Sunday, June 5, 2011

Continuing what we have started: MH Palo Alto, Josh Weinstein

Palo Alto is a complex town. Life moves rapidly. Fortunes are both made and ambitions dashed. But somewhere in the bustling landscape of technological revolutions, boundless optimism, has-been’s, will-be’s, and graduate students lies a kernel of the who-am-I. For Jews, this question is part of the perennial task of integrating the personal and the communal, the ancient and the modern. It is identity politics and religious observance and careers and family and friends, and the dizzying task to reconcile each of these facts of life in turn.

We first hung our mezuzah and moved into our house in the quiet Palo Alto neighborhood of Barron Park in July 2010. Since then, our Moishe House has worked to enable young Jews living in the hyper-competitive world of Silicon Valley to form and define their relationships to Judaism and the Jewish community at large. Our successes, I believe, have come from events that focused on creating a strong culture of Jewish traditions, values, and unity. In the past year, what have we accomplished? We have held Kabbalat Shabbat services with dozens of young Jews singing together in our very own living room. We have hosted fundraisers for Lone Soldiers and youth villages in Israel. We have built sukkot around our neighborhood. We have hosted weekly parsha classes, Shabbat dinners, and speakers. Our kosher kitchen has made Jews from every denomination feel welcome, and the warmth we have brought to these events has drawn crowds. We have, in short, created something that simply did not exist here before for Jews in their 20’s.

Where do we go from here? As resident turnover and an expiring lease loom large on the horizon, the answer, I believe, lies in honing a social atmosphere that differs qualitatively from the atmosphere our community of young Jews experience in their day-to-day lives. This is to say that our strength, and value, is measurable within this contrast. Continuing to ensure Moishe House Palo Alto acts as a haven that fosters Jewish identity and Jewish life in a comprehensively welcoming way, is, I believe, the surest path to its continued success.

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