Saturday, December 31, 2011

Global Outreach

In the past year I along with my fellow Moishe House San Diego residents & community have been very involved in our local community putting on a full array of events from Surfdallah to Shabbat dinners, however events have always been just that – local.

In the past year I am proud to say we have begun introducing many events, which focus on the global community, both Jewish and non-sectarian. This began due to the incredible relationship we have with our local supporters whom not only introduced us to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

After participating in a young professional study trip to Germany and Turkey and a service trip to Haiti (again made possible thanks to the generosity of our amazing local community). I returned to San Diego connected to a global Jewish world.

Last month I was able to co-chair the JDC’s first Young professional Service Trip to Ethiopia. I along with 16 other young professionals (including one of our newest Moishe House Family members: Martin Storrow of Moishe House West LA) got to explore Ethiopia and learn about all the ways the JDC is fulfilling its commitment to Jews all over the world as well as its commitment to Repair The World especially through its non-sectarian work.

I would like to share with you all two major themes, which struck me on this trip: Education & Health. We living in the developed world often take both of these for granted. Going to Ethiopia was a shock to my system to see and learn how for most Ethiopians both health and education are such luxuries.


Our group was fortunate to be able to spend some time with several students from Unity University who receive scholarship grants for women that enable them to attend university when they otherwise would not be able to go. These women are not only going to better themselves but it is evident that they are going to change their entire communities.

In Ethiopia women usually do not attain college degrees and are expected to be housewives taking care of the family. With these degrees they are changing the status of women in their country.

Our group also spent a couple days at rural schools in the province of Gondar, where we helped build a new brick and mortar school (so the children in this community will not have to study in mud huts). We also assisted JDC staff in the deworming of the children, giving them pills to swallow (something many of them had never had to do before).

For all these children going to school is such a privilege, as it means not having to work all day in the fields with their parents. It is these children that I hope will become a generation of change for their communities. Their educations will open up new social and economic opportunities for them.


Dr. Rick Hodes, JDC’s Chief Medical Director in Ethiopia, took us into his world by allowing us to see everything from patients whom have undergone spine and heart surgeries to clinic rotations in Gondar. In Gondar he oversees the clinic for the Falash Mura who are pending immigration to Israel.

After the trip, I was able to stay an extra week and spend time with Dr. Hodes (and my brother Shaun whom is volunteering with the JDC’s Jewish Service Corps.) and visit Mother Teresa’s Clinic for the Dying and Destitute. Seeing Dr. Hodes connect to each patient was not only humbling but it was personally motivating.

I hope that I along with my fellow participants are able to take what we have learned on this trip and, in coming home to our privileged lives, keep the ball rolling and continue to “Repair our World”.

Furthermore, I would invite all of you to learn more about the JDC and the amazing work it does in over 70 countries around the world. There are amazing Service and/or Study Trips coming up in 2012. If anyone would like more information or to find out how their Moishe House and community can get involved please feel free to contact me at

Wishing you all a happy new year,

Jonathan Goldstone

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Married to the MoHo

Picture it: Wimberley, Texas, late May. I’m sitting under an oak tree outside a dining hall in a group circle getting sunburned. Just like when I was a kid at camp. Except now, I’m 26 and am back at Camp Young Judaea for yet another Jewish life experience but this time, it’s with Moishe House. I guess once you get involved in Chosen People activities, you can check out any time you like but you can’t leave. Especially when you’re in Wimberley. Anyways. In this particular activity, Social Justice Sarah lead a program where we discussed what it would mean to create a Moishe House ketubah, a contract traditionally drafted for Jewish marriages. But instead of the ketubah being between a bride and groom, it would be between the residents, their communities and their houses.

I was inspired by this concept, so much so that I decided to take on the semi-masochistic task of crafting a ketubah and a fancy frame to properly showcase this important piece of literature. Many months and several creative sessions later, the Palo Alto Moishe House ketubah masterpiece now hangs by the entrance to our house for all to see. The wording was a collaborative effort between residents and community members, as was the art, which was done by two regulars and me. We achieved this by painstakingly cutting different colored paper with X-Acto knives, turning squares of purples, reds, blues and glittery greens into a whole Moses-Exodus-Jerusalem-Heeb extravaganza. Some community members got the chance to sign the ketubah, Constitutional Convention-style except with Jews this time around. In case you don’t have bionic vision to see the wording, it reads as follows:

The Palo Alto Moishe House will be upheld by grad students, techies & normal people alike. The following tenets will help us form a more perfect union:

*Cultivate respectful person to person relationships through meaningful programming

*Respect the house & it will respect you (clean up like your mama told ya!)

*A bountiful community consists of extraordinary individuals who, with their powers combined, make…MOISHE HOUSE! *KAPOW!*

So, it doesn’t actually say KAPOW! but you get the notion. Making our very own ketubah gave us the chance to utilize an ancient Jewish religious concept with a playful twist. What better way to express the special, nerdy identity of the Palo Alto Moishe House and share the communal artwork with all that enter our start-up working, Ph.D. having, Semitic lovin’ house?

Magali Cohen

Moishe House San Diego

The prompt for this month’s blog is to write about the experiences
that have led to my development as a young Jewish leader. I’m not sure
I’m supposed to tell you that straight off, perhaps a more skilled
writer would ever so eloquently weave the theme with grace seamlessly
throughout the remainder of this blog. It’s a topic that’s somewhat
elusive, and while I understand and appreciate the role I signed up
for, assuming the title of “leader” is one I’d prefer not to take for
granted simply because I am fortunate to live in a Moishe House and be
involved with the community, co-hosting, and co-organizing events.
That said, writing about myself makes me squirm a bit and can be an
internally contentious challenge… so it’s a good thing for me that
being a “leader” of Moishe House San Diego is much more about each of
the individuals who comprise our MHSD community than it is about me in
After each yoga class that I lead at our house, I remind each of the
participants that they are my teachers and express gratitude for their
presence in my life. Each person has shown up on their mat in their
own way, each expressing their unique beauty and light through a
specific structure-- asanas (poses), pranayama (breath control
exercises), partner play and other forms --that I have chosen as the
guide for the evening. These forms are the tangible vocabulary though
which unique expressions are conveyed by the MHSD community members
who show up to practice together.

As the class leader, I talk us through the ‘correct’ positions for
each pose, describing the proper positioning of each respective asana.
If I lay a hand on someone’s trapezius, I smile inside (and out) as
she breathes a bit fuller and creates more space between her shoulders
and ears in response. If for the next person, the same prompt doesn’t
do the trick, I find another way to elicit comfort, ease in the pose.
I am reminded of how different each person’s body is, yet how similar
our feelings and experience of struggle and joy challenge and triumph.

A few class participants have expressed that it’s challenging for them
to do yoga because they feel they are inflexible. The only truth in
this, from where I stand, is if the belief of inflexibility translates
into a belief (and a reality) that they are so inflexible they cannot
grow --- as a yogi, as a person. Regardless of what it looks like---
whether someone is touching their toes and energetically reaching for
Earth’s core, or can barely reach below their knees and is hoping to
someday grab an ankle-- there is an opportunity for growth in many
dimensions. Physically, there may be a greater opportunity for growth
in the person who appears to be struggling the most. This is in no
way a condolence prize; it’s a thing of beauty. When I see the light
of new perspective and stoke flicker on -- a new realization of how to
connect deeper into a pose, or more fluidly with another person-- it
inspires me.
When the class asks for more interactive work, I get particularly
excited. We often integrate various forms of partner play, including
counter balance work and partner yoga. For some, the actions simply
mean stretching and exercise. For others who dive a bit deeper, the
structure of the asanas and other activities create a container and
support for each practitioner to express through, to interact
internally, with one another, to spirit, and beyond.

While I chose to use yoga class (asanas and other activities) as the
playground-- the vocabulary-- for this blog, I could have instead
written about our Shabbat dinners (and the amazing potluck
contributions, conversation etc. that ensue), habitat restoration
events (enjoying and giving back to nature, chatting with one another,
physical activity), or any of the other programs we host to convey the
same sentiments. Everyone who shows up has just been somewhere else
and will be going somewhere after the event. Each person has come to
the event to fulfill something inside. Each person brings with them a
bit of everywhere and everyone who has touched their life. Each
person contributes and shares uniquely, enriching each other’s

My development as a “leader” has been most contributed to simply by
interacting with those who come together to create our community. As
my awareness of that which engages and inspires each of the
individuals within the MHSD community deepens, my sense of
responsibility and desire to facilitate and perpetuate connections
within the MHSD community and between MHSD and the larger world also
deepens, as does my own sense of connection.


Blogging Goodbye to Moishe House DC - Rachel Streitfeld

I believe it was just fewer than three months ago that the Euclid Palace said ‘peace out’ to a resident, that young lad off to pursue his pro-Israel, professional dreams. Well next month I shall do the same. I bid adieu to the District after nearly nine sweet years; my destination is sunny South Florida, where I’ll be the South Regional Director for J Street, a pro-Israel advocacy organization.

Frequently, there are great conversations about Israel at our Shabbat dinners and various parties, so respectful and civil. The regard for our community and its diversity always keeps us responsible. The camaraderie and trust that lives among friends in the Moishe House frees us to speak and listen to one another. It’s special. It’s absolutely the best, and we get into it.

What a privilege it is to have lived here and met so many bright, impressive young people. What a scene we are, The Twenty-Something Jews of Washington gathered in two dimply lit, massive rooms around couches and a banquet table on Friday nights. Each of us on the move, scheming our next win for the cause while stuffing our faces with vegan fried rice and flourless chocolate cake. On our Israel politics and many other issues, we know what we’re talking about. Sometimes we agree to disagree and move on to something more fun, no harm done. We are a formidable and passionate demographic.

My roommates Eli Wald, Noah Karesh, Lily Hamburger, Ayelet Cohen and Dan Kandy are hilarious, awesome people. (I hope everyone meets at least several of them at a retreat coming soon). The Moishe House Foundation has my lifetime support. Thank you for this humbling and life-changing opportunity to live here and be a part of this community.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Tight-Knit Community

Throughout my life, I have always tried to remain integrated within the Jewish community. I attended Hebrew school and was involved in my synagogue until I went to college. In college, I went to Shabbat dinners at Chabad and networked with rabbis in the St. Louis community. As a recent graduate, I have chosen to spend the next year of my life living in Moishe House Philadelphia. While I am not religious, it is important for me to be connected to a tight-knit Jewish community. I feel that Moishe House provides exactly that.

I have only lived in the house for two months now and I am amazed at how close the Moishe House community truly is. At every event, I see people mingling, laughing, and having fun. I am constantly surprised that some of the guests at our events have never been to a Moishe House event or even met the other guests before, yet they seem to feel right at home in the Moishe House community. This is evidence that Moishe House provides a warm and hospitable community for all Jews in their twenties.

After spending the last four years in St. Louis, it was important for me to find a welcoming Jewish community like Moishe House. I am proud to say that I am now a part of the organization that provides this community for other Jews like me, who seek an inviting group with which they can spend holidays, learn about the religion, and have fun at social events. During my two months here, Moishe House Philadelphia has hosted a wide array of events, ranging from a large Jewish New Year celebration, called Apples ‘N Hunnies, to smaller, more intimate Shabbat potlucks each month. I am still learning about my responsibilities as a resident and adapting to life in Moishe House Philadelphia, but I am happy to say that I am now a part of a close-knit Jewish community.


Moishe House Philadelphia

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Key to Longevity

There are a few places where people live longer than anywhere else in the world. These include Okinawa (Japan), Ovodda (Sardinia), and, oddly, Loma Linda, California - all of which boast exceptional numbers of centurions (people who live to be over 100). Scientists have all kinds of theories about why this is, starting of course with the obvious; dietary habits, lifestyle, inbreeding (oh, those Sardinians!).

But the one that really stood out to me was Loma Linda - a seemingly normal California town - a place that obviously has the same food and culture as anywhere else in America. What do they have that the rest of us are missing?

The leading theory is that people there live longer for one reason: community. It happens that the 7th Day Adventist church in that particular area has brought a lot of people together, and members of that community simply live longer. Not only that, but a study done by Loma Linda University school of Public Health found that those who went to religious events and observed the Sabbath reported being happier and experiencing better mental health than those who did not.

Before I was asked to be a founding member of the new West LA Moishe House (Which officially opens next week), I was a big Moishe fan. When I moved to Los Angeles and was first feeling my way around, it was really comforting to know I could go to the house and would always be welcomed. And once I was there I never wanted to leave. I was not the only one who felt this way; sometimes the residents had to politely shoo people out because it was getting late and people just didn't want to go. I think they would have stayed the night if they could have.

I know many of us at this moment aren't really focused on longevity. Frankly, I'm a little more concerned with when to eat the second half of the chocolate chip cookie I started last night. But much of our happiness at any age depends on our sense of purpose and meaning. And so much of our purpose and meaning comes from the communities we align ourselves with. They have a profound impact on what we think, how we act, and how we feel.

This is what I have always admired most about those of you who are involved with Moishe House.  You have made the decision to open up your private homes and lives in order to fulfill that deep desire we all have for community; to create a shared sense of belonging and tradition, to learn and celebrate together, and to contribute to each others' success and well-being.

I'm honored to be a part of this community, and I know that the four of us who are opening our new home in West LA next week look forward to striving for the ideal that the rest of you exemplify so well. May we all live to be 100, and have plenty of time to sit around and recount our favorite Moishe House memories in the years to come. In the meantime, I'm going to go finish that cookie I started.