Another Jewish activity, really? A thought I often find lodged in my mind when I decide to participate in Jewish groups, activities, programs, and events. Having been raised to put a premium on multiculturalism, diversity, and coexistence, I am at ideological odds with myself when I choose to participate in anything exclusively Jewish, which I do, frequently. So, when I moved into Moishe House last December, this old philosophical quandary emerged once more. If I am committed to the idea of diversity, why am I moving into an exclusively Jewish home?
Four years of college had taught me that the angst I was feeling would be too exhausting to indulge. Instead, I put it aside and let myself enjoy the amazing opportunity Moishe House was providing me as I began life in a new city. To my surprise, the next few months helped to quell what I had once thought to be cognitive dissonance.
One Shabbat, we hosted an Kenyan cooking lesson and themed dinner. The main chef -- Mama Kamao – is the director of the African Immigrant and Refugee Fund (AIRF), an organization which helps African immigrants with their transition to American life. Mama Kamao had invited a number of these new Americans to our Shabbat Dinner. Both Moishe House participants and the group from AIRF were playing the roles of ambassadors – explaining our respective traditions and finding exciting similarities between them. People were mashing the lentils, peeling the ginger, cutting the kosher chicken, and adding masala as they prepared a meal which we would say the motzi over. Mama Kamao lit the Shabbat Candles. My friend Lily helped prepare the special Kenyan tea. This was diversity.
In the past few months, we have hosted an Indian shabbat, an udon noodle lesson, and an art show displaying work from artists from all different backgrounds. Our home can be a place that celebrates other cultures, but also allows us to reconnect with our own. These events have shown me that Moishe House can be a forum for multiculturalism – especially its delightful gastronomic benefits.