Monday, November 14, 2011

Moishe House East Bay Camping Shabbat

We’d been talking about planning a great camping trip for at least a year here at Moishe House East Bay, and we finally made it happen last weekend! We reserved a camping spot at beautiful Del Valle reservoir, located just outside Livermore. I’ve been going camping there for years, ever since I was about 11 years old, and I can say with all confidence that it is one of the most beautiful, accessible camping places in the Bay Area. It’s only about an hour outside of Oakland, and has trails, a lake, boats, beautiful camping spots, and tons of wildlife.

A couple of us showed up early to schlep in all of the food, water, tents, and toys (guitars, drums, muumuus, etc.) for the weekend, and set up everyone’s tents, put together a camp kitchen, and made the space welcoming for all who would be arriving just in time to celebrate Shabbat. Our guests were delighted to arrive to a campfire, snacks, cocktails, and live guitar music. Thanks to Birthright NEXT, we had plenty of delicious food, and so we lit our Shabbat candles, sang the blessings, feasted, and kicked off a weekend without technology, responsibilities, or distractions.

We spent our time hiking, running, swimming in the lake, sunning, making music, drumming, cooking, eating, making new friends, and just generally escaping from our busy city lives and reveling in the natural beauty of the Del Valle area. We saw tons of birds, including a couple of bald eagles, and even saw a couple of tarantulas in the area!! I’m so grateful to be a part of a community that has the resources to create such a beautiful, restful, peaceful Shabbat experience for such a wonderful group of people. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to create these types of experiences for young people in the Bay Area who are thirsting for a peaceful, meditative, spiritual retreat.

Moishe House East Bay

Moishe House Boston, Hurray!

After spending three incredible years working with the Vancouver young adult Jewish community, I made the move out to Boston to start a graduate program at Brandeis University. When I mentioned to a friend that I'd be moving into the Moishe House here, their response went something to the tune of, "Boston, huh? You know it's a Moishe House on steroids?". I actually had no idea.

In the less then three months that I've been a housemate, this house and community continues to amaze me. Our calender is jam packed with everything from social justice events with local interfaith organizations, to holiday parties, sex ed discussions and leadership trainings. Meetings go on between various committees on an almost daily basis. People here aren't just involved. They are proud and fully committed to this community and treat it as their own.

Fall has been busy for us. Highlights included a Sukkot Party, a Tikun on Tap event which focused on the occupy movement, and our bi-weekly Shabbat services and dinner. New people are always popping in and although the work is non stop, it's more gratifying than I ever could have imagined. People live happier lives when they are connected to community, and for the young adult Jewish community, Moishe House does it better than any organization that I've seen.

With Love,


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Introducing -- SF Russian Jewish Moishe House

It's a real treat writing the first entry from the Russian Jewish Moishe house of San Francisco. The team, Aleks (me), Vitaly, and Anna, are excited to embark on this amazing journey. We can't wait to meet new people, create new memories, and have a lot of fun doing it!

On Friday we inaugurated the Moishe House with our first event, a Housewarming/Halloween party. We had an amazing crowd out here. It was great to see so many people dressed up, letting loose. We enjoyed drinks on roofdeck while dancing and watching ships in the harbour. Special thanks to Gene Kosoy for setting up a photo booth.

A little about us --

We're three friends who decided to open up a Moishe house after realizing how much we enjoy hosting events and having good times with our friends.

A little about our Moishe House:

We're nestled on the south slope of Potrero Hill, which is a sunny neighborhood in SF, by the bay. We're looking to host rewarding and fulfilling events for the Russian Jewish community of SF.

-Aleks S.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Give Shabbat a Shot!

Let me start this blog by saying that I am nowhere near the level of a Rabbi; I'm just a simple Jew, who lives at Moishe House Great Neck, reflecting on his experience of becoming a more observant Jew. It's an experience that has changed my life, and that has given me the opportunity for tremendous growth in character and as a person. Here are few of the simple reasons why:

There is a huge misconception that observant Judaism and it's laws are restrictive to your daily lives and routine; however, I found it to be more liberating than I could have imagined. One example is Kashrut. You might find a Jew who would say, "I am a human, and true freedom is being able to do whatever I want; so I'm going to eat that cheeseburger, because I want to." In truth however, that is not true freedom; that person is merely a slave to his desires. He wouldn't eat that cheeseburger if he didn't desire it. True freedom is being able to understand that there are boundaries in life, and being able to overcome your desires.

As humans it's very easy to take the many blessings we have in life for granted; we tend to look at and desire what others around us have. However, many of us, Thank G-D, are blessed to have the ability to see, hear, talk, and walk. We are blessed to be able to see a rainbow (which we make a blessing on), smell a flower (which we make a blessing on), or even go to the bathroom (which afterwards, we make a blessing on). Another great example is waking up in the morning. Most people usually wake up dissapointed that they have to wake up so early; the first thing an observant Jew does when he wakes up is say they Modeh Ani, and thank G-D for giving him the gift of a new day. By saying blessings and thanking G-D, we automatically become more aware and appreciative of the blessings we have in life.

Finally, the most enjoyable experience for me of becoming a more observant Jew was when I became Shomer Shabbat. It's an awesome experience to be able to have the ability to completely disconnect from the work week and its stresses. It's an awesome experience to be able to have a nice dinner with family and friends without the distraction cell phones. It's an awesome experience to participate in and hear the beautiful Shabbat prayers and songs. It's an awesome experience to be an observant Jew!

So as a friend, a Jew, and fellow Moishe House resident, I would like to encourage all of you to try to apply something from Judaism to your life; even if it's overcoming just one desire, saying just one blessing, or "Giving Shabbat a Shot!"

I wish you all the best,

Joseph Yadgar

History is just stuff repeating

Oh, Fall. Having lived much of my adolescence in California, the change of seasons is still a noteworthy event. This is my second Fall season as a Moishe House resident, and I already feel how different everything is the second time around! The prep for an event, the weekly meetings, the required blogs... what once seemed intimidating or confusing, hah! No longer, my friends.

As fellow bloggers have mentioned, the real start of Fall for the Jews is all about Sukkot. Yes, yes, the Hebrew calendar starts anew sometime in Fall, but Sukkot really gets you in the season properly. For me, it’s the gathering of natural materials for the schach. I’m pretty convinced that the trimming of the city’s parks, family’s yards, the city streets' trees and all that other landscaping you see at this time of year, really started because that’s when we need stuff to cover our temporary shelters. (Another example of our history governing ‘secular’ activities? Pesach & spring cleaning!)

Last year I had also found much of the material for our schach, but I was mostly just hired help, taking directions. This year, as one of 2 ‘veteran’ residents, I took it upon myself to lead the building of our sukkah. (shout-out:!) I won’t go into the details (you should’ve been there!), but will rather share some thing I took from it.

As we built our sukkah, 2 doors down (no, not 3) we could see a family building theirs. (Note: the family’s sukkah was more ‘kit’ than ‘creation’ but to each their own) I stopped my efforts for a few moments to watch the two children throw schach onto their latticed-roof as their parents looked on. It hit me that here I am, participating in a tradition that, by all intent, I’ll be passing on to my children. And that’s what warms my heart about the Judaism I continue to discover, practice & share as a leader in our community: the universality - and at the same time, the uniqueness - of its role in one’s life. In some years, those children will be building their own. Years from now, my children will be throwing schach onto the structure I built. And 800 years ago, far away from Philadelphia, and without the musical accompaniment of an iPod & speakers and other 21st century niceties, a father was watching his children do the same.

-Cody Greenes