Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Building a Jewish Community

One of the confusing things about Jewish community is the feel of it – it’s different from mainstream American community. For folks who aren’t Jewish it can seem to make sense that Jews are different – even if they can’t quite put their finger on why. But for American Jews it can be baffling – why do I feel different or out of place? After all, I grew up here. The American dream is that an individual through hard work can rise to wealth and greater independence. If you become wealthy enough you can pay for your own home, car, health care, vacations, etc. However we never learn about the American Dream as a communal concept, it is an individual goal.

Judaism’s greatest hero is Moses. When Moses rode (or walked) off into the wilderness he took the whole Jewish family along, the women and children, the weak as well as the strong, the complainers with the enthusiasts. The Jewish dream is a time of peace for all the Jews, an end to persecution and the return to Zion. The expectation is that each Jew will care for all the other Jews, sacrificing her/his own needs and desires for the greater needs of the group.

In America we create Jewish community in synagogue. There the multiple burdens – responsibilities – are spread out over the many members so that no one person is expected to do it all. However, synagogues are inherently expensive to be a part of, synagogue dues are currently going up exponentially as synagogue membership is going down, as a way to offset one another. Unfortunately, when you are in your 20's, paying $1,000 or even $2,000 a year to be a part of a "Jewish Community" just is not in the cards. This is where Moishe House steps in. Additionally, there are very few burdens associated with being a part of a Moishe House. There is shopping and preparing food, posting events on the internet, taking pictures, and general event promotions. However, the dividends are endless. We get to create our own community, we get to do the events we want to do, and if the go really well, we get to them again. We get to invite our friends, and have the opportunity to make new friends every single time we have an event. Moishe House is a very informal and comfortable environment, a sad reality that is missing from some synagogue environments.

Countless times, whether it be during Shabbat, a Yom Hashoah dinner, celebrating Hannukah, sharing a tikkun olam experience, playing sports, poker, cooking events, or even picking weeds in a community garden this conversation of how to be a part of a Jewish Community comes up with the people we interact with. What a wonderful outlet for young Jews to be a part of, and not only is of no cost to them, it is with other young Jewish people who are also wanting to be a part of Jewish community, who already are living in the same community. What a wonderful recipe for success that speaks to the groups needs, while also including individuals wants and desires!!

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