Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cultural Foreclosure

A new normal is emerging to greet us in the years post the "Great Recession"; the harsh reality of foreclosures, unemployment, diminished opportunities, and the associated problems are hitting close to home, not only in the Jewish Community, but in the cities we live in. In the non-profit world we use terms like donor fatigue or overextended, to explain why people aren't giving. The hard part is looking inwards and asking if our own policies and procedures are sustainable in the long term; if the answer is yes, then the next question is: "What will inspire people to give?" These hard questions challenge the ego and our sense of identity.

Moishe House OC is confronting such a crisis of identity, we are facing a possible Cultural Foreclosure in July, and just like with Jack Bauer in 24, the cliché ticking clock is doing what it does best. Dwindling. Unfortunately in this episode, we don't have a staff of crack writers making sure we make it out just in time for dinner. Inside of our circle we see the good the house is doing in the community - the results are sometimes only visible when looked at over the course of the past years.

Let me paraphrase the organization's tag-line, "Letting 20-somethings in the Jewish Community be the Jews they want to be." I read this unofficial mission statement as granting us the right to operate and maintain a safe space where Jews of all backgrounds and abilities can come out and be part of the larger community; in academic terms I would call Moishe House OC a "Safe Space." Jewish Family Services called me up and asked if we are accepting of people with social disorders - ADD, social anxiety, high functioning autism - to name a few, and if the community would be accepting, the simple answer is yes.

Our house's doors are open to anyone, and we strive to do our best to give everyone a space to express themselves Jewishly. I think we have succeeded. It seems telling that we are the front line for integrating people into the community that might not have had a place to go, or a place to go where they felt comfortable. Just the mere fact that our doors might have to close, is both indicative of the times we live in and a greater problem in the community.

What we do here at our house goes beyond parties, Shabbats, or service projects. Every event is a chance for us to come from a place of service; the emails we receive from parents grateful that their adult child has a place to meet people and be social, are quite touching.

If we close our doors there are members of our community who might not have a place to go. For years we have pulled close together, called ourselves a tribe, and yet now, for whatever reasons: intangible metrics, subtle results, a lack of understanding; there is not enough funding in our community to keep alive an organization providing a place in the tribe for everyone. This is what I referred to as cultural foreclosure, we banked on funding from the community and yet when it is needed most we are having the hardest time finding it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is inspiring!