient, faster and simpler than ever before. Nevertheless, we at Moishe House Mexico City feel that the most effective way to bring people to our events is through warm and personal invitations. Technological tools such as the facebook fan page, the official website and the google calendar can be very useful when it comes to branding the and giving the whole initiative some sort of legitimacy; however, without an intimate approach to our potential attendees (telephone calls or word-of-mouth) such tools are useless. First, we will elaborate on the reasons why the use of standard internet tools is limited at best. Then, we will propose a couple of alternative strategies that have proven useful or seem to have greater potential.
Unlike other countries such as the United States and most of the developed world, mexicans tend to be very informal when it comes to social gatherings. To give you an example, for most events, any of our friends, or even ourselves, would confirm their assistance. The problem with this confirmation is that it is not a binding contract and no seriousness is attached to it. Obviously implying that those people are not necessarily going to show up and it most cases they will not call to apologize or cancel, i.e. it is socially accepted and expected for people to not show up even if they confirmed.
Our own experience has taught us that, from the amount of persons that "confirm" their assistance to events on facebook, only around 10 percent of them will eventually show up. This means that 35 persons can confirm their assistance, via facebook, to a Shabbez dinner, but out of those, only 2 or 3 actually attend the event. This makes it difficult to plan ahead, and we have found ourselves in situations in which we prepared food for 30, and only 9-10 people eat it. Another probable reason for this informality is that the social-networking-through-
There is very little foresight in Mexico City when it involves filling out or planning for a social agenda. This is why, rather than focusing on what to do in order to make people come to a specific event, we at MHMC have understood the importance of consolidating the house as a place where things are always happening. As someone living in this chaotic city, where millions of things are going on all the time, it is very hard to plan a week ahead. This is why we at MHMC feel that we need to establish the presence of the house in such a way that it will make people consider it as an option for their free time. Thus, inciting them to consult the calendar and check the events or just drop by for a quick visit. The different strategies that we have come up with to make this happen are varied and involve different aspects of the whole Moishe House initiative. The main goal of this strategies is not only to engage people more actively in our events, but also to arouse people´s curiosity for the whole project. In such a way that the Moishe House agenda can be present in the back of people`s mind as a general constant for their "free time".
One of the ideas that we had was to produce an electronic bulletin that will reach a specific crowd with a more personalized message. The bulletin would be monthly and it would let people know about the upcoming events. The reasons why we think this could be successful is that, unlike an electronic calendar through Google or an invitation through Facebook, the bulletin gives you a degree of membership that is not easy to convey through the website or through facebook. The interesting facet of this "membership" is that it will allow a more personal dialogue with the residents and the attendees, making it possible to create community without relying on the usual social-networking tools.
Being frank, the constant bombardment of events through facebook has made it impossible for the user to prioritize and commit to them. Most of the time, people just take a quick glance at such events, accepting or declining the invitation, postponing their decision to a later date that they might forget. The advantages of a mailing list is that it can speak personally to them (if the rest of the contacts are placed on the BCC field), making it easier to establish a personal relationship with the user than through other media (although there´s always the chance that people can mark us as SPAM). For this month we plan on sending a Hannukah greeting card, with our picture, to a large database we have gathered from our other projects in the mexican jewish community.
Our newest strategies concerning bigger gatherings was to target potential attendees and speak to them directly about the whole project, involving them as part of the production of the events. We want to focus specifically on group leaders. These people will be able to create a snow-ball effect and get people interested. Another peculiarity of our culture is that people move in closed-knit packs and are less individualistic. For this reason, gathering leaders would create a word-of mouth presence among 20-30 crowd. The reason why this has not been terribly successful is that we not found yet the best way to express the goal of the whole project, in a way that is clear and concise for other mexican jews. The Moishe House concept still appears foreign to most mexican jews. Our main goal is to first establish a word-of-mouth presence and then utilize our internet technology as an extra tool. Because our experience has taught us not to rely too much on the internet as a networking tool.
We have also began to diversify our events. The aim of such a strategy is to attract a more diverse crowd and at the same time not exclude people with different interests. Clearly, our previous plan ,of involving more people, is a perfect complement. Opening our house to more diversity and actively involving our previous participants seems like the next logical step. Apathy seems to be a growing phenomena in our community and this appears to be the best remedy. We think we need to change our philosophy from come to our Moishe House, to come to your Moishe House.
In conclusion, we at Moishe House Mexico City believe that we struggle with a culture that is quite distinct from other Moishe Houses around the world. Most jewish people in the Diaspora, particularly in the US, suffer from a lack of jewishness in their life. This makes attracting jews who long for a sense of community or belonging much simpler. Our problem is different. We suffer from an over-abundance of activities that do not address the needs and tastes of young contemporary jews. Add to this the previously mentioned cultural and social differences and you get a very different scenario from other Moishe Houses. For this reason, some of our solutions might seem unorthodox but we believe they are and will be successful. Given that our problem is different, it appears sensible that our solution should be too.
extend an invite, and done. Simple. Direct. Personal. Having an
agenda was optional. Ok, so once in a while I may send a text
message. I might even send one message to a few people to save time.
While this may not seem as personal, we knew each other very well, the
intent was clear and unambiguous - I wanted their company, and nothing
more. Whether the guests would accept my invite or not, life was
easy, and the consequences were few to nonexistent. Those days are
now long behind. In my few months of living in the Russian Moishe
House, my roommates and I had to develop this method to a science.
Contrary to the emotional connection I share with my close friends,
the connection we share with members of our community is unfortunately
a bit more artificial. Reasons for this are clear - throwing events
is fun, but also an obligation we face as an organization. We realize
this, and so do the guests. Granted, we love everyone's company, but
the price of growing a community is having to rely on marketing
tactics and attracting many people that we don't know too well.
We consistently rely on a number of measures to attract guests to our
events. As a primary means of event marketing, we utilize Facebook.
We do our best to post events at least two weeks in advance to give
people ample time to organize their calendars, but occasionally get
lazy in this matter. In general, a lesser time window before the
event tends to bring in less people, but the event fun factor also
plays a large role here. We typically send one or more reminders in
the days leading into the event. While Facebook marketing may suffice
for the most social events, we try our best to supplement it with more
personal channels of communication. Text messages are one example.
Granted, we send these to multiple recipients, but because we address
a smaller group of people, the invitations seem more personal, and the
fact is usually reflected in the quality of the responses. My
Blackberry only allows a maximum of ten recepients per text message,
so my invites are especially selective! On an even more personal and
selective basis, we make phone calls and extend in-person invites.
So far, we relied almost exclusively on these methods for bringing
guests to our events. However, there are never any guarantees or
metrics to accurately predict the number of expected guests for any
event - only loose correlations. The event content is another large
determining factor. If we the event is perceived as dry and boring
when advertised, the attendance will be low, and the few people who do
attend may strongly consider this experience in the future, regardless
of past experiences. Taking this into account, we try to make the
programming as fun as possible, and have the fact reflect in the
marketing, regardless of whether the event is purely social, or
primarily educational. Depending on the event time, duration, and
other specifics, providing food and drinks helps in bringing people
in, but the event programming is usually the bigger driving force.
Last, but not least, it definitely does not hurt us to live in an
upscale place and at a nice location!
This is how the game is played at the Russian Moishe House. We have
also been marketing our content on Twitter, but more so for the sake
of experimenting. We might even consider putting together a website
to boost our popularity. There is no single approach that is always
effective in this business, so we have to consistently explore
innovative ways to attract guests to our home.
It was in the wake of WW2 that Jews, among other ethnicity's, became "white". Prior to the war and the economic development of the 1950's Jews, along with Italians (pronounced Eye-taalyuns), Eastern Europeans, and Irish were considered "Ethnic Whites". Where previously the Jew had lived in the immigrant ghetto of the Lower East Side or similar communities they were now mainstreamed modern Americans. I am not one to extol as a vile evil, the notion of cultural cross-pollination. That the Jew has contributed as much to America as America has contributed to the American Jew is a certainty but what was lost was a degree of Jewish free space. In sociological terms, a free space, is a area or institution that exists for and of only members of one group. It allows them breathing space from the rest of society to self-conceptualize and to grapple with their unique identity on their own terms. Many of the endeavours of the Jewish people in America as of late have been an attempt to recover some free space. Moishe House is a prime example, creating an area, an institution of and for young Jewry to conceptualize themselves, the world around them, and their relation as Jews to it.
Now in our third year of operation, we have moved from a Facebook group to a Facebook fan page, we've transitioned from an e-mail listserve to a google group with a more streamlined newsletter (that's still readable on everyone's fancy mobile gadget ) and we've started a Twitter account. Our members like to hear from us in many different ways and we're happy to provide them those various avenues. Facebook is a great way to invite a large number of people to specific events, and Twitter has been very useful for last minute event planning and just giving an extra "Hello" or "Shabbat shalom" to our followers. We have mostly used our own forms of technology, rather than utilizing the Moishe house website to its fullest capacity. Perhaps that is something we could try in the future.
Part of our success at outreach is that we treat each person who walks through our doors as a potential leader in the Moishe house community and one of our good friends. We try to learn names and faces quickly - we have a photo wall that not only helps us with that, but also makes our members feel like stars on a wall of fame - and we review new people who come to our events at our weekly meetings so we can figure out the best way to follow up with them. In addition to cultivating those people who walk through our doors, we also work to partner with other organizations in the city to bring in new faces and spread the word of MHP to more people. We would love to get more press now that we've been around a few years and hopefully expand our reach to further parts of the city - all in an effort to increase our outreach.
From our first events a year ago (House warming party, Mezzuza fixing party&Pizza) the word of mouth has been a very useful tool for getting new faces to join our events. Therefore, our job is to make sure that participants have such a good time, that they will want to share it with all their other friends.
Another way, which has been quite useful is..... Facebook! Yes Facebook definitly helped us to promote our events; We were very surprise to see how many more people started to join our events when posting on facebook. However, because not every single person has a profile, or use it on a daily basis, we still have to put the chicken in the oven and assure that people have a great time when they come.
The last method, which has also been playing a key role in developing our Moishe House Vienna community, is to simply take the phone, and call people to keep them updated, get them involve personally (for example, helping to prepare the event) or just to check how they are, in other word, to develop a real friendship and this is the best thing that can happen.
We wish you all a wonderful Hanouka!
All the best,
Daniel, Eytan, Michael.