Sunday, December 27, 2009

I was discussing the concept of 'Jewish Community' with a friend recently; she suggested that the key difference between being a community and simply a group of friends involved in Jewish activities, chavurah style, might be that a community actively takes responsibility for including and taking care of newcomers, regardless of one's individual feelings about becoming friends with that particular person. Harsh as it may sound, it is not realistic to assume that a group of people sharing common interests will consistently get on well - such a group is undeniably a great place to start making likeminded friends but inevitably, differences in personality, perspectives, beliefs, social skills and a whole range of other factors mean that if left alone, such groups will not become transformed into communities all by themselves. A certain attitude and ethos is required.

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

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