Sunday, February 7, 2010

New Programming Ideas

A learning lesson I picked up quickly at the Portland Moishe House was, "Design your own programs." Simply put, but sometimes it can be easy to just tag onto another program or event in the community, or wait for collaborators to come to you.

I guess what might make me sound like a hypocrite in saying this is that two of our events this week were collaborations. They still serve an important role for Moishe House. On Wednesday we had a social justice org founder come to our house for a dinner and a Q and A. What made this special is that this guy was amazing! He's a founder of a totally cool organization that Portlanders totally care about. His org basically provides relief for victims of the war in Congo. And because Moishe House gets a lot of traffic (it definitely is known by now as a "social hub!") and people like to come here, we opened the event up to as many young Jewish people as we could think of who would be interested. I felt it was our duty to do so since he had limited time in Portland. So, while the subject of the event was another organization's mission, it allowed young Portland Jews to hear about an important topic that relates to Jewish struggle and Jewish values of Tikkun Olam from an expert. Then, tonight, we partnered with an event that fundraises for Jewish youth groups in Portland. This partnership was helpful because the event was fun (a trivia night), and because I know I am really starting to believe in this philosophy of interdependence in a Jewish community that is so small. Especially with fundraising locally for Moishe House on the horizon...we've got to make some good friends in the Jewish community here and be supportive to them!!

However, we've learned to sit down together and come up with events that would meet Jewish Portland young adults' needs. All-women's events like yoga or music to promote female bonding and include Orthodox women in our community who observe modesty mitzvot. Even things that people may already be doing, but gathering Moishe House participants for it, like Super Bowl parties, Happy Hour downtown (to catch all those folks who complain that SW area is just too far to drive to!). I think the best I've done at really *creating* something new, is creating an education class here and there, a series we call "Torah on Tap." We invite a rabbi, rebbetzin, or Jewish educator to lead a class on an interesting topic.

Another thing that is somewhat intuitive to do, that I am also proud of, is creating events around Jewish holidays and rituals. Last year we did a hike for Tu B'shvat and almost 20 people came! It was one of my first events.

With the learning curve so steep, I know I've struggled to come up with new exciting program ideas that would meet a lot of our demographics' needs, and draw a lot of people. Our Shabbat dinners are also very successful, take a lot of work, and have drawn as much as 35 people. But what about big numbers? Could I ever do historical event, with my team of residents, that would draw hundreds of people? This is always in the back of my mind when I plan.

But lately, I think I've got an idea. I really like film. I made some student documentaries in college and hope to make more during my summers as a teacher after grad school. Through brainstorming with Portland Chabad, we had this idea of screening the film called Match and Marry, a documentary by an independent filmmaker about Orthodox Jewish love and dating. It's made for a secular audience, it's interesting, short and to the point, and chock full of good discussion points! Plus it's cute and entertaining! We just screened it last week, and we hope to show it at a big venue in Portland, as a collaboration perhaps with Chabad and Portland's other budding young adult groups for Jews. This is an event that could easily draw 100 people, and it's an event of the kind of subject I am really passionate about, so I can imagine putting myself behind it and feeling very driven to gather attendees!!

So it's helpful that I've identified one area that could really be a great event, and a step towards my long-term event goals: film. I hope to hit the ground running with this idea!

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