We've had an insanely busy year as we moved from our old Silver Spring location to our beautiful new house in North Bethesda. I am so glad we made this move as now we have the space to comfortably host many more people for our events, e.g. Shabbat dinners. Last Shabbat we had over 60 people at our house, all having a fantastic time sitting both in our dining room as well as outside on our gorgeous backyard porch with candlelit tables. Realizing I've become an integral part of the Jewish community here is both an honor and a responsibility.
April marks my one year anniversary as a Moishe House resident, so this is a perfect time for me to reflect upon how Moishe House has shaped me into who I am today, as well as how I'd like to shape Moishe House and its community. I recently won a DC Jewish Guy of the Year award from www.gatherthejews.com, and I know that wouldn't have happened were it not for Moishe House.
I've always had a strong Jewish identity, but I wasn't very active in the traditional aspects of Judaism. My co-residents and previous residents of MH-MoCo (previously known as MH-Silver Spring) are much more active in Jewish practices, so this has been an incredibly intense learning period for me. With local Rabbis, I've been delving deeper into Torah and Talmud as I try to reconcile my identity as a scientist/skeptic with my rapidly evolving/growing spiritual life.
This personal journey to reconcile different aspects of myself lies at the heart of what I consider to be one of the most important challenges as a Moishe House resident: Creating a pluralistic environment for the Jewish community. Even though I wasn't raised religious, I still feel kinship with my deeply observant Jewish brethren, and I want nothing more than to provide a space in our home for them to feel welcome and comfortable. The challenge lies in the fact that it is unfortunately very hard to do that in a way that both secular and observant Jews can feel comfortable in the same room at the same time.
Given that the Jewish community is so small when compared to the rest of the world's communities, I feel that fragmentation within the Jewish community is a very significant obstacle. All that said, I do NOT believe that homogenization is a viable solution - we need/want to have all different kinds of Jews with different practices and outlooks in our world and in our lives - we just need to find a way to get along and connect with each other without judging or feeling judged.
As part of this effort to increase solidarity, I've been working hard to encourage more interactions between different Moishe House communities - last month I took a group of people to Philadelphia to see the new American Jewish History Museum, and we all stayed and hung out with MH-Philly. This last Shabbat, MH-Philly came to visit us, and I would dare say that these two events were some of our best ever (at least while I've been living in the house)! We've also had two great events with MH-Hoboken, and hopefully soon we'll be planning a triple MH event with Hoboken, Philly, and MoCo for a 4th of July weekend.
Along with a book club on science and G-d, the other thing I've been emphasizing in my efforts to create a greater sense of community is to have events that anyone can enjoy. As silly as it sounds, movie nights, nature hikes, and the like are incredibly important for bringing people of different outlooks and lifestyles together. I am particularly fond of our hiking events as these settings tend to foster deeper dialogues, and therefore deeper connections.
I know that I cannot live in Moishe House forever, so it is important to me that I leave something behind that lasts. I haven't figured out exactly what that is, but I think it will have to do with generating lasting partnerships with local organizations. If nothing else, I believe that helping MoHoMoCo make the transition towards a locally self-sustainable organization would be a significant contribution, so hopefully I can help make significant progress on that soon.
Thanks for reading :)