Monday, October 4, 2010

Home for the Holidays at Moishe House Chicago

September. It was a month full of new beginnings. 5771 -- the new year. 722 -- our new street address.

It was a busy month too. We desperately tried to unpack our boxes, or at least hide them in closets and corners, before the marathon of Jewish holidays began. We kicked the month off with Shabbat Shuvah, and followed it with a program on the Jewish Art of Reconciliation with our guest Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. For Rosh Hashanah, our friend, Jake Adler, led a discussion on Tashlich and self-transformation. Yom Kippur found us hosting nearly 30 people for a break-fast meal.

We didn't stop with the high holidays. Next was Sukkot. We partnered with The Gan Project to build a sukkah from found objects. I raided my parents' garage, others searched in alleys. In the end, we had a beautiful, unique, sacred space right here in the middle of Chicago. Then, many people joined us for a Shabbat dinner in our sukkah. To top the month off, we retreated to Black Oaks Center where we slept in a yurt and spent 24 hours off the grid. There was no electricity or running water. While the goal had been to camp for Sukkot and volunteer our services on a farm harvesting vegetables, this experience made me, at least, much more aware of, and grateful for, all the amenities I have living in the city. (And the yurt provided welcome protection from the droplets that rained down all night.) Without heat and electricity, I was reminded of how vulnerable we are to the elements, perhaps a glimpse of the Israelites' experience in the desert. Most of all, the trip provided a break from our daily habits. We also had a song circle to sing the Havdalah prayers and other Jewish and American tunes we knew.

One other program we had was a planning meeting for a discussion series we're hosting to explore privilege and oppression in the Jewish community. I was unable to attend because of a work obligation that night, but as I approached our house on the sidewalk, I passed several friends on the sidewalk; I knew they were coming from our house. And when I came in the door, I was greeted by the smell of good home cooking, sounds of laughter, and many familiar faces. Our walls were covered with butcher paper filled from edge to edge with notes from the planning meeting. Another friend, Julia, stayed after the dinner session to work with me on planning our Sukkot camping trip. It finally felt as though we hit our groove.

I know anyone can get a list of our events by looking at our calendar, but I summarized them here because I felt incredibly proud of the programs we created in September. Inspired by our friends in Boston, we've been trying to implement more of an organizing model for programming. We are meeting one on one with our community members and bringing them into the process of designing and executing programs. And while it's much more energy intensive and overwhelming (especially when you have 3 major Jewish holidays all in one month), it is much more rewarding. For me, it was also an opportunity to explore holidays in a new way. I've never had my own sukkah, let alone built one from found objects (a practice in line with my values). It was special to be able to break bread in it and sleep in it too. This month, we saw a big increase in the number of new people attending too, a sign that we're doing something right. September reminded me of the privilege it is to live in Moishe House and to have the opportunity to help build a vibrant, young, meaningful Jewish community. I'm excited to continue forward with the momentum we built last month.

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